CriticalDance Forum

Help with the splits!
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Author:  Dancer246 [ Wed Mar 23, 2005 2:24 am ]
Post subject:  Help with the splits!

Hi everyone at CD,

My dance academy has got it's annunal show coming up in around 3 months and in one of our routines we have to do the splits.
Now, I'm not the most flexible person in the world and I have to work hard to keep my flexibility once I've gained it but I'm determined to do it.

My question: has anyone got any exercises, stretches or tips to gradually train my self, safely, to do the splits?

Any help appreciated!!
Dancer246 xx

Author:  Gina Ness [ Wed Mar 23, 2005 10:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!

Hi there...The splits is not something that will happen overnight. It's something you can work on but not force. You don't want an injury. They can improve, though, in three months. You must practice every day. Never stretch unless you have warmed your muscles up. Gymnasts do this by jogging or running; ballet dancers with barre work. Make sure your legs are fairly aligned on the floor, the hips not pitched to either side (somewhat "square"). I ask my students to place their hands on either side of their front leg to support the weight of their body while they stretch. Begin with the leg in front straight and the leg behind slightly bent with the knee on the floor. This way, you gradually stretch out the hamstring. Don't "bounce" or force, but just stay there for at least one minute. Work up to holding it there a bit longer and longer. This is how gymnasts are taught...(My son was a gymnast, and believe me, I watched many team warm-ups and practices!)

<small>[ 23 March 2005, 11:11 AM: Message edited by: GN ]</small>

Author:  Dancer246 [ Wed Mar 23, 2005 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!

Thanks GN, your advice seems very good and safe which is what I wanted.

Author:  spangles [ Wed Mar 23, 2005 2:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!

Hi there. I too agree with GN. The splits will not happen overnight but with practice IT WILL HAPPEN. Of utmost imporatance however is the SAFE DANCE issue. Remember do not attempt any stretches before a thorough warm up. Do not ever ever bounce. Hold the stretch for no more than ten seconds. Be sure that the hips are square and that the knee on the front leg is on top of the leg. Also, as GN mentioned use the arms initially for support. It may be a good idea to also do some hamstring and calf streches before attempting the splits. Remember, practice makes perfect but please take extreme care when practicing at home. Please ask your teacher about correct technique and practice with somone with knowlege before attempting to practice on one's own. Hoping this is of some help. Good luck and keep us updated on your progress! (something else to aim for: once you have achieved the splits, penches will become so much easier to achieve too)

Author:  lampwick [ Wed Mar 23, 2005 2:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!

I'm wondering why you recommend the stretch be held for no more than 10 seconds. Many teachers recommend a bit longer than this. I tend to find that I need a bit longer before everything starts to release and I can really feel what's going on.

Breathing and staying calm is very important for stretching too. If you're tense or upset that you can't get that gosh-darn split, it's going to be even more difficult. Relax and breathe. It'll happen.

Author:  spangles [ Wed Mar 23, 2005 4:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!

Hi there Lampwick. In answer to your above question lets quickly look at why we stretch.


Author:  spangles [ Wed Mar 23, 2005 5:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!

oops. I am back. 3 reasons why we stretch:
1. to increase flexibility and freedom of movement
2. to reduce muscle tension
3. to reduce the risk of muscle and tendon injuries.

How to stretch:
hold stretch (including splits practice) 10-20 seconds but like any stretch DO NOT BOUNCE.

Repeat the stretch 2-3 times

Stretch slowly, gently and keep breathing

Stretch to the point of tension but NEVER PAIN

Select the major muscle groups used in your particular style of dance and stretch them through their full range of movement

The entire stretching session should take approx 15-20 minutes. To increase or maintain flexibility and muscle suppleness, a 20 minute stretching session of 2-3 times a week is recommended. This session can either be part of or seperate to your chosen dancig activity.

also important is that after the warmup session and the stretching session, unless going onto more activity, should be followed by a cool down session.

hoping this answers your question lampwick. My personal number one goal in each and every class is to maintain a SAFE DANCE PRACTICE. :)

Author:  Gina Ness [ Wed Mar 23, 2005 8:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!

Yes, lampwick, relaxing and breathing are very important...thank you for adding this...Gina

Spangles, it's very good that you brought up the pain issue and you are so right...some discomfort comes with the territory of stretching, but one should never stretch to the point of feeling pain...

Author:  Dancer246 [ Thu Mar 24, 2005 2:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!

thank you guyz for all your info and advice, I started stretching last night and using the tips I've been given managed to do it safely.
I know it won't come over night and I'm prepeared to work for it.

Just a couple more questions:
1) When in left/right splits (there are so many different names I'm not sure what to call them), does the back knee face the floor or the wall and does anyone have any photographs so I can see them visually?

2)Any calf/hamstring stretches you recommend?

Thanks again xxx

Author:  ERP [ Thu Mar 24, 2005 6:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!


It is possible to make the split parallel (knee facing the floor) or turned out (knee facing wall). Depends also on your body, for me for example it is way more easy to make it turned out then parallel.
But for performances and classical ballet it looks nicer when it is turned out, like on the image:

<img src="" alt="" />

Author:  lampwick [ Thu Mar 24, 2005 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Help with the splits!

Thanks spangles. You mentioned 10-20 seconds in your second post. That seems more in keeping with what I've been doing. I only mentioned it because I often see my friends who are struggling with flexibility "give up" a little too soon, before they really give the body a chance to ease into it. I'm not naturally very flexible in the hamstrings myself amd have found that it seems to take a little more time for the muscles to "let go" and give me the stretch I want. Some of my friends just plop down no problem. Jealousy...

There's even more effective ways of stretching than just holding a stretch, but I hesitate to try and describe online. Some things should really be done with supervision.

<small>[ 24 March 2005, 02:18 PM: Message edited by: lampwick ]</small>

Author:  Alex R [ Thu May 26, 2005 3:57 am ]
Post subject: 

In wing chun (a martial art) we use a pain control method for e.g. arm locks. it involves someone very slowly pushing your arm up behind your back, and as soon as it becomes slightly painful you tell them to stop until you learn to relax your muscles so the pain goes. the other person then continues to push your arm up slowly again until it becomes painful again, when he then stops, holds it for 10-20 seconds then slowly releases your arm. could the same principle be used for stretching to get better flexibility?

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