The splits is one of the most famous (and impressive) stretching exercises around. Usually exhibited by gymnasts and yoga teachers, the splits consist of your legs remaining in a parallel line, stretched out in opposite directions. This could be towards the front and back, or it could be in "box splits", with your legs stretched out to your sides. It's a show-off move, and not something that can be done by the average person.
Novak Djokovic, however, is not your average person. As he hits Tokyo for the 2021 Olympics, the 34-year-old world number one seed Djokovic posted a cheeky Instagram snap with Belgian gymnasts, as he demonstrates a perfect rendition of the splits. Check the snap out below:
A photo posted by on
Why learn to do the splits?
As the number one athlete in his discipline, Djokovic needs to have incredible range of motion. As we age, our muscles naturally shorten, reducing our range of motion – and at 34, Djokovic wants his range of motion to remain in peak condition forever, so stretching is a must. In addition, stretching has been found by scientists to promote circulation in the body, guarding against heart disease.
Emiliano Ce, an author on the paper said: "This new application of stretching is especially relevant in the current pandemic period of increased confinement to our homes, where the possibility of performing beneficial training to improve and prevent heart disease, stroke and other conditions is limited." Perhaps Djokovic worked on his flexibility during lockdowns.
Developing the splits will help your hip flexors, adductors, glutes and hamstrings. You'll stretch your legs and groin, creating less chance of injury while doing intense exercise and playing sport, and improving your blood flow, minimising your risk of a heart attack.
How to increase your flexibility
In the Blogilates video above, veteran pilates instructor and fitness influencer Cassy Ho demonstrates how she learned to do the splits. Beginning with a warm-up, Cassy began with a long lunge position before turning her front foot to the outside and placing her head and forearms onto the floor, before lowering her head and chest onto her knee.
This takes time and perseverance, so if you're pretty flexible already, expect to be training for a while, perhaps months, before you're able to drop into splits fully. It might help to grab one of the best yoga mats before you get started.
Of course, there's other, not so advanced ways to increase your hip flexibility and harness some of Novak's eternal youthfulness. Holding a deep squat, for example, is a perfect way to boost your hip flexibility without being as intense as splits, developing your knee, feet and ankle flexibility as well.
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Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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