CAT | Flexibility
You can always improve your flexibility. But sometimes you just donâ€™t know how!
I didnâ€™t explain actual stretches to you in how to become more flexible. So, here are some stretches that might work for you:
The Simple Stretches
Thatâ€™s right. Just the normal old v-sit will help a lot! You just need to focus when you stretch. If you truly want to be more flexible, then work on being more flexible. Stretch and think of stretching that extra inch as your goal. You wonâ€™t become flexible if you donâ€™t genuinely want it. Stretching requires focus.
Sit in your splits for a minute or two and feel the stretch. If you donâ€™t feel any stretch, elevate one leg on a stair, step, or phonebook. You can also try to split against a doorway. Hold the sides of the wall to keep your balance.
On the other hand, if you cannot do the splits, then go as close as you can and stay in this position for at least a minute. Donâ€™t estimate, either. Use a clock, or else you might think itâ€™s been one minute when itâ€™s only been 20 seconds. Pain impairs your estimation!
There are a lot of names for this one. Basically, sit in a v-sit near a wall. Spread your legs out as far as possible and pull yourself into the wall as far as you can. This helps a lot in doing the middle splits.
Stretch with a Friend!
Thereâ€™s lots of stretches you can do with a partner! Lay on your backâ€“legs straight; point both toes. Have a partner elevate one leg as far to your nose as possible. Try resisting your partnerâ€™s push for ten seconds, relaxing and pulling your leg in for ten seconds, resisting, etc. You can also do this by yourself by simply pulling your own leg in.
Hereâ€™s another one. Place your leg on a friendâ€™s shoulder (be careful!). If that is too high for you, tell your partner to lower it. Your partner can then hold your leg and raise it up as you get used to the stretch. You should lean on a wall so you donâ€™t lose your balance!
These stretches all work, but the best way to stretch is to use a mixture of everything. Stretch every muscle in your body.
The most important thing to know when stretching is to focus. You canâ€™t just stretch without focusing and expect to become more flexible. When you stretch, think about stretching and nothing else. This focus is really what is going to help you.
Comment and tell me if this helps!
Since my post about stretching splits in three weeks has been so popular, Iâ€™m writing a follow-up.
Thanks to everyone who read the article and started getting those splits down! Iâ€™m very happy for all of you, and glad that you already have the splits. Thank you for everyone who commented, also. See, three weeks wasnâ€™t so long after all!
If you donâ€™t have the splits already, you should read the article posted above and work on them! Trust me, three weeks will zip by.
This article is mainly about how you can further improve your leg flexiblityâ€“get those kicks high, split when youâ€™re in the air, hold your leg to your nose, whatever it is, you can do it!
Flexibility is just step one to getting high kicks. Leg strength comes next. So many people have perfect splits, but low kicks. It doesnâ€™t make sense, but when you think about it, youâ€™re using different muscles and need strength.
For kick flexibility, stretch your splits vertically on a wall (doorways make it easiest for balance). This is your kick position, so it will help most.
For kick strength, keep kicking! Donâ€™t kill yourself, but practice some good kicks everyday. Iâ€™d recommend three sets a day of two eight-counts of high kicks (bounce, kick, bounce, etc.), meaning eight kicks each set (donâ€™t worry too much about staying in line, but do keep it in mindâ€“at this moment, just worry about getting your kicks up). Running also strengthens those leg muscles, so a short jog a day will really help. Encourage your team to jog daily (for at least ten minutes) to warm up. Of course, jogging right after school doesnâ€™t seem too enticing, but after a few minutes, it feels really nice. Building muslces in your thigh help keep your kicks high. Combining all your leg muscles help keep your legs straight.
Remember, remember, remember: do not hunch into your kicks. Sometimes when you bring your body into your kick it feels like itâ€™s higher because your face is closer to your knee, but it gives you bad posture and does not elevate your kicks.
Iâ€™ve heard that stretching in the pool or in a warm bath might help, but Iâ€™ve never tried this myself. If youâ€™re interested, you could try it out (tell me how it goes!).
This is just a general article about leg strength. If you are truly interested, I will be posting a follow-up to this one including a specific schedule/strengthening routine that you can use to help you out.
A reader has requested that I create a routine for kicks similar to the one I created for the splits. So here it is . . .
As I said for the splits, it’s important that you follow the routine so that you can get the kicks that you want in the time that you want. This will take three weeks of strong commitment and dedication. Good luck!
Read the bottom (*) for information about getting high kicks.
To start off . . . See how flexible you are. If you can do the splits or are very close, that’s great! If not, that’s fine, too. Just make sure you are simultaneously developing your kicks and flexibility (see this post for lots of helpful stretches and a good, 3-week stretching routine). (more…)
Responses to comments are posted at the end of this article.
A lot of people have told me that they have one split but not the other, or are very close to their splits but just can’t get there. Also people have told me that they stretch all the time with no improvement.
If your splits are not improving, it may be because you are stretching incorrectly. Remember that you should warm up your muscles before you stretch. You should actually be warm and sweaty before you begin stretching. This requires at least a ten minute jog, if not more. Warming up is not just walking a lap or running a few yards. When you are warm, you can feel the stretch much better.
Remember also that you should be stretching consistently (stretch both legs, for instance, not just one side of your body). Touching your toe for two seconds is not stretching either. Feel the stretch, the longer the better. A couple of minutes per stretch is excellent.
Lastly, splits require flexibility in more than one area. Stretch everywhere, and make sure you sit in your splits (or as close as you can get to your splits) for a few minutes after stretching.
If you are still having problems, feel free to leave a comment and tell me about it.
Edit 1/18/07: My posts about stretching the splits are for all kinds of splits (center, side). All other types of splits (like splits in the air) are just like normal splits, except with leg strength added.
Edit 2/25/07: Kerry–for the splits, the back leg should be perfectly straight in the end. Don’t worry if you’re not there yet, it’s just a little extra stretching. Try to gently push that back leg straight. Another way is to try to sit up straighter because it pushes your pelvis down to the ground and sometimes straightens that back leg. If your front leg is close to the ground, then stretch until the end of the week to see what happens. If you’re still a bit off the ground, then try lenghthening your stretching sessions. Getting extra warm before stretching helps. The best stretch for getting your front leg down is to just go down as far as you can and hold it for a minute or two. Then do some other stretches, and try it again. Concentrate hard, and you will find yourself getting nearer to the splits. For tryouts, all teams are different. Usually, the majority of people who try out are freshmen. It works like this because people who are interested in drill try out when they are freshman, and if they make it then they’re on the team . . . if they don’t make it then they usually don’t try out again because they don’t think that they can make it. Anyway, they will not expect you to know everything. Anything that you need to know will be taught to you, and if it is not, you can always ask for help. Most of the people who have never done it before will make the team based on the fact that they have potential. They usually don’t judge your perfection, but they judge things like your determination, willingness to improve, listening skills, work ethic, and your ability to work with others. If they see someone who has no experience, isn’t perfect, but works hard, practices a lot, and wants to get better, that person will make the team.
Edit 5/13/2007: Rebecca–in my opinion, it is never “too late” to start. Making the drill team is largely about your commitment and dedication. It’s not about whether not you can do the splits; it’s about how badly you want to get the splits down, and how badly you want to learn drill. If you truly want to make the team, then your best bet is to demonstrate your commitment by stretching now and practicing hard during the try-out/audition process. If you need help with the splits, I’d recommend that you read this article: http://drillobsession.com/?p=93. In the meantime, good luck with making the team next year!
After reading this, here are some articles I recommend you also read:
- FAQs on this post - NEW!
- How To Become More Flexible
- Problem With The Splits?
- Ways To Improve Your Flexibility
- Flexi-tize and Strengthen Those Legs!
I know it sounds crazy. Have your splits down in three weeks when you’re still two feet off the ground? It’s possible, but you just need the time to commit to this. Before you read this, I’ll warn you that it sounds like a TON of time, but think about it . . . you want your splits, right? Why don’t you just get them now so that you don’t waste time thinking about how far from the ground you are? How long have you been trying to get those darn splits down? A year, perhaps two? Three weeks is not bad at all.
So, let’s get started (If you’re just looking for stretches, scroll down). Stretch where you feel comfortable, but not distracted. An area with a computer, for instance, might be a bad location, because you may be tempted to go on the internet and surf, which destroys your focus and stops your flexibility from improving. Focus and stretch as if you were meditating.
Reserve thirty minutes a day to stretching (yes, including weekends, or else it won’t work. If you absolutely cannot stretch on one day, just make sure you get straight back to your stretching routine the next day). Warming up before you stretch is very helpful because it makes your muscles warm and easy to stretch. The warmer you are, the easier the stretch will be; thus, the more success you will have in getting those splits down. And here are your daily stretching routines:
Session 1: 15 minutes
I recommend that you get this over in the morning, before you go to school, work, or whatever you do during the daytime. After warming up, start your stretches. I recommend that you stretch one minute (at the very least) for each stretch. Remember: the splits are not dependent on one muscle. Helpful stretches are listed and described at the end of this post.
Session 2: 15 minutes
This one I’d say to do before you sleep. Do not slack off because you’re sleepy or tired. Brush your teeth, stretch, then sleep. If you absolutely cannot do session 1 in the morning and session 2 at night, then leave at least 2 hours in between sessions. You need to gain flexibility, have some time off, then work back on the flexibility to regain it and improve it.
Keep up with the same thing as week one, but now stretching time is increased to 45 minutes a day. That means there is now a session in between–session 1.5 should be done after school, work, etc. And if not, leave 2 hours in between sessions. You should really start noticing that you’re getting close to the splits.
Increase your stretching time to one hour. This is same as week two, with another session. This is the between dinner and before bedtime one. The free time that you have after dinner and before your last session should be used for an additional 15 minutes of stretching. After the end of this week, you should be in your splits! Yipee!If you’re having problems or not noticing any improvement, try other stretches. Again, a variety of stretches is your best bet. Remember to sit in the splits, or as close as you can go (I know it hurts, but how else can you get it?).
Tip: Stretch when you’re doing an inactive activity, like the laundry, reading a book, watching TV, or talking on the phone. This should be apart from your sessions, which require 100% focus. Extra stretching is always beneficial!
Precaution: It’s NOT a good thing to be feeling pain when you stretch. Pain is different from soreness. The two concepts are a bit hard to explain in writing. In general, if your legs feel painful when you stretch, it’s a good idea to ease back a little bit. If you find that you are still having problems with this, the best bet is to consult a coach or doctor since they know best. Many readers have questioned whether or not they are physically capable of doing the splits because they feel that they are making little progress; I will refer you to this splits misconceptions article for that purpose.
Some helpful stretches
V-sit: sit with your back flat against a wall. Bring both legs as far back to the wall as you can and keep proper posture and straight legs. While keeping your posture, bring your back down towards the floor as your arms reach out in front of you (not down) as far as possible. Feel the stretch. Do this first pointing your toes, then flexing your feet. Try moving your legs out further as you go on. Also, you can reach out towards your right and left legs. Remember to breathe!
Straight leg stretch: Basically, keep your legs straight and feet together. Stand, and without bending your knees, reach down as far as possible. Put your weight on your toes (not your heels)–this feels a bit unnatural at first, but it is the proper way to stretch. You can also do this one sitting. Sit with proper posture, legs straight out in front of you and ankles together. Reach out with your arms. Do this both flexing and pointing your toes.
Sideways stretch: Ok, so you’ve probably figured out that I’m making up names for the stretches as I go along. Pretty creative, eh? Anyway, the “sidways stretch” goes like this. Stand in the straight leg stretch position. Now bring your right leg out in front of you (like you’re taking a step forward) about two feet. This doesn’t have to be precise, just as long as you’re close. Stand up, keep your posture back. Now reach down to your right foot, keeping your posture back and your hips in line. Your hips shouldn’t shift to aid you in your stretch. Go down slowly, and if you hips shift, come back up and try again. Go as far down as you can without shifting hips. After doing this for a minute, bend your left leg and continue stretching to your right. Now switch legs.
4 Stretch: Named because it looks like a number 4. Sit down on your butt and put both legs straight out in front of you. Bend your left leg so that your left knee is on the ground, your left foot also on the ground with the flat side touching your right knee, and your right knee is straight with toes pointed. See the 4 that your legs make? Stretch, with proper posture, to your right leg. Reach out with your arms, as far as you can. After a minute, remembering to breathe, of course, flex your right foot and continue reaching out for another minute. Switch legs, and repeat.
Standing V-leg stretch: Stand up, posture back, with your legs shoulder width apart. You can go a little wider if that’s more comfortable for you, but try to keep it as close to shoulder width as possible. Bring your straight arms between and beyond your legs–reach back. Also reach to your right and left legs. Reach down the center, too. As with the straight leg stretch, keep your weight over your toes rather than your heels.
Half squat: Squat. Keep your right leg where it is and place your left leg straight out your left side, toes pointed, as if you were doing the center splits with your left leg. Put your right hand on the ground to the left of your right foot. Use your right elbow to push your right knee out. You should feel stretching your inner thighs. Switch sides.
The splits: Well, if you want your splits down, shouldn’t you be doing them? . Never be discouraged by how far you are from the splits. Just get as close as you can and hold it there for awhile (a minute). Relax, and repeat a few times. You can also do the splits on the wall (preferably, a doorway, so you can keep your balance). In a few days, after doing multiple stretches, you will notice that you’re getting closer. Rejoice!
All of these stretches usually take about a minute. Above, I’ve given you much more than fifteen minutes of stretching, so spread these stretches out. Do some in one session, others in another session, but try to stretch as many muscles as you can each session. Don’t confine yourself to just one stretch. Do both splits in each session at least once (preferably at the end, to see your improvement).
Another thing to remember is to stretch both legs. A lot of people stretch one leg, while the other leg is completely inflexible. This leads to uneven kicks. It’s a good idea to get both legs flexible so you aren’t stuck with being good with one split and not the other. You never know what split you will encounter in the future!
Remember, you must focus on and want the splits, or else you’ll never get them. The wanting part is easy. Who wouldn’t want to do the splits? The focus is the hard part. Stretching in your kitchen, for instance, is a bad habit. You’ll see that bag of chips and box of cereal and be completely distracted. You’ve lost your focus. If you truly want your splits, you should be stretching like you’re meditating. Think of nothing other than those splits, breathing, and your flexibility. This is not the time to daydream. Now go stretching, and remember, think:splits, splits, splits, splits, splits, splits, flexibility, splits, breathe, splits, splits . . .
*Note*–more stretches have been submitted through comments. Some of these stretches are listed below.
Additional stretches and responses to comments (see also FAQ)
Thanks Hailey for the comment! Here’s another good stretch from her: “A good stretch is the frog. You lye on your stomach, and bring your feet together, with your pelvis on the ground, sort of like the butterfly in reverse, and the goal is to get your feet to touch the ground, still together, and your kneeâ€™s bent, and your pelvis on the ground. After you acheve that bring your feet closer to your body and do the same thing over again, untill you can have your kneeâ€™s bent, feet and pelvies on the ground, and your feet right against your body. It helps dancers with their turn out too.”–I have heard of this one and tried it myself; it’s a lot harder than it looks, but an excellent stretch. It’s a good before-you-sleep stretch, while you’re in bed and have nothing better to do. Now you can add it to your stretching routines. Hope those splits are coming along well.
Nina, thank you for the comment. Sorry for the confusion! I hope that this re-explanation of the frog stretch might help you see what it is.Frog stretch: Lie down belly on the floor. Bend your knees and put your the bottoms of your feet together– push them towards your pelvis, while trying to keep every part of your body flat on the ground. It’s like the “butterfly stretch” except on your stomach. I’m not sure if that’s a universal term, but the butterfly stretch is where you sit on your butt and put your feet together, knees bent. You try to push your knees to the ground and feel the stretch in your inner thigh area. This helps with your center splits because you need flexibility in that area.
If you are getting little results, make sure that you are warming up before stretching (the warmer, the better) and focusing hard on flexibility and nothing else. Get “in the zone” (100% focus) when you stretch. No phone calls, TV, or music if it distracts you. Use a variety of stretches everyday. Don’t forget to breathe. Good luck!
Thanks, Evi, for suggesting the lunge as a stretch. I usually think of it more as a workout and muscle-strengthening activity, but it does work as a stretch if you let your muscles relax. Here is my explanation of it for those that want to try it: stand up, feet and heels together. Take a step forward with your right foot, keeping a large stride–this is just like the “sideways stretch” position except with a larger space between your legs (for average height, keep around 3-4 feet or whatever is comfortable for you). Now bend your right leg to make it perpendicular to the floor. This is a step before the lunge–the “runner stretch” (I just realized that I forgot to add this!). The runner stretch is helpful for your calves; hold in this position for a minute or two. Now, to get to the lunge, keep your right leg in position, and slide your left foot back as far as possible while keeping your right leg still in perpendicular position from knee down. This is the lunge position. Typically, lunges are done to strengthen your leg muscles (thighs, particularly). If you are interested in doing that, stay in position for about five seconds, then take a step with your left leg and do it again. Keep repeating (you should feel a burn in your thighs) and hold weights at your side if it gets easy for you. It might help if you squeeze your ears with your elbows or hold onto your hips to keep balance (if you are not using weights). To use the lunge as a stretch, place your hands on the floor on each side of your right foot so you can keep balance, ease the pressure off of your thighs, and focus on the stretch more instead of focusing on strengthening your leg muscles. There is a primary goal when stretching, and that is attaining flexibility. Take things one at a time–you can work on leg strength later! Anyway, the lunge is particularly helpful in stretching your inner thighs. Notice that, if you continue sliding your leg back (and let your front foot leave the perpendicular position), you will slide into a split! I found it helpful to get into the lunge position and slide back as far as I could into the splits until I finally got there. Hope that the lunge helps you!
Elphie, I am proud of you for getting those splits (almost) down! Great job with your stretching, and I hope you are happy with the results! That last inch or two will not be too difficult. The way that you get that down is by sitting in the splits for a few minutes (maybe about 2 minutes). Then, switch your splits so you can stretch the other side. Get up, walk around a little, and restretch. If you sit in your splits for just 2 minutes about 2-3 times a day, it will be there in a few days. Concentrate, warm up, and stretch. You’ll get there. Don’t worry too much about being able to pick up choreography. If you aren’t so experienced, it will just take more practice to get it down. Don’t stress if you don’t get the routine while it is being taught. Just try to remember all that you can so you can practice once you get home, and then go to your audition the next day feeling like you’ve worked hard and learned something. Best of luck at your audition.
Diana, thanks for offering great advice. Remember that flexibility is something that is developed. You may return back to normal the next day for the first few days of stretching, but do not lose motivation. Keep stretching with a strong focus. Soon enough, you will be able to see improvements. Good luck at tryouts!
Melanie, if you are scared to go into the straddle splits, just remember to slowly go into them. Keep your hands on the ground and slowly lower yourself. Once you feel tension, hold the position to feel the stretch; however, do not go so far into the splits to the point where you feel pain. Another way to practice the straddle splits is to sit on the floor in a v-sit position. Gradually pull your feet further apart. Reach forward with both arms to feel the stretch. It helps do v-sit with your feet against the wall, so that you can pull your body into the wall (or you could sit with your back against the wall, and pull your legs back towards the wall). Hope that helps! Thanks for visiting.
Charlotte, you should consider sitting in your splits for a little less than two minutes. When your knee starts to shake, try to make it stop by balancing yourself; if that doesn’t work, don’t worry! Get out of the splits, and then go back to them when you feel ready. It takes time for your body to develop the ability to do the splits. As for the grinding in your knee joints, you should definitely be careful with that. Make sure that your ankle/foot isn’t bent the wrong way because that could cause your knee to be irritated. If it is painful, you should ask a doctor about it.Melanie, this post is for all splits (right, left, and center).<
Hi Beth, you asked if there are stretches that would decrease your flexibility. Nothing that I know of will actually “decrease” your flexibility. If over time, you don’t stretch, then you become less flexible because your muscles have relaxed. If you are stretching properly, it can only increase and develop your flexibility. As for starting ballet, there is never a “latest” age. Most people start when they are very little because it is easier to develop ballet skills, such as flexibility and pointy toes, at that age; however, if you are committed, I believe that you can gain those skills. It will be much harder as you get older, but it is most likely still possible (for most people).Austin, most boys are able to do the splits as well; however, the reason it is harder for boys is because they are generally less flexible than girls. By this, I mean that a girl who never stretches tends to be more flexible than a boy who never stretches (I have no idea why this is so). Anyway, because of this, it takes guys a little bit of a longer time to get the splits because they have a longer way to go in terms of flexibility in order to achieve the splits. I did say that most boys can do the splits… please refer to this splits article to see if you’re capable.
I’ve batched up a ton of questions and addressed them in the FAQ post. From now on, I’ll be updating that page instead of this one. Check it out!
Anyone else have stretches or suggestions? Any confusion on the stretches? Comment!
Edit 9/4/06: For help on the splits, read Flexibility to the Max–Stretch your splits in 3 weeks!
You’ve been stretching what seems like forever, but you still havenâ€™t got the splits down after a year or so. It seems impossible, and you start asking yourself if youâ€™re incapable of doing the splits. Maybe the right question to ask is if you are stretching correctly, doing the right stretches, and stretching frequently enough.
Being able to do the splits isnâ€™t just based on being flexible in one area. A lot of people tend to stretch the same muscles everyday, but never get the splits down. This may because they are doing the wrong stretches. Another possibility is that they arenâ€™t performing the stretches correctly. Make sure you use a variety of stretches and also perform them correctly. Stretching improperly wonâ€™t do you any good.
Being flexible also requires a lot of stretching. There are many ways to improve your flexibility. You need to be stretching daily, for at least 15 minutes. You canâ€™t just compensate and decide to stretch for two hours every Saturday. It doesnâ€™t work that wayâ€“you have to stretch daily in order to build up on it. Your flexibility improves everyday, but it also digresses. If you stretch once a week, youâ€™ll become more flexible, but by the next week, you will lose all the flexibility that you gained. Thatâ€™s why you have to stretch dailyâ€“so that you build flexibility and donâ€™t lose it.
One important tip for stretching is to do it after warming up. Your muscles are much easier to stretch while theyâ€™re warm and it wonâ€™t feel as painful while stretching cold. Youâ€™ll get better results this way and have less risks of pulling a muscle. Also try strengthening your legs.
Another tip is to stretch while at practice. I know you probably warm up and stretch, but while stretching, you canâ€™t just talk to your friends and be in a stretching position while doing so. You have to think about stretching and focus on becoming more flexible. You can sit in a stretching position for hours and get no stretch at all. You actually have to stretch to your limits in order to improve your flexibility. After awhile, your stretching limits will expand because you are becoming more flexible. You will be able to get another inch down into your splits. And week after week, if you continue focusing, youâ€™ll get it!
Just remember that flexibility is attainable if you focus hard and stretch often. Donâ€™t let your flexibility digress more than it improves.