Safe Stretching for Splits

Why we encourage dancers to work on their splits:
Being able to do the splits does not make you a better dancer. Dancing comes from the heart and the mind. Every body is different and unique. Some bodies are more flexible than others, and it’s a good thing to have diversity in a dance class. We encourage dancers to work on their splits because it encourages stretching. When we jump, leap, stomp, plie, etc… our muscles are getting compressed and shortened. Stretching lengthens muscles. It improves posture, lines, and flexibility. Most importantly, it helps reduce muscle soreness and injury.

How to be safe:

  • Always stretch your hamstrings before you slide into your splits. When sliding into your splits, use your hands to support yourself. You can use the pictures below.
  • I do not encourage stretches that work on “oversplits” (going past your floor splits) studies have shown this to increase hip injury and it is not necessary in any dance profession. Social media does encourage this. Please ignore social media that displays this.
  • Make sure that your hips are in alignment when stretching at home. Stretching with improper alignment will create bad habits can lead to injury. If you are unsure, ask your teacher if you are doing them correctly.

How to gain and maintain flexibility:

  • Everyone can gain flexibility, however it is harder as you age into adulthood. That is why we encourage gaining and maintaining flexibility at a young age.
  • Make sure to stretch both sides evenly. Many people find one side is naturally more flexible. Children will tend to want to stretch this easier side more because they see more progress. Remind them that it is very important to stretch both sides.
  • To gain flexibility, you must stretch 5-7 days per week.
  • To maintain flexibility, you must stretch 3-5 days per week.
  • Hint: I suggest you work stretching into your daily activities, rather than adding to. Example, stretch while reading, watching tv, and even doing homework. School teachers have seen increased focus if a child is stretching or lying on their stomach while completing homework, especially if they are getting wiggly and distracted while sitting in a chair.

Split Challenge:
Use the stretches below to stretch every day for the next month. Take a picture at the beginning of the month and at the end of the month to see if your flexibility has improved. Once you reach your goal, you may cut down to stretching 3-5 days a week to maintain your flexibility.

Safe Stretching you can do at home:

Triangle Stretch, stand with your feet apart and legs straight, stretch down to one foot and hold

Lunge, make sure your front knee stays above your ankle, straighten your back leg and push your hips to the floor

Hurdler Lunge, Shifting your weight to the back knee, extend the front leg and lean forward leading with the chest

Right and Left Splits, go as low as you can while supporting yourself with your hands on either side trying to keep your legs straight, hips facing straight forward, and your back leg on the top of your foot (where your shoe laces will be.)

Frog Stretch, lay on your stomach, while keeping your feet together press your knees apart, press your feet towards the floor as far as they will go without lifting your hips up from the floor

Center Splits, support yourself with your hands directly underneath you. Slide down slowly while keeping your legs straight and your knees pointed towards the ceiling.

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