Kristin McGee demonstrates splits stretches in a Peloton class

Always Wanted to Do the Splits? Try These Stretches

Work your way up to doing the full splits, or half splits, with these moves.

By Leigh WeingusJune 28, 2024


Doing the splits: It’s the ultimate goal of childhood gymnasts everywhere, and even as an adult, it may be something you strive for. It’s not exactly a secret that doing the splits—whether the front or side splits—requires some serious flexibility. Even a half split is no easy feat. Enter splits stretches, which help increase the flexibility you need to do a split.

To do the full splits you have to have some major mobility in your hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, and inner thighs. In our modern world where we’re sitting all the time, these areas of our bodies tend to get really tight. If achieving perfect (or semi-perfect) full splits is your goal, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that stretching can be helpful. Here are the best splits stretches to try—and why yoga can be especially helpful as you embark on your splits journey. 

Kirra Michel demonstrates a split stretch

What Are the Splits?

The splits are a lot like the visual that probably comes to mind when you think of them. The legs are extended in opposite directions, whether to the front or the side, but they remain in line with each other. 

“When you can ‘do the splits,’ your legs are in a straight line with one leg forward and the other backward, or they can even spread sideways so that both an individual leg forms a straight line, with the pelvis on the floor,” explains Calum Fraser, physiotherapist and owner of Advantage Physiotherapy. “This calls for great flexibility in your hip flexors, hamstrings, and other muscles.”

Are Splits the Benchmark for Ultimate Flexibility?

Not necessarily, says Peloton Instructor Kristin McGee. But you do need to be very flexible to be able to do the splits. “You need to be very flexible in your hips and hamstrings as well as strong in your core [to do the splits],” she says. “I think there are ways to measure flexibility that are different from that required for the splits and each body type is different. I would always be mindful of your body's range of motion and then work toward getting more mobility carefully over time.”

What to Know About Doing the Splits

So, you want to do the splits. What’s the best way to get started? According to both experts, stretching and patience will go a long way. 

The Muscles You Should Stretch

According to Fraser, “notable muscles involved in achieving the full splits include hamstrings, hip flexors, adductors, and glutes,” he says. “These muscles should be taken care of to minimize stress while working towards such flexibility.”

Kristin adds that splits are beneficial for increasing overall lower body flexibility, mainly the hamstrings (front leg) and hip flexors and quads (back leg). “It's also important to clarify: Is it front splits or middle splits? Middle splits require a lot of inner thighs, hamstring, and hip flexibility,” she says.

How Long It Takes to Work Up to a Split

How long it takes to work up to full splits will very much depend on the individual. “It depends on each individual and what they have been doing up to this point,” Kristin says. “I couldn't do the splits growing up, but once I started practicing yoga I figured out the alignment and flexibility required and it took me about a year of solid practice.”

Body composition and your starting flexibility level will definitely play a role, Fraser adds. “While some people may take months before noticing any progress, others will see some improvement within weeks,” he says.

Splits Stretches to Help You Do Half Splits

While the ability to do the splits is a great goal, starting with half splits, or a leg-opener that gets one leg in a split position while the other is bent, is a solid place to begin. “Dividing it into steps makes it easier for the body to understand,” Fraser says. “This is a more achievable target. It lets you gradually come up to a full split.”

Here are some stretches to try to help you get into half splits, per Kristin: 

Woman does Pyramid Pose, a heart-opening yoga pose

Pyramid Pose

1. Start standing with one leg in front of the other, with your heels lined up at a 30- to 45-degree angle. 

2. Keep your hips facing forward, and slowly lower your body over your straightened front leg. 

Pyramid is an excellent hamstring opener. You can do this as part of your yoga practice, or at home on your own. 

crescent lunge

Crescent Lunge

Crescent Lunge, also known as a high lunge (in non-yoga terms), is a helpful exercise for opening up the hip flexors, another important muscle to gain mobility in if you’re working toward a half-split or full-split.

  1. Start in a standing position and then step your right foot back, keeping the heel lifted and toes firmly planted.

  2. Bend your left knee to create a lunge position, ensuring your knee is directly over your ankle. 

  3. Extend your arms overhead, either parallel to each other or with palms together in prayer position. 

  4. Square your hips toward the front of the mat, lengthen your spine, and lift your chest.

Woman does a Standing Forward Fold, a gentle yoga pose

Standing Forward Fold

One of the most straightforward hamstring stretches out there, Kristin recommends regularly practicing standing forward fold if you want to get into the splits. 

  1. Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. 

  2. Hinge forward at the hips and fold from the waist, keeping your arms long. 

  3. Allow your arms to hang down towards the floor or grab opposite elbows with your hands. If you're more flexible, you can place your hands on the ground or hold onto the backs of your ankles. 

  4. Relax your neck and let your head hang heavy. If it feels comfortable, you can gently sway from side to side or bend your knees slightly to release any tension in the lower back and hamstrings.

Supine Hamstring Stretch

Kristin says one of her favorite poses for working up to a half split is a supine hamstring stretch. “I love to lie on my back and loop a strap around my foot and do supine hamstring stretches and take the leg open and across as well,” she says.

  1. Start on your back and place a strap or resistance band around your foot.

  2. Raise your leg until you feel a stretch in the back of the hamstring. 

  3. You can also open the leg and move it across your body or out to side if that feels comfortable for you.

Splits Stretches to Help You Do Full Splits

So you’ve mastered half splits, and now you want to get into full splits. Here are some stretches Fraser recommends that can help.

Woman does Pigeon Pose to stretch her glutes
  1. Start in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the mat. 

  2. Bring your right knee forward towards your right wrist, positioning it slightly to the right of your body. 

  3. Slide your left leg back, straightening it behind you. Your right shin may not be parallel to the front edge of the mat, which is fine. Ensure your hips are squared towards the front of the mat. Flex your right foot to protect your knee. 

  4. If this feels intense enough, you can stay upright, or you can begin to walk your hands forward, lowering your torso towards the mat. You can rest your forehead on your hands or on a block if it reaches the floor. 

  5. Stay here, focusing on your breath and allowing any tightness to release. 

Man does a seated forward fold to stretch his glutes

Seated Forward Fold

A seated forward fold typically feels like a more challenging version of a standing forward fold, and it can help stretch the hamstrings and inner thighs. 

  1. Sit up tall, lengthening your spine, and flex your feet towards you. 

  2. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you hinge at the hips and fold forward from your waist, reaching your hands towards your feet or shins. 

  3. Keep your spine long as you fold, leading with your chest rather than rounding your back. 

  4. If you can't reach your feet, you can hold onto your ankles or use a yoga strap around the soles of your feet for assistance. 

5. Relax your neck and shoulders, and allow your head to hang heavy. Breathe deeply into the stretch, feeling the lengthening sensation along the back of your legs and spine. 

6. Hold the pose for several breaths, then slowly release and come back up to a seated position. 

butterfly pose

Butterfly Stretch

A butterfly stretch is one of the few ways to efficiently stretch the inner thighs, so it’s a good one to do when you’re working toward the splits. 

  1. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. 

  2. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to fall out to the sides. Hold onto your ankles or feet with your hands. 

  3. Sit up tall, lengthening your spine, and engage your core muscles. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you gently press your knees towards the ground, using the strength of your arms. 

  4. Avoid forcing your knees down; instead, let gravity and your breath guide the stretch. Keep your chest lifted and shoulders relaxed.

Kristen McGee demonstrates half split supported with yoga blocks

Half Splits

Finally, don’t write off half splits just because you can do it—it’s a good one to practice regularly when you’re working toward full splits. 

  1. Start in a kneeling position on the floor with your knees directly under your hips. 

  2. Extend your right leg forward, keeping it straight, and flex your right foot. Your left knee remains directly under your left hip. 

  3. Keep your hands planted on the floor beside your hips for support. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you begin to hinge forward from your hips, leading with your chest. 

  4. Continue to lengthen through your spine as you fold forward, bringing your torso towards your right leg. 

How Yoga Can Help You Achieve the Splits

Because so much stretching and strengthening is built into yoga, Kristin says regularly practicing yoga is a great way to work toward half or full splits.

“Yoga is what helped me achieve the splits,” she says. “You want your body to be warmed, up so Sun Salutations are always good. Then focus on all of the hamstring and hip flexor opening postures. Flow from Crescent Lunge to half splits, hold half splits, try full splits with a block under your front thigh, and gradually work your way into full splits.”

Fraser agrees. “Yoga is quite useful when building up towards complete splits because it enhances flexibility and strength,” he says. “Lizard Pose, Low Lunge and Runner’s Stretch are some of the poses that focus on the required muscle groups. Including these postures in your routine will speed up progress and make it more secure and efficient.” 

Peloton’s Focus Flows are a great place to start if you’re looking for yoga flows geared specifically toward stretches that will help you do the splits like Kristin McGee’s 30-minute Focus Flow: Hamstrings or her 20-minute Focus Flow: Splits

The Takeaway

The splits aren’t an easy stretch (to say the least), but with regular practice and stretching, most people will get into them eventually. Just be patient with yourself—getting into the splits likely won’t happen overnight, but with time and practice, you’ll get into this bendy, ultra-flexible pose.


Featured Peloton Instructor

Headshot of Peloton instructor Kristin McGee. She's wearing a red two-piece Peloton workout outfit and smiling.

Kristin McGee

Growing up in Idaho, Kristin had dreams of pursuing dance and acting in New York, but ended up as one of the most sought after yoga instructors in the city.


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