How to do the splits

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Kim Kardashian’s 2016 New Year’s resolution was a bit of a stretch: She wanted to learn how to do splits.

Did the reality star succeed? Our guess is no. (Surely the sultry selfie-snapper would have shown off her moves on Instagram by now.) But she could still make it happen — as could you, with help from “Even the Stiffest People Can Do the Splits” (Rodale) by yoga teacher and self-described “queen of the splits” Eiko. The how-to book focuses on six stretches that, if performed religiously, can help you get to bendy heaven in just four weeks.

A caveat: Don’t schedule your Rockettes audition for Day 1 of Week 5. Eiko’s main goal is to teach you how to do a “pancake split” — a type of wide straddle “where you bring your upper body flat down to the floor while doing a middle split” with unbent knees. The resulting pose is more yoga-studio showoff than Summer Olympics 2020, but it still comes with perks: The book features more than a dozen success stories from Eiko’s disciples, who claim everything from improved mobility to whittled waists to marked decreases in chronic back pain.

Start your own journey to splitsville with two of Eiko’s fundamental exercises.

Towel stretch

Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and both feet on the ground. Extend one leg straight above you — “if you bend your knee, you won’t get much of a stretch,” Eiko writes — and loop a towel over your foot. Use both hands to pull your foot toward your head. Bounce there for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Sumo stretch

Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance apart, with your toes pointing to 10 and 2 o’clock. Angle your knees outward over your feet and dip into a low squat, so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Put your hands on the insides of your thighs, just above the knee, and push back behind you. Once you’re in position, bounce 20 times. Then perform 20 reps of mini shoulder twists: Push your right shoulder inward while using your hand to push back harder on your right knee. Switch sides.

How to Do The Splits: 6 Easy Steps

Do this stretch routine daily (or at least 3 to 4 times per week) to start seeing progress. Remember, patience is key and you’ll eventually get there!

Seated Forward Fold | 60 secSplits-Prep-1-Forward-Fold.jpg

  1. Take a seat on the ground and stretch your legs out in front of you.
  2. Reach forward to grab a hold of your feet and bend your knees so that your chest meets the top of your thighs. This is important, as a gap between your torso and your legs will take away from the stretch.
  3. Slowly begin to straighten your legs, taking deep breaths and maintaining the contact between your torso and thighs.

Tip: Do not force your legs straight. With deep breathing and time you will slowly work towards straighter legs.

Why it’s important for the splits:

The splits require flexibility of the hamstrings. This seated forward fold stretch is a great way to lengthen your hamstrings. The main benefit of this stretch is that you can control the intensity just by straightening or bending your knees just a little bit. With practice and continuous use of this stretch, your hamstrings will become more flexible and better prepared to do the splits.

Kneeling Hamstring Stretch | 30 sec per sideSplits-prep-Kneeling-Ham-Stretch.jpg

  1. Kneel on one knee and bring the other leg straight out in front of you.
  2. Square your hips to make sure you are not twisted to the side
  3. Lower your torso towards your front leg and place your fingertips on the ground on either side of your foot.
  4. Work the same way you did in the first stretch, starting with a bent knee and slowly straightening it with deep breath and focus.

Tip: Keep your front foot flexed to help make sure your hamstring is in a lengthened position and your muscles are active. Even though you’re stretching, you still need to engage your muscles to help the process along and achieve more length. A passive stretch is not as effective as an active one.

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Why it’s important for the splits:

This stretch helps you to lengthen your hamstrings independently, allowing you to correct any imbalances and give each side its own focused attention. If you notice one side is tighter than the other, spend a little extra time there, working to balance out the sides.

Deep Runner’s Lunge | 30 sec per sideSplits-Prep-runners-lunge.jpg

  1. Start in a lunge position with your front knee bent at a 90-degree angle and your back leg straight.
  2. Lower your elbows to the floor on the inside of your front leg.
  3. Work to press your hips towards the ground and slide your back leg farther back.

Tip: If you can’t get your elbows down all the way, then place your hands down on the ground instead or use yoga blocks or props under your elbows. The key movement here is the hips lowering towards the ground, so it’s okay if your torso doesn’t get as low.

Why it’s important for the splits:

The main focus of this stretch is your hip flexors, a very tight area for most people who spend a lot of time sitting. You’ll need flexible, open hips to get into the splits, and this stretch helps you achieve that.

Lunging Quad Stretch | 30 sec per sideSplits-Prep-Quad-Stretch.jpg

  1. Stay in that same lunge position but lift your back foot up and catch it with your opposite hand.
  2. Carefully pull your foot towards your butt until you feel the stretch.
  3. Breathe deep and allow time for your muscles to relax and lengthen.

Why it’s important for the splits:

Tight quads could be preventing you from getting your full splits. If this stretch feels very intense for you, then it’s likely one of the most important for you to focus on. By lengthening your quads, you’ll have an easier time getting your back leg to rest flat against the floor.

Block Supported Splits | 30 sec per sideSplits-Prep-Block-Support.jpg

  1. Start in the kneeling hamstring stretch and place 2 yoga blocks directly under your front hamstrings.
  2. Slide your back leg back to straighten as much as you can.
  3. Reach your fingers to the ground and lean your torso forward to intensify the stretch.

Tip: If 2 blocks are not enough height for you, then add an additional 1 or 2 blocks. The goal is for you to be able to hold it for a minimum of 30 seconds per side, but the longer you stay, the more comfortable your body will get holding this position. Over time, remove one block, then the next, and before you know it, you’re in the splits!

Why it’s important for the splits:

This stretch is the closest to doing the full splits, so this is great “practice” for the real thing. This supported version will help you get there safely and without forcing it.

The Splits

  1.  If you don’t feel ready to do the full splits, continue to work on the 5 stretches paying special attention to those areas that need the most work. When you are ready to go for it, start with the block supported splits.
  2. Remove one block, then both, and slowly lower into the full splits by sliding your front heel forward and using your hands on the ground to guide you.
  3. Breath deeply and focus on relaxation and muscle lengthening.

Tip: Keep in mind that nailing the splits will likely take more than one or even a few practice sessions. If you aren’t able to nail it on your first attempt be patient, schedule this practice into your weekly routine, and keep at it. Practicing consistently and regularly is your best bet.

How-to-Do-The-Splits-6-Easy-Steps-infog2.jpg(Your Next Workout: 9 Yoga Inversions to Help You Nail a Handstand) Unlock Your Hip Flexors CTA Ad

1. Stretch Machines for the Whole Bodystretching machines

Stretching machines such as the Precor 240i StretchTrainers represent a type of machine that targets broader areas of the body including the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, arms, upper and lower back, plus much more. Ideally it hits every major muscle group with a gentle but effective stretch. Among its many benefits, this kind of stretching machine can effectively help reduce back pain, improve posture, reduce joint and muscle tightness, and supercharge overall flexibility.

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What to Look For in a Full Body Stretch Machine:

  • Targets all core muscle groups
  • Sturdy construction
  • Comfortable padding where you need it (seat and knee pads)
  • Wrist straps
  • Great warranty
  • Well designed ergonomics
  • Ability to accommodate all sizes of user
  • Small footprint and easy transport

Best by Price:

Precor 240i Commercial Series StretchTrainer – $750 – 74 Amazon Reviews

LifeSpan Fitness SP1000 Stretch Partner Stretching Machine – $499 – 61 Reviews

2. Leg Stretching Machines (aka Splits Machines)Century Versaflex Leg Stretching Machine

This is the type of machine that focuses on helping people stretch their legs, especially their hamstrings by incremental increasing degrees. An example of this is the Century Versaflex Stretching Machine. If doing the splits is important to you, as it can be for martial arts practioners and dancers, this is the type of machine you want. But it’s also a great machine to use if tight hamstrings are a problem for you, or you just want to be able to touch your toes a little easier.

Leg or splits machines often have a control wheel that allows you to slowly increase the amount of your stretch. And comfortable padding comes into play here since your legs will be extended out by the leg supports. So make sure you choose a machine that is adjustable and comfortable.

What to Look For in a Leg Stretching Machine:

  • Sturdy construction
  • Padded panels
  • Adjustable back support
  • A control wheel is better than a ratcheting incremental stretch.
  • Easy assembly

Best Leg / Splits Machines by Price:

Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS – $209 – 83 Reviews

ProForce Stretchmaster II Leg Stretcher – $249 – 35 Reviews

Valor Fitness CA-27 Leg Stretch Machine – $181 – 42 Reviews

Our Top Picks

We split up our picks for the best stretch machine into the two main categories of stretch equipment: the full body stretch machine, and the leg stretch machine. The desired flexibility results that users may be looking for in a stretching machine occasionally overlap, but these two categories of equipment are separate enough that two top picks will probably be of the most help.

Top Full Body Stretcher Pick:

Precor 240i StretchTrainer

Precor StretchTrainer

Precor 240i StretchTrainer

The Precor 240i stretch machine is a commercial-grade, multi-functional tool that is durable, comfortable, and designed to stretch every major muscle group. This device comes at a premium price, but it’s worth the “stretch”, as you’re going to experience levels of flexibility you didn’t know were possible through the variable stretch exercises you can perform with it. Stretching in yoga class or any other classes is an excellent way to improve your body. However, with a full-body machine at home, even bett er, right near where you spend the most time, you’re going to use it a lot more and thus get a lot more flexible and faster. The Precor 240i StretchTrainer is the cream of the crop in this area. Athletes such as golfers, baseball players, and tennis players used this stretcher to stay highly flexible and improve their game, but it’s truly transformative for anyone of any age or flexibility level. The best part is, having a Precor at home, you’re going to use it every day.

Notable Features:

  • Stretch Exercise Variations
  • The Precor 240i StretchTrainer allows for eight core stretch exercises including lower back, shoulders, upper back, glutes and hips, hips/legs/back, inner thighs/groin, and quadriceps.
  • It has a handy placard attached that explains each stretch.
  • Move and Store – It’s only 60 lbs, with a compact footprint of 52 L x 28 W x 36 H) so it’s fairly easy to move and store within your home.

Click here or the button below for our full review of the Precor 240i StretchTrainer:

Read Full Review

Top Leg Stretcher (Splits Machine) Pick:

Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS

Pro Leg Stretcher

Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS

Our pick for the best leg stretcher is the Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS. The Pro is a split machine that allows you to work on stretching your hamstrings and improve your splits even beyond 180 degrees. We’ll just say right off the bat, a great feature is that the Pro Leg Stretcher comes fully assembled in the package. It’s a rugged, well-built product that is going to take your leg stretch to the next level as well as last for as long as you’re using it. Beyond being a sturdy leg split machine, the Pro has padded foot rests, padded seat, and great adjustable back support for a comfortable and customizable stretch.

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Notable Features:

  • Control wheel – The great thing about a control wheel on a stretch machine like this is that you can increase your stretch by tiny increments instead of pre-defined cranks or notch levels. To keep tabs on your progress, just count the number of wheel rotations you can get to.
  • Fully assembled – The fact that it comes assembled just gives the Pro an edge.
  • Sturdy construction – It’s made to last.

Overall, most leg stretchers will get results, but if you’re looking for top of the charts efficiency and ease of use (and assembly), the Pro Leg Stretcher has the edge. We’ll be covering other models in future leg machine reviews, so stay tuned.  Click here or the button below for our full review of the Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS:

Read Full Review

stretch machineOther Considerations

Stretching Machine Exercises and Workouts

Once you purchase a stretch machine, obviously you’re going to want to start using it right away. But it’s important to think about and carefully consider your goals. What areas of your body are experiencing stiffness? What degree do you want to achieve for doing the splits on your split machine? Are you going to commit to a daily regimen of stretching?

Develop a Stretching Habit

At any age, we’re going to feel muscle tightness. It’s just the nature of having muscles, tendons, and joints. But as yoga practitioners, athletes, and martial artists can testify to, learning and getting into the habit of doing a proper stretch routine can work wonders for your body and overall well being. If you already workout, it’s easy to end the workout with stretch exercises. If you don’t workout, what are you waiting for?

Stretch Equipment for Older Adults

Many people who are older might be experiencing stiffness in their muscles and joints. Unfortunately, that’s just a part of aging. Fortunately you don’t have to just accept it! A little discipline and habit-formation can get you incredible results with a stretch machine such as the Precor 240 StretchTrainer. Perhaps you make it a routine to get right on your Precor right after a morning walk (it’s always a good idea to warm up your muscles before stretch exercises). If a walk is part of your routine already, then 10 to 20 minutes on the exercise equipment can flow nicely right after.

A Word of Caution

As with any piece of exercise equipment, you should always check in with your doctor before you embark on a new flexibility program with a stretch machine. It’s smart to know what you’re capable of and understand your limits before starting. A quick appointment with your physician can help you safely start your routine and gaining flexibility quickly while avoiding injury.

Final Word on Stretching Machines

Pieces of exercise equipment such as a rowing machine or elliptical trainer can give you a great workout, help you lose weight, or get your cardio working. But stretch machines are a different breed. You might not ride your spinning bike every single day because you probably want to rest your legs to avoid overuse. However, with a stretch machine, you can absolutely use it every day. Of course, you want to be careful and very methodically and gently increase your flexibility. But if you want relief from tightness or to deepen your stretch, a stretch machine will help you get there. Between leg stretchers/split machines and full body stretching machines the uses will of course overlap. And the kind of device you choose really depends on your needs. But whether you’re doing it for sports or just to limber up after a long day hunched over a computer, the results from using a stretching machine can be incredible.

Here’s a video of a woman demonstrating use of a leg stretching machine. As she points out, you should always be properly warmed up when using one of these devices:

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