How to Do Splits

ballerina doing the splits on the floor
Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

Many dancers have trouble learning how to do splits. Flexibility is important for dancing, as many dance steps are nearly impossible to perform without being extremely limber. The ability to sit in split positions will greatly improve lower body flexibility and increase maximum extension.

In dance, a front split is named according to the leg that is extended to the front. If the right leg is extended forward, the split is referred to as a right split; and a left split involves the left extended forward. Doing splits is easier for some people than others, so don't be discouraged if it takes you a little longer to get them.

If you would like to achieve your front or straddle splits, or improve on the ones you already have, try to make it a point to stretch every day. Stretching can be fun, but it should also be a bit challenging. Begin each stretching session with easy and gentle stretches. Never stretch to the point of pain.

If you have access to a barre, try these great barre stretches for splits.

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Kneeling Lunge Stretch

Lunge stretch for splits
Kneeling lunge stretch. Photo © Tracy Wicklund

To learn a front split, start with the kneeling lunge stretch. Performing this stretch often will greatly improve the flexibility in your legs.

  • Begin by kneeling on one leg.
  • Make sure your front knee doesn't extend over the toe.
  • Square your hips with your back knee flat on the floor.
  • Hold your shoulders square, with your hands on the floor for balance.
  • Gently stretch your body forward, feeling a nice stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, without bouncing.
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Reverse Lunge Stretch

Reverse lunge for splits
Reverse lunge stretch. Photo © Tracy Wicklund

Include the reverse lunge stretch in your daily stretch routine.

  • From the kneeling lunge position, push your weight onto your back leg.
  • With the front leg straight, lower your upper body onto your leg.
  • Keep the front toe pointed, back leg flat on the floor.
  • Use your hands for added support.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, without bouncing.
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Single Leg Stretch

Single leg stretch for splits
Single leg stretch. Photo © Tracy Wicklund

The single leg stretch is another stretch used in split training.

  • Lie on your back, raising one leg into the air.
  • Grasp the lower portion of the elevated leg with both hands.
  • Keeping your lower leg slightly bent, gently pull your leg toward your body.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
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Assisted Single Leg Stretch

Assisted stretch to learn splits
Assisted stretch. Photo © Tracy Wicklund

Have a friend help you to make your single leg stretch even better.

  • Lie on your back, raising one leg into the air.
  • Have a partner grasp the lower portion of your elevated leg.
  • Keeping your lower leg slightly bent, have your partner gently push your leg toward your body.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
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Straddle Split

Straddle splits
Straddle split. Photo © Tracy Wicklund

Straddle splits are executed by stretching both legs out to the side. Straddle splits are also commonly known as side, center or box splits. Achieving a straddle split will make it easier to perform advanced dance steps, including the popular straddle split leap.

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Straddle Side Stretch

Side straddle stretch for splits
Straddle side stretch. Photo © Tracy Wicklund

The best way to train for a straddle split is to stretch in a straddle split position.

  • Sit in a straddle position, extending legs as far as you are comfortable.
  • Reach toward your right leg with your left arm, stretching your right arm toward your opposite leg.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat to the left side.
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Straddle Center Stretch

Straddle stretch to learn splits
Straddle Center Stretch. Photo © Tracy Wicklund
  • Sit in a wide straddle position, legs extended as far as comfortable.
  • Without bending the knees, reach to the center.
  • Stretch as far as you can, maintaining a flat back.
  • Try to lay your body on the floor, using your hands as support.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
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Oversplits to learn splits
Oversplits. Photo © Tracy Wicklund

Oversplits are splits in which one leg is flat on the ground and the other leg is pulled higher. In oversplits, the angle between the legs exceeds 180 degrees. Extreme flexibility this for oversplits.

  • Do not attempt oversplits until you are very comfortable in a full split position.
  • Using cubes or some sort of sturdy support, place your body into a split position.
  • Try to hold the stretch for a few seconds, being careful not to strain your muscles.
  • Oversplits may also be performed by elevating only one leg at a time.