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How to stretch your splits

Virginie Dedieu, reveals her exercises for stretching splits...

How to stretch your splits

Suppleness is essential in artistic swimming. The more supple the swimmer, the better they swim. And this applies to the back, to joints like the shoulders, or to splits.But don't worry. You can work on it!The younger you start working on your suppleness, the easier it will be. But remember, you need to maintain your suppleness too! Muscles have this nasty habit of becoming stiff much more easily and quickly than they become supple. Today, Virginie Dedieu, triple World Champion and Artistic Swimming by Decathlon ambassador, reveals her exercises to tame swimmers' favourite bug bear: the splits. 

Let's start with some theory

There are three types of splits: middle splits and left and right splits. All three are useful in synchronised swimming, in figures (compulsory or ballet), in land trials and even in lifts. Which is why it is important to work on all three of them. Even if we all secretly prefer one type of splits to the other two! 

How to stretch your splits

When doing the splits, we use several muscles, most of which are located in the thighs and upper pelvis. Therefore, for more flexible splits, you need to work on stretching your adductors, located in the inside of your thighs, your quadriceps and hamstrings, respectively at the front and the back of your thighs, and your psoas and iliac, which are two muscles that start on the lumbar vertebrae and pelvis and are attached to the femur. 

But let's get back to our favourite subject: artistic swimming! In synchronised swimming, the splits are part of certain compulsory figures. These figures may be on the surface, in the air or in a barracuda thrust split, for example. Like for all the compulsory figures, the criteria are very precise. Your legs must be straight and parallel to the surface, forming a 180° angle with the surface of the water or above, on a horizontal line. The alignment of your head, shoulders and hips will also be judged.

How to stretch your splits
How to stretch your splits

To hold your splits on the surface, use your arms to scull. You don't know what sculling is? Check out our article on sculling. 

How to stretch your splits

TIPS FROM VIRGINIE DEDIEU

As we promised at the start of the article, here are Virginie's tips on doing the splits. “Start off with some gentle stretching exercises, preferably in the morning, making lunging and bending movements that stretch the backs of your thighs”.

You can also lean backwards, resting on your back leg, with your hips and knee aligned and your front leg stretched out. Then, lean forwards, as if you were trying to touch your knee with your nose! The next step consists of folding your front leg and then leaning your weight on it. Your front leg is folded in front of you, your knee and ankle are aligned, your other leg is stretched out behind you with the knee resting on the floor.

How to stretch your splits
How to stretch your splits

The goal is to stretch out your back leg to form the straightest line possible between your two knees. Then, try to bend your back leg and grab it with your other hand. Push your foot backwards, as if you wanted to put your leg on the floor, but while still holding it with your hand. Then release. The contraction of the muscle will help to stretch it, so that you can go further.

How to stretch your splits

You can also actively work on your splits on land by doing kicking exercises when standing upright or lying on your back. In the water, you can do vertical exercises with bottles by crossing your legs.” 

For vertical exercises, remember to strengthen your abdominals, so that your splits can be as horizontal as possible, without hurting your back. Another tip from Virginie on active exercising. Exercise with elastic bands for stronger propulsion. 

You can do several exercises in the water. As Virginie has already mentioned, you can do vertical exercises with bottles in order to concentrate on opening your legs.

Another very efficient exercise consists of using the wall of the pool for stretching. Pictures are always more helpful than long texts, so watch our ambassador Lalie Chassaigne, as she shows how it's done!

Be careful when doing stretching exercises. Listen closely to your body! If a position or an exercise is too painful, reduce the amplitude of your movements, or stop completely. There is no point in injuring yourself by pushing too hard. Also, give your muscles enough time to relax and rebuild, so that you can stretch even further next time around! 

How to stretch your splits

Check out our Instagram account @natationartistique, where you will find Virginie Dedieu's exercises to stretch your splits in our permanent stories. 

How to stretch your splits

CAMILLE ADAM

I started synchro at the age of 9. It was my mum who signed me up: I liked to do shows, I was super comfortable in the water, and fascinated by everything that glittered ... and it quickly became obvious that synchro swimming and me would last a long time! I love the type of effort that this discipline requires: core strength, breathing control, being able to move in every direction and dimension, swim, smile ... and also obviously the collective side of things: it's amazing how strong a team is! Mutual aid, support, perseverance, perfectionism, stress management: synchro has been my best school of life skills, whether as a swimmer or as a coach.