I’m a Former Gymnast, and These Are the 12 Stretches I Still Do For My Splits

Gymnastics was part of my life for more than half of it. We know gymnasts are strong; I’ve written about bodyweight moves I still do to this day. We know they’re flexible — case in point: Katelyn Ohashi nailing splits several times during her perfect-10 floor routine. But when it comes to keeping up with their splits, how do ex-gymnasts go about it? I’m here to tell you that the flexibility training we used to do at my old gyms was extreme. One coach in particular would have us get into a low lunge with one leg out straight (a position similar to the Lifted Head to Knee pose in yoga); then, she’d pull that straight leg up to our noses. We’d also use mats for what’s called “oversplits”.

While I don’t do that type of stretching anymore (are you crazy?!), I still like to maintain my splits. It makes me feel like I’ve still got it (and, who knows, they could be a good icebreaker at a party someday). It’s important to do a little cooldown stretch after your workouts in general, and I make sure to incorporate split stretches into those cooldowns once or twice a week. I asked yoga teacher Casey Urban how often people should be practicing splits, and she said that though the exact amount of time depends on your experience level, it’s important for people of all levels to keep their hips squared when they do attempt splits. (This basically means that your pelvis and torso should be facing forward and your chest is up.) If your pelvis is not aligned correctly, “you risk overstretching your hip flexors and the sacroiliac joint.” Also, don’t push it: “forcing any stretch or pose will eventually cause injury,” she said.

Casey stressed the importance of warming up the hamstrings before you do splits, whether that be with a walk, yoga, or these stretches. Ahead, you’ll find 12 of the stretches that I do to work my hamstrings and the hips prior to going into my splits. You don’t need to do every single one of them as a sequence; pick four or five moves and stretch for at least five minutes (or longer if you feel like you need it). I’d definitely suggest doing numbers five through twelve the most. Plus, check out a five-minute Class FitSugar stretch routine for splits at the end.

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