So with that in mind, I'm now 4 weeks into learning to do the splits, with the goal of flexible open hips, and below is some information about how I started my ‘stiff-to-splits’ journey. I hope it will help you too!
Benefits of being flexible
“Limited hip mobility hinders the ability to turn in the backswing and downswing. It also makes it difficult to generate speed and power.” 1
Whether you’re trying to maximise your swing in golf, get a deeper weighted squat, improve posture after months of working from or home or even prevent general injuries, being flexible and mobile brings a wealth of benefits to maximise the potential and longevity of your health and fitness.
Set your goal and make it fun for you. Consistency is key.
Are you a David Goggins? Could you stretch for hours a day without a care? 2 Or does the idea of doing the same thing continuously for hours-on-end bend your mind?!
Find a way that makes stretching a consistent commitment for you.
You could create a challenge with a definitive end goal, such as reaching a certain part of your back (extra useful if you use fake tan). Or to 'stretch for X minutes a week'. You could even spice it up by competing with buddies too.
Whatever your goal is, try to make it
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Once you have your goal in mind, break it down to make it achievable.
Your plan should suit you. Deadlines can be a motivation, they can also remove enthusiasm if you become busy and need to deviate from a set plan.
Sh*t happens, sometimes we need to adapt accordingly.
We’re humans and we fall off horses, just jump back on whenever you can.
Remember, success isn’t linear and interruptions to plans are not failures.
Set your Goal
I will be able to do the front split.
Assess your current position
I will take ‘before’ photos or videos that I can later refer to. These are also really useful for checking your form.
How you are going to achieve your goal? Break it down
I will make a list of some of the most beneficial stretches for my goal, such as hip flexors, low lunges, and standing forward fold.
I will hold each stretch for at least 60 seconds.
I will aim to stretch for 20-30 minutes a day, at least 4 days a week.
I will do this while watching TV before bed.
I will mark the completed days via my calendar in the kitchen.
How will you measure your progress?
I will attempt the splits at the end of every stretch session.
I will record my attempt at the splits once a week.
Recognise there will be obstacles in your way
There will be days and weeks where I will be too busy and skip days, that’s OK. I will continue at my earliest opportunity.
Where possible, always seek help and assistance from the professionals
If you have a PT or coach, sports therapist or physio then utilise their knowledge and expertise!
Attend a yoga class by a reputable trainer, some gyms will offer yoga classes as part of their overall package. Classes can build your confidence.
A reputable trainer can teach you some fundamentals for basic stretches.
For example, there are a flow of movements you can go through before getting to the point of a low lunge3, these movements can help align your hips and more importantly, avoid injury.
There’s a wealth of information accessible online to help us all but knowing where to start can be overwhelming without some direction.
I learn the most from the experts around me. Marcus Jones, who takes the Met-Con class at my local gym, is a sports therapist (Integro Sports Therapy4) and has a BSc and MSc in Sport, Health and Exercise Science. Marcus pointed me in the direction of a useful resource on YouTube - The Squat University 5
For the splits, I struggled to keep my body upright as I lowered into position. I would lean forward or to the side to hold my weight using my arms and only realised this because I was recording myself.
If you’ve ever been to a Yoga class, you’ll be familiar with the blocks they use. These are a fantastic tool to support your body when gradually extending into a difficult stretch and they can be used as an aid to push the body further once a particular stretch has been successfully reached.
For the front splits, using at least two blocks, usually three, you can manage the weight being put on your lower body, combatting the need to touch the floor, which allows your back to remain straight and therefore improve overall form.
I use Joov’s muscle spray about 30-40 minutes before I’m due to stretch. This is particularly useful on days when I’m feeling stiff and tight, for example, the day after a heavy leg session! It helps warm my legs up so I can carry on with my routine comfortably. I use it again post-workout, after a shower, to soothe my muscles and help prevent soreness, especially near the top of the hamstrings. The spray uses a sweet almond oil as its base oil, which is moisturising and because of the natural ingredients, you’re not left with a chemical smell like other muscle rubs and sprays, which is ideal!
Create a specific goal that’s personal to you, one that you can have fun with on the journey to achieving it. Maybe that means competing with a friend or aiming to improve something for your favourite hobby!
Make a realistic plan to structure how you will measure your progress and achieve your goal, don't forget to seek support from anyone in your life who may be able to help too.
Manage your perception of ‘failure’, remember success isn’t linear!
Utilise resources that are there to help you, such as equipment and products that are designed to help you maximise your potential.
I hope the above helps you get started on your journey to becoming more flexible and mobile!
Are you going to set yourself a stretching goal now? If so, please let me know! I’d love to hear about any progress you make, or tips you would like to share. You can comment below or reach out via Instagram @CarmenGoodyear or @JoovSportsProducts
You can also subscribe to the Joov newsletter to get notified of the next article ‘Stiff-to-Splits’, where there will be specific tips on how to achieve the front splits.
1 Rachel Bleier (Feb 2020) ‘Here’s how to improve your hip mobility (and golf swing) in ten minutes’, Golf [Online]. Available at https://golf.com/instruction/fitness/improve-hip-mobility-better-swing/ (Accessed April 2022).
2 David Goggins | The 3 Hour Stretching Routine That Saved My Life - Compilation (2019) Directed by Stay Hard University [Film]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtYyt7bpotQ (Accessed April 2022)
3 Runner’s Lunge - Foundations of Yoga (2012) Directed by Yoga With Adriene [Film]. Available at https://youtu.be/OfJl_jhJcWw (Accessed April 2022)
4 Integro Sports Therapy - https://www.instagram.com/integro.sports.therapy/
5 Hip Mobility for a PERFECT Squat (2019) Directed by Squat University [Film]. Available at https://youtu.be/888Fod2Fcmo (Accessed April 2022)
6 Joov Muscle Spray - https://joovproducts.com/products/joov-muscle-spray