Before you take the ultimate flexibility challenge, follow these important steps to prevent injury.

Never bounce while stretching.

Step 1: Warm up
Warm up for at least five minutes before you begin stretching.

Step 2: Practice the pike stretch
Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and your ankles locked together. Raise your arms straight up and straighten your back. Then bend over and touch your toes. Put your nose on your knees, hold the position for 30 seconds, and then relax.

Point your toes and flex while doing this stretch.

Step 3: Master the straddle stretch
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you and straddle your legs, keeping your knees straight. Stop when you feel tension, and then rest your elbows on the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and then relax.

Step 4: Do lunge stretches
Stand with your ankles locked together. Step far out front of yourself with one leg and touch the ground with the opposite knee. Straighten your front leg and touch your nose to your knee. Hold the position for 30 seconds, and then relax.

Step 5: Repeat lunge stretch
Repeat the lunge stretch with the opposite leg.

Step 6: Master all stretches
Practice all three stretches at least twice a day. Master the stretches without pain before you attempt to do the splits.

Step 7: Slide into the splits
Stand with your toes pointing forward and one leg in front of the other. Slowly slide down into the splits. Stop if you feel pain. Get as low as you can, hold the position, and then try again.

Step 8: Do the splits daily
Do the splits daily to keep your muscles stretched and to maintain flexibility.

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Peter A Soto is a Black Belt with more than 20 years of experience, athlete, teacher and webmaster. Based in the city of San Diego, California.