How To Do Side Splits Safely And Properly

Van Damme showing off his side split skills atop two trucks. A good standard to aim for!

How To Do Side Splits

It’s important to retain flexibility as we age and there are many great exercises that will help us become more flexible by incorporating them regularly in our stretching and exercise routines. One such stretch/exercise is the Side Splits also sometimes called the Chinese or Box splits.

What is a side split?

What is a side split? Basically it is a split that totally extends the legs in the opposite direction bringing the legs and torso flat on the ground with the torso facing over the left or the right leg.

These splits stretch the muscles including the back which helps the joints and muscles to work more effectively. This is a stretch commonly seen in sports like cheer-leading and gymnastics and the good news is, anyone can do them over time. It is important to be sure you are doing the side splits properly in order to make sure not to overstretch or even tear a muscle.

Warm Up

To do the Chinese side splits, the first thing you will need to do is WARM UP! Warming up before doing any type of fitness activity is important to not only prevent injury but to get your blood flowing and your body ready to work.

Warming up increases the circulation and gets blood pumping to the muscles and tissue. Also make sure to wear the appropriate clothing, something loose fitting is best to prevent rips and to make movement easier to perform.

Start with at least 10 to 15 minutes of warm up. Jogging (but not too fast or too long), doing a few jumping jacks or some squats are great warm up exercises to start with. After the body is warmed up and the blood is pumping, make sure to do at least 10 minutes of stretching with the core focus being on the lower back and inner thighs. The Butterfly and Pike stretches are awesome for this.

After the warm up stretches you’re now ready to work towards achieving the side splits. It takes time to get to the point of being able to safely and successfully do side splits so patience and routine practice are paramount to success.

Butterfly stretches.

Pike stretch.

How to do a Side Split

How to do a side split. While standing with your legs straightened on both sides, start to spread your legs as you gently and slowing start lowering your body to the ground into a split position. Make sure to breath properly, inhale while holding the stretch and exhale are you are leaning into the stretch.

For the first few times it helps to begin the stretch down into the side split while supporting yourself using a ballet barre or a sturdy and stable chair. Continue to go down as far as you can without feeling pain or having your legs become shaky.

For three to five seconds hold the position, remember to breathe slowly. Repeat this stretch at least three to five times. Make sure to routinely do this exercise daily because it will help you improve flexibility, balance and muscle memory, of which all are important for being able to successful do the side splits. It won’t be long before you will find yourself doing the Chinese/Side Splits with ease.

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