Stretching to Improve Flexibility
Flexibility is a building block of ballet – it allows for a wider range of motion, helps protect against injury and enables more elegant lines. And the crazy thing about flexibility is that no matter how far you can stretch already, there’s always more to be done! Stretching to improve flexibility is a critical part of your dance development.
If you’re sweating over a stubborn hamstring that won’t budge or a back that just refuses to arch, fret no more. The best way to improve your flexibility is to consistently stretch – every day if you can swing it – because just stretching once every other week just won’t cut it. And as always, don’t push your body further than it can go! If a stretch hurts, that’s not a sign you’re improving – it’s a sign you’re damaging your muscles and tendons, so move into deeper stretches gradually. Here are two stretches that are very effective for improving your flexibility.
The stretch, “The Superman,” comes from DanceTeacher Connect and is a great way to improve back flexibility. First, lay down on the ground flat on your stomach. Then, raise your upper body off the ground as high as possible without using your arms for support – your chest and back muscles should pull you up. Go as high as you can, then return to the start. The blog recommends repeating this movement three times then resting to build the muscles around your spine, thereby improving your back flexibility.
Hip Flexor Stretch
DanceSpirit magazine has a great list of dynamic stretches that dancers can do. Brynn Jinnett, creator of Refine Method in New York City, told the magazine that dancers focus too much on static stretches and don’t do enough dynamic stretches that can improve their overall range of motion. Try their hip flexor stretch for greater hip and hamstring flexibility and deeper splits. First, kneel on your right knee with your left leg in front of you and bend it perpendicular to the floor. Push forward gently with your hips, like you’re lunging, while squeezing your glutes. Hold for a second, then return to the starting position.
Stacey Nemour, a flexibility guru, reminded dancers that it’s important to stretch with correct form, to relax and never force the muscles or bounce during stretching. So be careful not to overwork your muscles and gradually up the intensity of your stretching routine.