You don't have to be a gymnast or a yogi to do a split. These stretches and exercises help you prime your body so you can build up to doing the full thing.
Being able to do a split is an impressive feat of flexibility. Even if you haven't done one in years (or ever), with the right prep you can work your way up. No matter your current flexibility level, these exercises from Nike master trainer Rebecca Kennedy will help you get there. (How flexible are you, really? Take our test to find out.)
With the help of some equipment, you'll ease your way into the stretch gradually so that you won't strain a muscle. Staying flexible isn't just for show! The greater range of motion you have, the less at risk you are for injury during your regular workouts or sports. (Stretching can also improve your posture and build stronger glutes, so it's a win-win.) Do this routine daily and you'll be a few inches closer to a split each time.
How it works: Perform each stretch for about one minute on each side.
You'll need: A kettlebell, a plyometric box, a tennis ball, and two yoga blocks
A. Stand on a plyometric box, holding a kettlebell.
B. Tuck chin to chest, then slowly roll down through spine, bringing kettlebell toward the floor.
C. Slowly reverse movement and repeat.
Supine Hip Flexion
A. Lie on your back with right leg lifted off the floor and knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Place a tennis ball at your hip flexor, squeezed between hip and thigh.
B. Slowly straighten right knee to bring right foot toward the ceiling, being careful not to release tennis ball.
C. Slowly bend right knee to return to starting position. Repeat on opposite side.
Extend and Release Hamstring Press
A. Lie on your back with left knee bent and left foot on floor. Straighten right leg and place right foot on plyometric box in front of you.
B. Bring straight right leg toward face.
C. Slowly lower right leg with control to return to starting position. Repeat on opposite side
Hip Extension 2 Ways
1a. Lie on stomach with right knee bent and resting on yoga block and a tennis ball held at the back of your right knee, where the calf meets hamstring.
1b. Lifting from the hip, raise bent right leg a few inches to bring knee off yoga block.
1c. Lower right knee to return to starting position. Repeat on opposite side.
2a. Begin kneeling with left foot forward on the floor and right knee down and on a towel. Legs should be at 90-degree angles.
2b. Slide right knee backward a few inches to come into deep lunge.
2c. Reverse movement to slide right knee forward to return to starting position. Repeat on opposite side.
Lunge to Hamstring Extension
A. Begin in plank position with hands under shoulders and legs long behind you. Move into runner's lunge, bringing right foot up to outside of right hand.
B. Shift weight back by raising hips and straightening right leg so only the heel is on the floor.
C. Bend right knee and lower hips to return to starting position.
Modified Split Using Blocks
A. With body between two yoga blocks, kneel on left leg and extend right leg straight in front of you.
B. Prop hands on yoga blocks while extended left leg straight behind you.
C. Lift through the chest. This should look like an elevated split.
With time, you'll be able to slowly bend your arms from the modified split and slowly bring hips down to the floor, coming into a full split.