Master the front splits with this stretching routine that you can do anywhere. Includes step-by-step instructions, muscles stretched, safety tips, and more.
Looking for a stretching routine to help you master the front splits?
In this guide, we will explore my favorite stretches for doing the splits.
Including muscles worked in each stretch, step-by-step instructions for each stretch, some tips for doing the stretches like a boss, and answer some of your most popular front-split related questions.
Read on, put together a stretching routine that matches your goals, and let’s get to front splittin’!
Mastering the Front Split – Stretch the Right Muscles
Just like you wouldn’t spend your whole workout doing bench press if you are trying to improve your jumping ability, nor should you spend a ton of time on non-essential muscles in your pursuit of doing the front split.
The main muscles you are going to be targeting include:
- Hip flexors
The dynamic and static stretches below primarily target these muscle groups.
Why do the splits? Well, beyond bragging rights, increased mobility can help you in a multitude of ways, from helping you do functional movements like a squat optimally to helping you run with a longer stride.
While there are plenty of ways to target each of these muscles with stretches, below is a routine of my favorites that anyone can do at home or at the gym, with no equipment required.
The Main Stretches for Doing Front Splits
Okay, so for this stretching routine for the splits, we are going to do two dynamic stretches to warm and loosen the hips, two stretches to target the hips, and two stretches to hit the hamstrings.
By the end, you will have a complete stretching program that is designed to help you maximize your time and effort in doing front splits.
Before doing static stretches, it’s always a good idea to incorporate some dynamic stretches, which promote blood flow to the target muscles, getting them warmed up and loosened and better positioned to be pliable.
Doing static stretches when you are warm—after going for a run or lifting at the gym, for example—is the best time to work on elongating those muscles as they are warm.
Leg swings are an absolute essential for me on most days, both as a pre-workout stretch before leg day and on days when I have been sitting a lot and my hips tighten up.
3×10 leg swings (front to back) – with your knee slightly flexed, and holding onto something for balance, swing your leg out in front of you, swing it back behind you, leading with your heel and not twisting your hips
3×10 leg swings (side to side) – turn to face something sturdy like the wall or a railing and balance yourself with both arms. Bend slightly at the waist so that the swinging leg comes a couple of inches out in front of the planted leg. Swing outwards with a relatively straight leg, leading with the outside of your ankle. Bend the knee enough that your foot doesn’t crash into the ground when you swing the leg inwards.
The best part about leg swings is that you can do them anytime, anywhere (well, within reason… a crowded bus would be an example ?).
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
One of my GOAT stretches is the basic kneeling hip flexor stretch.
It’s an essential stretch for anyone who wants to improve range of motion in their squat, combat the hip tightening effects of sitting all day long, and it’s great for helping us inch our way towards doing front splits.
The kneeling hip flexor stretch is also essentially the starting point of a successful front split.
Here’s how to do it:
- Put one knee on the ground, one knee at 90-degrees in front of you.
- Use a pad or an exercise mat under your knee
- You might want to do this stretch beside a wall or something you can hold onto for balance (especially if you have “skinny” knees like I do)
- Keeping your upper body straight, lean forward, feeling the stretch at the top of your thighs.
- Lean in to it for around :30
- Switch sides, and repeat 2-4 times.
As you get better at this stretch, you will be able to slide the knee that’s on the ground further behind you, and slowly straighten out the front leg, stretching both the hips and the hamstrings.
Kneeling Hamstring Stretch
Staying on the knees, we are going to ease into a more hamstring-centric stretch.
Working the hamstring muscle, which is actually a group of three muscles that sit and twist along the back of the thigh, are crucial for giving you the range of motion to do a front split properly.
Hamstring flexibility is also key for athletes as it helps to create power from the glutes for activities like running and jumping.
Here’s how to do a kneeling hamstring stretch like a pro:
- From your kneeling position, extend the front leg so that it’s straight
- Your heel (on the front foot) will be the only contact point on the ground
- Point your toes to the sky
- Gently lean forward with a straight back
- Use the wall or a chair for balance
- Feel the tension for up to :30
- Switch sides, repeat 2-4 times
Also known as pigeon pose, this stretch is awesome for improving flexibility in the hips and lower back. It’s also a great choice for working towards a front split as once you are in pigeon pose, you are halfway there!
Here’s how to do the classic version of the pigeon stretch (there are more advanced versions like the King Pigeon, as well, but start with the classic):
- Get down on all fours on your trusty exercise mat
- Extend the non-working leg straight behind you
- Extend the knee of your working leg up to the same side wrist (i.e. right knee to right wrist)
- Twist the working foot so that it’s by your non-working hand (i.e. right foot to left hand)
- Genty descend your pelvis so that it rests on the ground, keeping your hips balanced
- You should begin to feel a gentle tension on the underside of your hips
- Once comfortable, place hands on the mat and straighten your back (Classic Pigeon) or lean forward, with your forearms on the mat (Resting Pigeon)
- Hold the stretch for about :30
- Switch sides, repeat 2-4 times
Sitting Single Leg Hamstring Stretch
For our final stretch, we are going back to the hamstrings with a classic stretch just about everyone has encountered at some point.
While there are TONS of different ways to stretch out your hamstrings, I like the single leg hamstring stretch for its versatility and because it’s a rapid stretch to get in and out of, saving time when you are on a time crunch.
Here’s how to do the original and classic version:
- Sit on your butt on your mat or a comfortable surface
- Extend the working leg straight ahead, toes pointing up
- Fold the non-working leg so that the bottom of the foot is flush with the working leg’s inside thigh
- Lean forward with good posture until you feel tension in the hamstrings
- Hold for :30 seconds
- Switch sides and repeat 2-4 times through
My favorite variation is twisting the core and doing an overhead reach, generating a nice, elongated stretch from the top of that lats, through the obliques, and into the hips and hamstrings.
To do the overhead reach variation:
Get into the sitting single leg hamstring stretch position
- Rotate the torso so that your belly-button is facing 3 o’clock from the working leg
- Sweep the arm on the non-working side up and over the shoulder and head
- Lean into the hamstring portion of the stretch, using the fingers on the hand of the non-working side to “lead you” you
- Feel the tension in the lats, obliques, and hamstrings
This variation is great for helping maintain some upper body mobility while you work your way towards doing the front splits like a champion.
Want to get even more oomph from your hamstring stretching? Foam roll the area before you do static stretching.
A study found that doing this significantly increased range of motion compared to just foam rolling or just static stretching1.
Subjects foam rolled the hamstrings for 60 seconds per side, three times through, before doing static stretches.
Front Splits – Tips for Stretching Safely
Stretching may seem like an innocuous activity, but you can hurt yourself, and in some rare cases, cause a mild or partial muscle tear by doing it improperly or doing it “cold.”
Here are some basic tips for stretching for the front splits productively:
⭐ Stretch to the point of sensation or tension—not pain. If it hurts, you aren’t doing it right. Your body has an excellent feedback system—use it! It’s tempting to go the “no pain, no gain!” approach when we are impatient for improvement, but injuring the muscle by pushing it too far, too fast will only slow you down in the long run.
⭐ Get warm before doing static stretches. The same way you wouldn’t stomp on the gas on a sportscar that’s been sitting in freezing temperatures, give your muscles some time to warm up before putting them to work. Stretching cold muscles and tissue is asking for trouble. Whether that means using your foam roller, doing leg swings, or performing an active warm-up (or all three!), prep your muscles for maximum pliability.
⭐ Do static stretches after working out. The best time to stretch is after your workout, counter to the traditional wisdom of stretching prior to a big lifting session. Mostly because your muscles are already warm, but also because there’s some research that shows static stretching before maximal efforts (lifting weights, sprinting), can reduce performance. Stick to foam rolling and dynamic stretches to get “loose” before exercise.
⭐ Breathe like a champion. It’s fascinating how often I (still!) forget to breathe properly when exercising or stretching. The latter provides a great opportunity to really dial in on the inhale and exhale phases of each breath. Controlled breathing reduces stress and tension, which will make the stretches feel easier and accelerate improvement.
Front Split Stretching — FAQs
How long does it take to stretch enough to do the splits?
How long it takes to do the front splits depends on how often you stretch and your current mobility and range of motion.
One of my favorite stretching programs on the planet—Hyperbolic Stretching—has a four-week guided progression that helps beginners work their way to doing the splits. For most of us, however, doing the splits in four weeks is ambitious.
See also: How Long Does it Take to Improve Flexibility? (And Why You Should Stretch Every Day)
How long it will take in your particular case depends on how well you stick to the program and your previous activity levels. A martial artist or dancer, for example, will have a shorter runway to doing the splits than someone who has been sedentary for years.
Whether it takes you four weeks of four months, showing up each day and doing the stretches will at the minimum increase flexibility and range of motion in your hips and legs.
There are lots of benefits to stretching that go beyond being able to bend like Gumby, including reduced stress, lowering injury risk, and even helping build muscle.
Can you stretch for splits every day?
Whether you stretch for the splits every single day depends on the type of stretching you are doing. Dynamic and static stretches can generally be done daily, while more advanced types of stretching, like PNF stretching or ballistic stretching, should be done every other day and shouldn’t even be done by people under the age of 18 because of the elevated risk inherent with ballistic stretching2.
The good news is that if you are feeling a little sore—yes, you can get sore from stretching!—take it as an opportunity to instead do a “recovery” day with foam rolling and active recovery with your legs, which will both improve circulation to the area, reducing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery, while also helping you maintain the flexibility gains.
The Bottom Line
Stretching is one of the more “unsexy” aspects of physical fitness.
All the hype tends to go towards who can lift the most weight or run a distance in the fastest time.
And setting goals with stretching is something that rarely comes up with clients that I work with.
That said, you can set goals with your mobility and flexibility work, and being able to do the front splits is an awesome target for anyone who wants to reap the benefits of increased flexibility.
Give this stretching routine a go for a few weeks, reap the benefits of having more flexibility, and work your way towards doing the front splits like a champ!
More Stretching Guides and Articles
The Best Stretching Programs and Apps for Improving Flexibility. Looking for a stretching program or app to help you kick up your flexibility? Here’s a detailed look at the top stretching apps for every level of user.
Hyperbolic Stretching – An Athlete’s Full Review. Looking for a comprehensive stretching program that can help you do the front splits, side splits, pike splits, and more? Hyperbolic Stretching is a fully guided and digital program that can help both beginner and intermediate people master these stretches.