Flexibility can help nearly any athlete improve performance.
If you want to improve your flexibility, sitting in the splits may not be the best choice. According to the Portland Ballet, getting a flexible body requires a flexible mind; it also requires the consistent practice of stretching exercises. If you are naturally tight, getting supple may take months of dedicated work. Dance Magazine says your hip flexors and hamstrings tend to be the stiffest, so that's a good place to start. Even if you aren't a dancer, putting in the time to increase your flexibility can help you improve as an athlete.
If you only focus on stretching to improve your flexibility, you could be at risk for injury, according to Pointe Magazine. Stretching cold muscles can lead to tears, so do a few minutes of cardio like jumping rope or jogging before you ease into your splits. If you don't have the space for these activities, you can do a Pilates hundred exercise -- in which you hold the position for 100 seconds -- or a plank to get your blood circulating. Once your muscles are warm, you will get more out of each stretch.
To work on hip flexibility, which controls your splits and most leg extensions, Dance Magazine recommends sitting on the floor with your legs in a V-shape, knees facing outward. Open them as wide as you can, then bend over each leg for a few seconds, then straight in front of you to stretch the hip in every direction. Another alternative is to lie flat on your back with your legs together, turned out and extended up the wall. Open one leg to the side as far as you can while keeping the other centered, then switch, repeating 10 times.
If you have difficulty touching your toes, it may be because of tight hamstrings. To safely lengthen your hamstrings, Dance Magazine recommends you start by lying down with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hold your pelvis as far off the floor as you can. Next, extend your legs at 90-degree angles from each other, pulling the legs, one at a time, into your chest. Keep alternating this move eight to 10 times.
According to Pointe Magazine, flexibility can be a raw physical talent that you are born with. If you are naturally flexible, you won't have to invest as much time as those with tight hips, but you are at risk for overstretching if your ligaments are too loose. Hyper-mobile dancers should pay particular attention to proper form in yoga and during stretches.