Updated: Dec 3, 2022
Front splits training is probably one of my favorite within Flexibility and Contortion Training. I have been training front splits for 6 years already, experiencing its transformation in many ways. As my Range of Motion (RoM) developed, so did my training approach and exercises. In today's blog post, I will share with you the safest approach, injury free, to make progress in your front splits. Are you ready to take your splits game to the next level? :)
In today's fast paced society, we are getting the bad habit of having everything in a snap. If you want food, you have it in your door within minutes. If you want to shop clothes, you can have them delivered to your door also within days. If you want a date, you can have it for next day. If you want sex, you can also have it quickly. So what happens? we want everything quick. And the same happens when we train, no matter what is our discipline. We became less patient, and we want progress within days.
While getting progress within days feels empowering, it doesn't mean it will be long lasting. What do you prefer, a practice that will last a certain time of period? or a lifestyle change with a long lasting practice? I opted always, for the second point. I want to be 80 and still do front splits. Yes, I want to and I will be that kind of cool grandma with a body of a young woman ;) isn't it a beautiful goal?
I am not coming from a dancing or gymnastics background. I used to play tennis and then I fully focused on swimming. After swimming, I did a couple of years of contemporary dancing and afterwards, I did spinning and half marathon running. At age 19 I started practicing yoga. However, not all yoga styles are focused on stretching. My practice was based on Hatha Yoga and we focused mostly on Pranayama. It was not until age 27 that I tried my first front splits in a Power Yoga class. And there it started my curiosity towards flexibility training!
Front splits have technique, even if most of people just open their legs and try to slide front foot into the full splits. From my years teaching flexibility to adults, I have seen the following 2 main misalignments that they could lead to potential injuries:
Overdoing it with the hamstring. Hamstrings are such a weak muscle group. Very easy to stretch, and very easy to tear apart.
Twisting from the back knee. We focus so much into the touch down, that we forget even to look and feel the pose. Often I see the back leg twisted, and in many cases, the twist is coming from the knee.
First step, if you want a safe front splits practice, is to learn the anatomy of the splits itself. Second step, you should learn the correct body alignment and technique to get into the splits. This is the safest way - and often longest way to get your splits fully to the floor.
Muscle groups you want for a safe front splits practice
Your best friends are: hip flexors. They are tougher than the hamstrings and they will help us avoiding hamstring injuries! Second best friends: glutes. They will protect our hips and low back. Third best friends: quads. They will help us to protect the hamstrings and the knees. In order to activate all of them when going into the splits, think you want to sink down and not slide the front foot forward. At the same time, trying to have square hips, it will help us using more the hip flexors and opening them. In the following YouTube class we work on this movement:
Likewise, in our Online Fridays Flexibility Technique class, we work in our front splits technique under my guidance, constantly fine tuning our alignment. Book your spot here, or have the class on demand by renting the recording over here.
Make safe progress in your Front Splits
You have probably heard about Passive stretching: holding the pose, breathing in and out, for a certain time period - while trying to relax on it. At the same time, you will probably have also heard about Active stretching: using your own muscles to get into the pose, and holding it engaging all muscles. Just for your information, we also have other type of stretching like Dynamic stretching and Ballistic stretching.
First step is to open your body for splits evenly. This also means, that we want to have open hips and not only open hamstrings. I like to approach the stretching technique in the following way:
The body part that is already flexible: Active stretching (only)
The body part that is tight: Passive stretching, hold it for 1 minute and then, engage all muscles to go into active stretching mode.
I would never just warm up only one muscle group, but I would focus on all of them: hamstrings, hip flexors, quads & glutes. At the same time, I would use yoga blocks to ensure I am sitting straight in the pose. If I feel my low back, then I sit more straight and engage the low core muscles.
In order to get your front splits flat, I would recommend to do x3 times per week (up to x5 times) the 10 minutes class Front Splits Stretch. And if you do not see any progress, join a live class or schedule a private, since it could be that your alignment is off.
Once your splits are flat, there are many fun ways to continue challenging yourself and progressing into the splits. The safest way will be engaging always your muscles, as much as possible. Even if you are doing a front leg high oversplit and using blocks to hold yourself, you can still engage your quads, glutes and low core.
Staying only in passive holds won't make you progress much once you got the flat splits and you can stay comfortable on them. You need to be able to engage the muscles and actively come in and out from the splits. Also, do not only focus on doing oversplits in your front leg. You also need the back leg high, so your hip flexors stay open and strong in that RoM.
We work on our oversplits in the following YouTube class:
Foam roller exercise to get stronger and deeper Front Splits:
Slide into your splits without placing the hands on the floor, then hold it with both legs super straight and, to finish, lift up without using the hands. In this way you work on strengthening your full RoM and create a safe front splits practice.
Both legs high sofa exercise to get stronger and deeper Front Splits:
Despite holding myself in the sofa, I sink down engaging my back glutes and my front quad. I extra activate the low core to avoid collapsing in my low back. Take a deep inhale, and in the exhale try to relax - yet keep activating the muscles - and sink down. Here I show you my splits in round 1, round 2 and round 3. I never do more than 3 rounds in any of the exercises. This helps me avoiding to overdo and exhausting my muscles too much... that I can't do front splits for weeks ;-) Check the video here.
"Lazy" practice to get stronger and deeper Front Splits:
Here again, even if I am using my hands to pull my leg towards my head and the floor, I don't stop engaging my quad, core and other leg's hips and knee (so the leg is extended). When doing it correctly, it is a tough one. At the same time, once I reach the maximum RoM, I like releasing the hand and holding that position with my own muscles. Check the video here.
Additional fun variations to get stronger and deeper Front Splits:
We can work in our front splits in many ways. It does not have to be always being on the floor. I like combining standing splits and wall stretches to make my practice more interesting and fun. It is a great way to continue with the splits practice and never get bored of it!
Standing splits: Check the video of the first stretch here.
Standing splits: Check the video of the second stretch here.
Wall stretch: Check the video of the third stretch here.
Last but not least, if you want to know how long it will take you to get flat front splits, it all depends in your genetics, body posture and mind-body connections - as well as the technique. I would never recommend to stretch to your maximum every day. If you overdo it, the muscles will get shorter and it will take you longer to get deeper into the splits.
So if one day you go to your maximum, next day have a gentle stretch and the day after rest. Remember that Rome was not built in one day!
If you want to get an assessment in your front splits, feel free to contact me for times and rates. I hope this blog post helps! and comment below if you have any questions. Also, do not miss my latest training share on the channel... in case you are curious how my legs training looks like! ;-)
Happy Front Splits practice!