Here are some stretching exercises for dancers, and in particular ballet dancers.
As dancers, stretching is an essential, but often neglected part of training. Flexible muscles lead to far less injuries and a far greater ease of movement. The trick is to stretch gently and often.
Try to stretch every day, as this is the fastest way to progress and get supple quickly.
Stretching Exercises For Dancers
OPTP Stretch Out Strap with Poster
Before I give you some examples of stretching exercises for dancers, here are some things to think about.
Always make sure your body is warm before you stretch. It is better to stretch after or during class than at the beginning when your muscles are cold.
Never bounce your stretches, as you can cause the muscles to tear. Rather hold the stretch for thirty seconds or longer and breathe and relax into the stretch while you are performing it.
Getting supple is no easy task, and it helps to have tools to help you.
Straps are always a good idea, and you can ease yourself into your stretches and work more deeply into the stretch using your own body weight. The one on the left at the time of writing this post is going for $15.95.
The key areas for dancers to stretch are their backs and their legs.
When a dancer stretches her legs, she needs to make sure she works both parallel and in a turned out position.
Stretch Exercise No. 1
A good way to do this is to lie on your back and lift one leg at a time trying to get the leg as close to your chest as you can while keeping it straight. The leg on the floor can be either bent or straight. Try not to lift your hips off the floor. Use your hands behind your knee to help you get the leg higher and closer to your chest. You can also use a strap around your foot for extra leverage. Make sure you do this exercise with the leg parallel and then again in a turned out position.
Variation – Now take the leg out to the side and bring it up as high as you can. The opposite hip must remain on the floor.
Stretch Exercise No. 2
Sit with the legs straight in front of you. You can wrap a strap around your feet to pull on and then work to get your back flat over your legs. Make sure again to do this in a parallel and a turned out position. If you flex your feet you will also get a good calf stretch.
Stretch Exercise No. 3
Kneel with one leg behind you and then grab the foot behind you with your opposite hand or the same one, depending on your balance. Shift the knee out further behind you until you feel the stretch up the front of your leg. The picture illustrates what this stretch should look like.
Stretch Exercise No. 4
Lunges are also a great way to stretch, as they get the dancer prepared for splits. When doing a lunge, make sure the foot is directly underneath the knee at a 90-degree angle. Work on stretching the back leg and then working the hips down to stretch out those hip flexors.
Stretch Exercise No. 5
Don’t forget to stretch out those calf muscles. You can do this in a number of ways. You can lunge forward, push your bottom down and try and get the back heel onto the floor. Another way is to bend your supporting leg and take your working leg in front of you with a flexed foot. Gently go down with a flat back until you feel the stretch at the back of the hamstrings and the calf.
Stretch Exercise No. 6
Using the ballet barre is a great way to stretch your legs. Stand next to the bar and place your foot up on the bar. Either face your leg, have the leg up to the side or behind you. The trick is to concentrate on keeping your hips square in relation to your leg and working on your alignment while you stretch. If the leg is up behind you, you can focus on stretching those back muscles by trying to hold the torso up.
Other variations include lying down against your leg or sliding your leg into a split along the bar.
Stretch Exercise No. 7
The Downward Facing Dog is an excellent all-over stretch for both dancers and athletes. You should start by kneeling on the floor and then pushing your bottom up into the air so that your body makes a triangle shape. Your weight should be back and off your wrists, pushing down through the backs of the legs. The heels should aim to go flat onto the floor. The back needs to be as flat as possible.
For more great stretching exercises for dancers, you can try this excellent program done by The Stretch Coach. Click here for more information.