IMPROVING YOUR EXTENSION & FLEXABILITY
“The goal should be to work your muscles and not stretch out your ligaments.”
Sometimes when dancers reach the ages of 11-13yrs old they wonder what happened to their flexibility. Many dancers can loose up to 30% of that flexibility during those growing years. In intermediate and advance dancing, the lines of the body become more important to the overall look of the movement. The goal should be to elongate and strengthen muscles so that the lines of the body appear to continue much further than the dancer’s feet. The ultimate moment for a dancer is to feel boundless and never constricted in their extensions.
Here are some helpful hints for proper stretching:
1. Always stretch after you have taken class as your muscles are warm and they are more conducive to working. When you are warm, the blood flow to your muscles carrying oxygen to help make stretching more productive.
2. You can also stretch after warm up or ballet barre in your classes.
3. Stretching should be done slowly and with very small progression.
4. Stretches should be held for no more than 30 to 60 seconds. Holding for longer than a minute is not beneficial.
5. You should work in parallel while stretching especially when you have been working your turn out in ballet class.
6. Yoga and Pilate stretches are an excellent addition to your normal stretches because they balance your body on both sides.
7. Working on strengthening your core and back will help to sustain your leg movements.
You should use a technique of stretching and contracting in your stretch movement. For example: Lay flat on your back, gently pull your straight right leg towards your face. Hold this for 15-30 seconds until you feel an easy releasing of the muscle, then gently push back as if you where trying to put your leg down. Of course you don’t let it go down, but your leg is pushing against your hold. Hold this for 10 seconds and then pull the leg a little further toward your face holding for another 15 seconds before releasing the leg. Repeat on both sides three to four times on each leg. You should always feel good stretching. Avoid any pain, snapping, or popping. If your leg muscle does not release, then stop at that point. It means that the muscle is not ready for that level of stretch.
The goal should be to work your muscles and not stretch out your ligaments. Ligaments do not heal themselves if they are damaged, torn or overstretched. If you feel any pain, gripping, or tension ease up on the leg you are pulling.
Remember to stretch daily because consistency is the key to gently increasing the flexibility of your muscles. Let me know if you have any tips to pass along to other dancers. Hope this helps!