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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Stretches for Splits


Pakun1

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I have just one bit of advice to ask you. To get my splits are there specific stretches to do everyday. What are the stretches necessary. I don't seem to be making any progress. 

Thank.you,

Patrick 

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Redbookish

Pakun1, I've moved your question to the Adult Ballet Students section, as this is a technique question for adult students of ballet. Other adult ballet students will have some ideas for you from their experience of stretching, I hope.

My suggestions are that for ballet, doing the splits is not really necessary for adult beginners. Being able to do the splits is a matter of patient & steady training, but in actual dancing, as ballet students, we need to develop both flexibility and strength to hold the flexibility. I start by only stretching after a class or heavy gym workout. Extreme stretching to the splits works by creating many many tiny microscopic tears in your muscles, and the idea is that they heal  in that lengthened state, so don't do extreme stretching before or in the middle of your class or workout.

I start with a hip flexor stretch - a lunge, with the back knee dropped to the floor. Tip the pelvis forwards and you should feel a stretch along the front of your hip to the top of your thigh. I move around in this stretch to create a feeling of space in my hips. Then I support my weight with my hands on the floor either side of me, and let my front foot slide forward, and work to stretch forward as I breathe out, and relax the stretch pressure as I breathe in. 

Take it really slowly & gently.

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dancetipsdaily

Pakun1, 

Redbookish shared some awesome insights for you! In addition to their helpful stretches, consider trying strengthening exercises targeted in the area for desired flexibility. Consistency and longevity is key - try not to push past boundaries all in one stretching. Most times our weakest areas are also are least flexible. Every body type of course is different, but personally I've found greater flexibility when I execute exercises that strengthen my hamstrings, hips and quads paired with the stretching of these areas as well. Hope this helps! Good luck on your stretching journey. 

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Redbookish

I find also that if I stretch and loosen up transversely in my hips & lower back, that helps the forwards & back stretch of the splits. That is, very simple stretches such as lying on your back, arms spread just below shoulder height, then bring my right knee to my chest, then - keeping my shoulders on the floor - use my left arm to bring my right knee over to the left side of my body. I try to keep as much of my back, shoulders, & right arm on the floor as possible. For an extra spine stretch, I turn my head (on the floor) to look towards my right hand.

And then repeat with the left leg. 

Again, do this gently, allowing gravity & the weight of your leg to do the stretch - it's one best done by aiming to be as relaxed as possible. And again, use your breath - as you breathe out, push the stretch by applying pressure from your hand to your leg - push your knee towards the floor. Release off the stretch as you breathe in.

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Miss Persistent

I agree with Redbookish, that 'mobility' is more important than straight flexibility as such.  I myself am rather in-flexible in some areas due to some anatomical constraints, it just meant I needed to learn how to work around that and make up for it in other areas.

I think it's important to explore different approaches to mobility and stretch - there is no single way that works for everyone.  There are many different types of stretching and mobility - facial, neural, dynamic, passive, ballistic, static, PNF, etc. I would start by doing some research online and experimenting with different types of stretching and mobility to see what work for you.  Some people swear by a particular type that absolutely does not work for other people - every body is just different.

And I also agree with Redbookish that as an adult ballet student, splits are not a requirement to do, or enjoy ballet.  Sure, it's something nice to aim for - but there's no point being able to just "do the splits" unless you want to win a bottle of champagne on a Hawaiian cruise ship for best party trick... (true story! 😄)

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As an adult male who got full splits on one side (in my 40s), here are some stretches and recommendations. I agree with all the points above.

You don't have to do them everyday - you need to recover just like in a regular workout. Work on the "piece parts" more often than full splits, and focus more on what's limiting you. For me it's the hip flexor for the back leg, particularly left side. Strength is important too, so I like single leg romanian deadlifts holding a dumbbell - these strengthen the hamstrings very well in the stretched position. Also deep lunges, where you extend and straighten the back leg, with top of foot on floor or in a more normal position with heel off ground and on the ball of that foot. When you do go for full splits, a soft mat really helps, as well as two chairs or blocks to support yourself with your arms. Don't go for broke on the first try - ease into them. Try some PNF methods, and sink a little lower each time, visualizing pushing your feet (or imaginary walls) away from you. Good luck!

 

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