One of a young dancer’s main goals is to achieve perfect splits. There are “Banana Split Clubs” around the world at dance studios that reward dancers with ice cream parties when the whole class gets all three splits. These days, you can find all sorts of products that claim to help dancers achieve the splits, such as split stretchers, but you may be wondering if they’re safe, or worth the investment.
Split stretchers are not the safest way to work on splits for young dancers. Split stretchers force dancers’ bodies into positions that they are not ready for, and can cause damage to ligaments and muscles that are still developing. They should be used with great caution and supervision.
Even the term “split stretcher” brings to mind painful images, and that’s because when used incorrectly or without proper supervision, the results of using a split stretcher can be painful!
There are many other ways to achieve a full split for most people, and while stretching, in general, can sometimes be uncomfortable, when you are the one in control of the stretch, without additional apparatus, you can control how uncomfortable you can stand to be.
If you’re still on the fence about split stretchers, or still can’t quite picture what it even is, you’ve come to the right place for all the information you need!
What is a Split Stretcher?
Split stretchers are pieces of equipment meant to help people looking to enhance their flexibility, specifically in a center split. Split stretchers such as the AmazeFan Leg Stretcher are most common for individual purchase and are not to be confused with split machines, which are mostly found in gyms and cost hundreds of dollars.
These devices consist of a three-pronged metal bar that looks similar to the parts of a peace sign and can be adjusted according to how long your legs are, and how wide your center split can go.
Each center bar typically has a handle that you can hold and pull towards you, and the outside bars have padded ends where you rest your feet as you stretch in your center split.
If you are looking for a leg stretcher that allows for more than just a center split, check out our article on over-the-door leg stretchers.
How Do You Use a Split Stretcher?
Split stretchers are primarily used the same way regardless of which brand you choose. Always follow the guidelines included in your specific brand, but these general steps should give you a good idea of how to use most split stretchers.
Step 1 – Ensure The Split Stretcher Is Adjusted to Your Leg Length
While sitting on the floor, with the center bar and handle of the split stretcher facing you, place your heels onto the ends of the outside bars. You will be in a shallow V-sit. Adjust the length of the outside bars according to your leg length.
Step 2 – Grab the Center Handle and Pull Toward You
As you hold the center handle and pull it toward you, the edges of the outside bars will push your legs further apart into a wider split. Keep your legs straight and your knees pointed towards the ceiling for a correct stretch.
Step 3 – Hold Your Split Position For a Tolerable Length of Time
Once you’ve reached your limit in your center split, hold the position for as long as feels comfortable. If you feel discomfort or pain, release the stretch and relax.
Step 4 – Stretch Forward, Side to Side, or Lean Back
To gain more flexibility, you can stretch forward and pull the center bar towards you. You can also do lateral, or side stretches while using the split stretcher. Many split stretchers come with a yoga strap that you can use to attach to the center bar and wrap around your waist to vary the stretch by leaning back.
What Is The Best Split Stretcher?
If you decide to purchase a split stretcher, be on the lookout for sturdy construction, tight connecting points between the different pieces, and a non-slip padded cushion on the ends. We tested several split stretchers and found this one to be the best quality.
Is Using a Split Stretcher Better Than Just Stretching?
No, using a split stretcher isn’t better than simply stretching.
Stretching dynamically, or with small movements during the stretch that mimic the activity you’re about to do, prepares your muscles for dancing and being active. With a split stretcher, you are mostly stretching statically, or with no movement.
Static stretching doesn’t usually result in more flexibility over time and may be better utilized at the end of a dance class or workout because, after that much activity, your muscles are likely at their maximum flexibility and are warm enough to be safely stretched a little further.
If you use a split stretcher, it’s better to use it after dancing to ensure your muscles are warm enough for a deep stretch.
Is Using A Split Stretcher Safe?
No, using a split stretcher isn’t really safe. The main reason using a split stretcher isn’t safe is that it allows dancers to force their bodies into positions they are not ready for, or that their bodies simply can’t achieve due to their individual anatomy.
Split stretchers, used incorrectly, can cause injury to dancers’ growing bodies and can be detrimental to their health. Any device that allows for forcing a position is bad news.
How Can I Stretch My Splits Without a Split Stretcher?
Dancers can easily stretch their front and side splits without a split stretcher. A progressive stretching regimen, including both dynamic stretching before activity and gentle static stretching after activity, done with consistency, will result in safe, quality splits.
Common stretches for splits include the runner’s lunge series, straddle stretches seated and lying on the back, hamstring stretches, and yoga stretches like half pigeon and forward bend.
Working on your turnout in ballet class is also imperative to gaining more flexibility in center splits. For more detailed exercises to help your turn out, check out our advice here!
Keep in mind that not all bodies are made to achieve full splits in every direction. Not being able to do a full split doesn’t mean you’re not a good dancer. It just means that every body is different!
While dancers are always looking for the next hot item to purchase in hopes that it will change their world, a split stretcher probably isn’t the best choice. Any piece of equipment that forces a body part past its natural range of motion can be damaging to a young dancer’s body, and there are safer, more effective ways to see results in splits than using a split stretcher.