No disrespect to Anthony Kiedis’ abs, but we were more blown away by Bruno Mars’ split during the Super Bowl halftime show last night (check out that incredible GIF of his flexy feat, below). It got us thinking: what does it take to pull off that kind of athletic stretchiness? The answer: Lots of flexibility in your hips, quads, and hamstrings, along with some practice, says Hector Salazar, gymnastics coach and program director of adult gymnastics at Chelsea Piers in New York City. By following Salazar’s two-part how-to list, you too can make like Bruno and achieve this impressive move.
Important safety notice, though, before you get started: If you’re struggling along either step listed here, don’t push it. Spend more time over the next few days or weeks increasing your flexibility, then give it another try when you feel much more limber.
Part One: Get Flexy
Stretching the right lower-body muscles and achieving a certain flexibility is key. Any stretch that targets your hips, quads, or hamstrings will work, but Salazar recommends these three below. Spread them out over at least 20 minutes—more if you’re really out of practice, he says. And while you're at it, check out 5 Stretches You're Doing Wrong - And How to Fix Them.
Lunge stretch: Get in the lunge position, one foot forward, knee bent, the foot behind you and your shin on the ground. Slowly shift your weight forward and keep your arms at your sides and your back straight; you should feel your hip muscles tightening. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. (On a side note, if you're crazy about lunges as a part of your workout routine, you'll love this: 5 Different Lunges to Try, Stat!)
Leg stretch: Lay on your back, your legs on the floor straight in front of you. Lift one leg up as straight as you can, reaching your fingers toward your toes, until you feel your quads tighten. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
Standing stretch: Simulate the split by standing and stretching your leg all the way out on a chair or table. As you feel your hamstrings and hip muscles tighten, hold for 20-30 seconds and then repeat on the other leg. (Need more stretching and flexibility pointers? Learn how to increase your flexibility with yoga.)
Part Two: The Split Itself
Once your lower body feels bendy, slide your front foot forward, lean back, and slowly lower yourself to the ground, using your hands for balance as you get lower. Do it gradually to avoid injury; if you feel pain, stop and try the split another time. Keep your hips squared and your toes straight. “Bruno’s knee was pointing out during his SuperBowl splits, which helped him spring back up quickly, but that’s a dancer’s trick, and you want to keep your knees straight,” says Salazar.
Are you legs resting on the floor at a 180 degree angle to your body and your back and pelvis straight? Congrats—sounds like a split!