Stretching for Dancers

stretching

Thanks to Josh Feigl from Joint Pro Physical Therapy for today's tips on stretching!

Whether you're looking to improve your ballet or trying to prevent overuse injuries, incorporating a regular stretching program can be a great addition to your current training regimen.

Today’s ballet dancers train as much if not more than other athletes in various sports.  This high level of training raises the likelihood of developing various overuse and acute injuries.   Although ballet dancers use all muscle groups, certain major groups are likely to become overused.  The areas of these muscle groups include: the low back, hips, and ankles. The solution? Particular attention and effort to achieve good flexibility in these areas will likely reduce overuse symptoms and potential for injuries.

What Should I Stretch?

When it comes to keeping the low back healthy (often used in ballet in common positions like arabesque), consider stretches such as Child’s pose, Double knees to chest, and Angry cat positions. These positions may not seem like you're "doing" much in these stretches, but all three of the position lengthen the muscles of the low back and increase flexibility in the lumbar vertebral joints.

When considering the hips, it is important to achieve balance between the front and back supporting muscles. Stretching to increase flexibility of the hip flexors and hamstrings is extremely important, as it allows dancers to maintain a neutral hip position. This also promotes good low back health overall.

Finally the ankles can often become the most overused of all. Lengthy time spent in the pointe position lends itself to shortening of the calf musculature and Achilles tendon (should familiar?). This can lead to a variety of lower leg injuries. Maintaining excellent calf and Achilles tendon flexibility is essential and should not be overlooked.

How Should I Stretch?

All stretching exercises are more effective with longer hold times and fewer repetitions. Hold for 30-60 second and repeat for 5 repetitions on each stretch is a good starting point. Performing a regular stretching routine 3-4 times per week outside of your usual training time is enough to make consistent positive gains. Taking care to maintain equal flexibility right side to left is extremely important, as most dancers with have a dominant side, and that imbalance can be another reason for injury to occur.

- Josh Feigl, Physical Therapist and Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, JointPro Physical Therapy

Further question or access to specific stretching programs can be requested via email at josh@jointpropt.com. JointPro Physical Therapy is located in Frankfort just across from Ballet 5:8.   Josh has treated grade school to professional athletes in all sports over the last 15 years. He is excited to be collaborating with Ballet 5:8 on various sports medicine topics as well as providing free injury screenings to all dancers and families.