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Whether you idolize Jean-Claude Van Damme, are a drag queen in desperate need of adding a death drop to your repertoire, or simply want to be more flexible, being able to split is a pretty cool talent (or at least a cool party trick). And while you may think such a feat is virtually impossible due to factors like age, weight, and fitness level, think again — attaining splits is realistic for practically anyone, if you put in the time and effort.
To prove this, we consulted Sam Gach, perhaps the most recognized “splitter” on social media with his creative yoga poses and enviable flexibility. Gach, a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and stretching and flexibility coach, has also debuted an app, Stretch, that can keep you limber with classes, routines, and even workout reminders.
RELATED: How Stretching Can Make You Stronger
Check out his top tips for any splitting beginner below.
Everyone will begin their splitting journey at different stages. While some of us may be able to spread our legs and get close to the floor, others may remain two feet off the ground for months before showing any signs of visible improvement. There is no way to guarantee that you will achieve splits within a certain timeframe, but practice makes perfect.
“Achieving a full split can vary quite widely from person to person, depending on many factors such as starting flexibility, exercise background, genetics, practice frequency, quality of practice, etc.,” says Gach. “Some people can get the splits in a matter of weeks, while others have a slower process that happens over months or years.”
Keep this in mind to prevent yourself from getting frustrated, especially if stretches remain continuously challenging.
“There is not a one-size-fits-all answer for the frequency of stretching you need,” says Gach. “But consistency is key, no matter what.”
“Daily is ideal, but something is always better than nothing,” he adds. “I often recommend starting with a few days a week and working up to every day to allow your body to get used to it at first without overdoing it.”
Set a routine, either through Gach’s Stretch app or on your own phone, that reminds you to take ten minutes out of your day to loosen the ligaments. This will not only lead to splits, but will also benefit your range of motion while taking part in other exercises or athletic activities.
There are dozens of flexibility poses you can find with a simple Google search, but Gach’s top three favorites are frog pose, pigeon pose, and a seated forward fold.
By diversifying your poses, you’re ensuring that all parts of your legs are getting hit at some point and not just the ones that are easiest to stretch.
Adding stretches to your everyday routine shouldn’t feel like a chore. Instead, they should feel like a natural extension of your everyday life, like brushing your teeth or washing your face.
“After a workout can be a great time to add in a few stretches that don’t take a ton of extra motivation,” recommends Gach. “Additionally, it’s important to be mindful of your daily habits and what you do with your body all day. If you sit most of the day for work, make sure you get up and move around or stretch regularly. Simple things like that can make a big difference.”
Injuring a leg muscle can set you back weeks, if not months. And since your legs are required for the simplest of tasks, i.e. walking, you really don’t want to put them out of commission.
“Learn to listen to your body and don’t try to force yourself into positions that you aren’t ready for,” Gach advises. “Learning to distinguish the difference between discomfort and pain is really important for preventing injury. A little discomfort is normal when you’re stretching a muscle that’s tight, but pain is always something to be avoided.”
“’No pain, no gain’ doesn’t apply to stretching!,” he adds.
The beauty of splits is that once you have them, they’re quite easy to maintain by repeating your favorite stretches every few days.
“That said, it is important for everyone to stretch some way or another every day for the overall health of your body,” Gach recommends. “It doesn’t always need to be the splits!”
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