How to do the splits if you are over twenty?

Valuable advice from Chinese Wushu champions how to do the splits and side splits. It’s the matter not of exercises, but of tactics.


If in your childhood you went into the ballet or acrobatics, then most likely you are one of the lucky ones who can do splits. What if childhood is over, but the dream of splits still bothers you? Has the boat left?

Somebody things the splits is only a good flexibility, healthy ligaments, or an exercise from yoga. But for me, as for a person who grew up on action films of Jackie Chan, Van Damme and Donnie Yen, it was something much more important and symbolic. Being a student, I reproached myself for the lack of diligence, when I had been going to a hand-to-hand fight and failed in exercising the splits. And when I was 20 years old, it seemed to me that the time has gone, I was too old, and that there wasn’t even a reason to try to do the splits.

A miracle happened – right after university I went to study in China. It was a small town where vegetables were grown for the entire province, and where right in the campus there was a corn plant. It was supposed we would have Chinese language courses at a local college. But no one knew (myself included) that at this very college there was a strong school of martial arts, which alumni regularly gained the lead in the all-China Wushu competitions. Neither I nor my other Russian-speaking colleagues had Wushu in the schedule. But thanks to the persistence of our friend from Odessa Julia, who has studied Tai Chi before coming to China, the dean’s office allowed us to attend Wushu classes.

Living in the world of average office workers who do not do stretching, and living in a world, where everybody does backflips and splits is not the same. Being in such conditions, as an old awkward student, I began pulling up. The desire, as well as advices of Wushu masters helped me to do splits less than in a year of training. I’ve included in the list of recommendations their knowledge and my experience for those who want to do the splits.

How to do the splits

  1. Do not target dates. No “till the New Year” or ” in two months”. Haste in stretching always leads to injuries.
  2. Do it slowly. Slow and sustained progress a half-hour daily is better than intensive workout for several hours at a time.
  3. Know better your body. This is perhaps one of the most important points. The fact is that, even though we are all similar anatomically, each of us has his own characteristics: someone has wider hips, someone is more flexible naturally, and somebody does side split better than the cross one. This means that one method isn’t suitable for everyone. You should detect your problem areas during training. For example, I had no problems with the popliteal ligaments. But the femoral ligaments were as wooden. So I paid more attention to them.
  4. Eat less meat, it makes your ligaments more flexible.
  5. Drink more water.
  6. Begin exercises gradually, increasing the frequency of stretching. I started from one workout in two days and reached up to three workouts a day.
  7. Stretching is easier in the evening, when the body is warmed up, but the morning stretching is also good. It’s simple: morning stretching, due to its complexity, is more valuable than the evening one, when the body is already awakened.
  8. Before stretching you should warm up your feet: run, crouch, and make the blood run in the legs. If you are a runner stretch after jogging. There is nothing better than cross splits or side splits after a good marathon – your feet will thank you for it, as you help your muscles to recover.
  9. To distribute the load. When you sit in the splits, your feet may sag down closer to the floor due to the knees. Remember: if at the time of stretching your knees and back hurt, you’re doing it wrong. Your task is to train ligaments.
  10. There are two kinds of splits: dynamic (when you’re waving foot – splits in a blow) and static (sitting on the floor). It sometimes happens that a person can pull the foot up to the state of splits, but cannot sit in it on the floor. Sometimes vice versa. These two types of splits complement each other, so you should work them out simultaneously. For example, if you sat in the splits for a minute, it is desirable to get up immediately and to wave feet at least 30 seconds
  11. While stretching, pull the tiptoe to yourself, but not from yourself (like in ballet).
  12. While doing static splits, don’t sit still, but continue to oscillate lightly – up and down, like a string – with a comfortable for you speed.
  13. Let your legs glide across the floor.
  14. Be extremely careful when somebody offers you “help”. No one but you can know about the state of your ligaments. The coach is not a psychic. How many there were cases when a coach “accidentally” broke someone’s ligament. As for me, only legs and floor are necessary for the splits.
  15. Stretching is an unnatural activity, because in fact, we injure our ligaments. That’s why you are strained, squeezed, trying to avoid pain. You should learn to relax and to breathe deeply, even when it hurts.
  16. Get ready for daily portions of pain for a couple of years or perhaps for a lifetime. Although soon the pain will become so habitual that you will be uncomfortable without stretching. You should be mentally prepared for a new daily routine, where together with the morning glass of water will be a morning pain from stretching.
  17. Stretch every day, preferably several times a day. Each of your days without stretching – it’s two steps back. You may stretch for a long time, three times a week, and not to do the splits. Stretching – this is not a typical strength training (like in the gym), so you can rest less and stretch more.
  18. Take a hot shower. After a hot shower your ligaments become more workable while stretching.
  19. Use a timer. Sitting in the splits, imagine a stopwatch in front of you. Start from 30 seconds, and gradually increase the time. These measures will also help you to feel more clearly the progress. Instead of a timer, you can also use your favorite music.
  20. Join a section where your splits would be appreciated. For example, acrobatics, yoga, breakdancing, or martial arts. No matter whether you can sit in splits or you only work in this direction. The human is a social creature, so “public” workout, can be even more useful with friends who will support you morally and provide additional motivation.

Every person may have his or her favorite and effective ways of stretching: someone sits in asana position, while others wave their legs – that’s why I do not describe here any exercise. You probably know them. And if not, then you know where to find them.

The most important is that people in the age of 30 and 40 sit in the splits. Just believe in yourself. When I finally managed to sit down in cross splits, our main coach smiled at me and said: «功夫 不负 有心人», – which means “if you work hard, you will achieve success.”

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