As dancers, we seem to always want to become more flexible, no matter how great we are!
For those who genuinely struggle in this area of their training, here are some tips I’ve used myself for years to perform at a professional level:
- Always perform your stretches after the class – never before! (the pre-class time should be all about warming-up your muscles, not gaining flexibility!)
- Stretch every day that you take class without exception.
- Do not stretch passively – like going into a split and waiting there for a few minutes. Instead, always use your breath: Retract your muscles as you breathe-in and pull gently on the muscle you’re working on on the out-breath – and repeat!
- For your hamstring (splits) and quadriceps (front of thigh muscle group), I highly recommend you to use the PNF stretching technique. The benefits are pretty much instant and it doesn’t take long to get a full session of stretching done.
Here is how it works, the example below is to stretch your hamstring and improve your splits:
- Grab a partner to help you out with this technique! It is very hard and not as effective to do on your own.
- Lie flat on your back and pull one leg up, extended as far towards your torso as you can go. Make sure that your pelvis stays flat on the floor and that your other leg does not bend.
- Get your partner to stand or kneel behind your head (if your leg goes far) or on your side, near the leg up (if you’re not as flexible yet).
- Your partner will now grab your leg on the calf muscle (IMPORTANT: Never-Ever pull on a joint! Stay away from the ankle or the knee!)
- On the instruction of your partner who will put some resistance against your leg, you will take a big breath in and hold it for 3 to 4 seconds while you press against their hands AWAY from the stretch (as if you wanted to put your leg back onto the floor). There is no need to push too hard, you just need to get your muscles activated. Your partner will make sure your leg stays where it is while you apply the pressure.
- Then release the pressure on the out-breath while your partner gently pulls your leg further into the stretch.
- Repeat 3 times only, then swap legs.
It should take no longer than 5-6 minutes to get it done on both sides! You will find that every time your partner pulls your leg, it’ll go much further than you expected. Do it a few times a week – after your class while you’re warm – and you’ll see your flexibility improve extremely rapidly!
If unsure on how to proceed for other areas of your body, you will find on Youtube dozens of videos created by physiotherapists that demonstrate how to stretch a specific muscle using that PNF technique. Simply search for “name of muscle + PNF stretch”. You can also contact me personally through the contact page or by leaving a comment below now.
The last thing that I would recommend you to do to make sure that you improve your flexibility rapidly, is increase your water intake (unless you already know that you do drink enough water). Water helps eliminate the toxins that accumulate within your muscles during exercise. Therefore help keep your muscles healthy. It is easier to gain flexibility on healthy muscles than on overworked and not well “fed” muscles!
Let me know how you go and make sure you watch more free practical info on this blog every Friday wtih every new episode of Smart Dancers TV!