The splits are an exercise in flexibility that a lot of pole dancers strive for. They can add drama to tricks, create beautiful lines, and make other tricks like the Jade possible. However, for most people, flexibility decreases as we get older so getting splits back (or for the first time) can be challenging. True, some people are naturally more flexible than others and some people will be able to get the splits faster and with less effort than others. Almost everyone, with consistent work can master the splits given enough time.
When doing stretches or any exercise, make sure to do them on both sides as you’ll want good flexibility and strength on both sides.
One of the beginning stretches to do is a Bent Knees Split Stretch. In essence this is a really deep lunge:
Kneel in front of something about 6 inches off of the floor that you can rest a foot on. At the gym I will use a pile of mats; at home I use a few books with a towel on top. Put one foot onto the stack of books/mat/etc. and bend your knee to about 90 degrees. Keep your hips square to the front and slide your other leg back, keeping the knee bent. Do this until you reach 180 degrees from knee to knee – a mini-split. You may not get there at first, but with practice you will. Hold the stretch for 60-90 seconds and keep breathing. Keep your chest up and put your hands on your front knee for balance. Repeat this stretch on the other side.
Another stretch to do is a Straight Front Leg Stretch:
Put your foot on a stack of mats or books (like in the previous stretch). Extend that leg straight and adjust it so only your heel is on the pile. Kneeling on your other knee (it should be bent at a 90 degree angle), hinge forward at your hips and bend down as far as you can. Your hips should be square and your front leg should remain straight. Hold this stretch for 60-90 seconds, deepening on the exhale. Repeat on the other side.
A third stretch to work on is a variation for the Straight Front Leg Stretch:
It is essentially the same as the above stretch but from a standing position instead of kneeling. Remember to keep your hips square and legs straight. Do this stretch on both sides, as always.
Full Split Practice:
After doing the three above stretches, work on your full splits. To do these, keep your hips square, legs straight, slightly rotated outwards, and your toes pointed. Keep your chest up so you do not strain any muscles along your back. If you cannot do this with your hands reaching to the ground, practice between two chairs or other objects to give yourself adequate support. Breath into the stretch and hold it for 60-90 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
After working out you can stretch almost anywhere. I will often finish a workout video and choose to do my stretching in front of the TV catching up on the news, or I’ll read a book, watch a movie, or whatever I feel like when I am stretching. Personally, I stretch everyday (or almost every day). Sometimes I’ll do light stretching in the morning and after an evening workout I’ll do my deeper stretches.
Remember, contrary to past advice, it is better to do your deeper stretching after working out so your muscles are loose and warm. Stretching still cool muscles can cause injury or pain.
If you are doing these stretches right, you will feel the stretch but it should not be painful.
Now go, SPLIT!