You should always include splits and bridges as part of your flexibility training, even if you can’t do them at all in the beginning. They’re great for improving your overall flexibility and range of motion.
You can modify these stretching exercises according to your flexibility level, so there is no reason to be intimidated. And the more you do splits and bridges, the better you will get!
Splits improve flexibility in your legs in several different areas. Front splits increase flexibility in your hamstrings and hip flexors, and middle splits stretch your adductors and groin.
Splits should be done before your bridges to warm up your hip flexors and prepare your muscles.
Bridges are great for increasing flexibility in your shoulders, back and hip flexors.
Tips for Success
During your flexibility training you are bound to experience different sensations, but if you always go as far as you can, you’ll enjoy greater and greater success. For example, I always have my clients try to do over splits (these are where your front leg in the forward splits lifts over 180 degrees high). Obviously, not everyone can do over splits from the beginning, but if you elevate your front leg as high as possible every time, you will notice improvement.
If you’re less flexible, you can try variations of splits, such as using blocks to help elevate your shoulders when your front leg is elevated. You can also bend your front leg when your rear leg is elevated.
Not many people can do a bridge on the floor in the beginning, usually due to lack of strength or range of motion. If this is the case for you, try doing your bridge against a wall. This way, you will enjoy the same opening effects in your back and shoulders, but the bend is smaller and you’ll have less weight on your hands.
If you don’t know much about stretching or flexibility training (link to Flexibility), try taking a class or session with a personal trainer until you feel comfortable enough to do them safely and effectively on your own.
Be Careful With Your Bridges
Bridges involve more technical skills and, unlike splits, bad technique can lead to injuries in your beck or lower back. Be sure to get a lesson in proper bridge technique from someone who knows what they’re doing, such as a trained professional. It’s very important to learn the proper technique before adding bridges to your flexibility training program.
If you’re comfortable with your technique, start adding splits and bridges to your regular routine and see how much faster your flexibility improves!
Have fun, and stretch safe!