We all know that stretching is important for you to dance better.
That's why we sought professional advice from Karen Moran, owner, founder, and clinical director of FusionArts Physical Therapy in Encino, CA. to help you stretch the right way.
Here’s what you need to stretch to dance better and stay injury-free!
When to stretch
This may sound hard to believe, but there is such a thing as over stretching.
Most dancers use stretching as the only way to get ready to dance; however, stretching without any kind of warm-up could set you up for injury.
"It’s important to warm up before class or before a performance; do something cardiovascular to warm your body up and to increase your heart rate.”
Moran’s clients range from dance students to professional performers, and neglecting to stretch after dancing is one of the most common mistakes her clients make.
“Most dancers or performers just run out of the theatre after their performance is over. They remove their makeup, take off their costumes and off they go. It’s so important to take 5 or 10 minutes after a show to stretch before going home and, if they can’t, then once they get home.”
And consistency is key – incorporate stretching as well as these 5 Simple Daily Practices To Improve Your Dancing
What to stretch
Though dancing is a full-body workout, some muscles are used more than others and therefore, need more attention after.
Stretching your feet and legs seems like a no-brainer, but there are other muscles at work that aren’t as obvious.
Your hip flexors, for example, allow you to lift your knees and bend your waist.
They also play a key role in keeping your hips and lower back strong, flexible, and aligned. Your quadriceps move your knees and help rotate your hips.
They are involved and engaged in almost all leg movements.
The piriformis muscle is located behind your gluteus maximus and assists with rotating your hips and turning out your feet.
Stretch these often-neglected parts of your body in order to dance better and stay injury-free!
How to stretch
Kneel in a deep lunge with your back leg on the floor. Flatten your back until you feel the stretch in the front of your hip.
Make sure you tuck your pelvis in to ensure your back is flat; sinking into your back too much is too much extension.
Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Stand holding onto a chair with your right hand and grasping your left foot with your left hand.
Maintain a flat back and pull your heel toward your butt, keeping your knee close to your opposite leg.
Make sure you tuck your pelvis and be careful not to hike your hip up. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Stand with your right foot behind you and left foot in front. Keep your heels on the floor and your feet parallel. Bend your front leg while keeping your back leg straight.
Put both hands on a wall and lean forward, keeping your arms straight, until you feel the stretch in your calf. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Start in the previous stretch position and bend both knees. Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in your lower thigh. Make sure you keep your back straight.
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and place your right ankle on the opposite knee.
Grasp your unelevated thigh behind the knee and pull gently toward your chest until you feel the stretch in your butt.
Hold without bouncing for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Sit upright on top of a foam roller (Moran recommends using OPTP brand) and cross your right leg over the left knee as shown.
Place your hand beside you on the roller, feeling the stretch in your hip.
Make sure your knee isn’t too high and you’re sitting directly on your sit bones (the bones directly under your butt). Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Lay on your back with a towel roll under your lower back. Place a resistance band under your left foot and use it to raise your left leg.
Keep the opposite knee bent with your foot flat on the floor. You should feel the stretch in the back of the thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Repeat two times.
Listen to your body! If you feel pain doing any of these stretches, then stop immediately.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help from a physical therapist if you have recurring pain.
If you keep your body happy and make sure to give it some TLC, then it will return the favor and help you keep dancing for as long as possible.
Special thanks to Telley Maybir (GRV, Boxcuttahz), Ervin Buenaobra (Director of Cerritos Dance and Drill and IQ, Prototypes, Fam Biz), and Quest Studios.
Liked those stretching tips? You might enjoy this video, too!
We hope this guide helped give more examples of helpful stretches you can do to dance better and keep the injuries far, far away. Share this article with your dancer friend that could use the tips!