Stretching:  

 

What’s all this fuss about stretching? Besides preventing injuries, stretching helps dancers find correct alignment, improve flexibility, and strengthen muscles necessary for class and overall performance.  

 

Stretching may not be as fun as working on turns or leaps, but for a dancer it is imperative. Your turns and leaps will be no good to you, without proper technique and stretching and working out those muscles and joints that are involved and active during your turns or leaps. No matter your age, level, or degree of flexibility stretch before any vigorous activity. 

 

Stretching not only increases flexibility but also minimizes the risk of injuries, such as tendon and muscle tears. When muscles are dormant, they shorten and can feel tight. When you have tight muscles you are prone to limit your ability to go about typical daily chores or even dance classes. Not being fully stretched for a dance class can cause serval injuries. There are two main types of stretches: static stretches and dynamic stretches. Static stretches are those in which you stand, sit or lie still and hold a single position for some time, up to about 45 seconds. Dynamic stretches are controlled movements that prepare your muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues for performance and safety. 

 

 

Two Types of Stretching:  

 

There are two main types of stretching we use as dancers – static and dynamic – which we will go into detail about below: 

 

Static Stretching:  

Stretching involves holding a single stretch for a long period before moving on to the next stretch. If you want to produce long-term flexibility, you can’t go wrong with static stretching. To get your body prepared, however, this method should only be done after your muscles are warmed up. The term static stretching (or static stretches) refers to any stretch that is performed without movement. In other words, the individual gets into the stretch position and holds the stretch for a specific amount of time. Static stretching is a very safe and effective form of stretching with a limited threat of injury. 

 

Examples of static stretches 

  • Overhead triceps stretch. This stretch targets your triceps and the muscles in your shoulders. 
  • Biceps stretch… 
  • Cobra Pose.  
  • Seated butterfly stretch.  
  • Head-to-knee forward bend. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dynamic stretching involves moving your body to the limits of your range of motion from one stretch to another without stopping. It is often used in choreographed warm-ups during class and can involve anything from circling the ankle and shoulders to swinging the arms and legs without jerking or bouncing.  

 

Dynamic stretching is a movement-based type of stretching. It uses the muscles themselves to bring about a stretch. It’s different from traditional “static” stretching because the stretch position is not held. 

 

Here are some of the most common dynamic stretches modified to be dancer-specific: 

  • Heel walks (Achilles’ Tendon, calves) 
  • Toe walks (calves, foot) 
  • Knee to chest with relieve. 
  • Bottom kicks (quadriceps) 
  • Hamstring Kick out with a flexed foot. 
  • Inchworm. 
  • Leg swings (front, back, and side–hip range of motion) 

 

 

Now that you know the difference between the two types of stretching, let’s talk about the benefits! What do you gain from all this?  

 

 

 

Benefits of stretching regularly 

Research and studies have shown that stretching can help improve flexibility and the range of motion of your joints. The more you stretch over time, the more you’ll create length so you can do things like kicking your leg higher. You will also prevent muscle bulk in places like the calf muscles – so instead of short and bulky, you’ll create strong, elongated muscles – exactly what a dancer wants and needs! Stretching enables your muscles, ligaments, and joints in your body. Stretching regularly promotes blood circulation throughout your body. Stretching one day or once in a while is not going to make you magically that much more flexible or stronger overnight. Stretching just like everything else takes time, consistency, and commitment. You need to make stretching a priority. 

 

Improves postureTight muscles and joints can lead to poor posture, and no one wants to be a slouchy dancer. If you consistently stretch the muscles in your shoulders, lower back, and chest, you’ll have better alignment and posture. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decreases and manages stress – When you’re stressed, it can have a ripple effect on your body’s muscles and build up a lot of unwelcome tension. It’s those days in particular when you need to take a moment to stretch, from your face to your feet. 

 

 

Stretching helps blood flow and circulation to your muscles, cartilage, and joints to help them relax. Stress makes your body contract, which makes your muscles even stiffer and builds tension that is counterproductive to good dancing. Stretching helps ease this stress by releasing endorphins that make us relax. Stretching before dance practice helps relieve that tension and calms any nerves you may feel. This helps you practice and perform better. 

 

 

 

Keep calm and stretch on, dancers! 

Stretching essentials 

Before you plunge into stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. While you can stretch anytime, anywhere, proper technique is key. Stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good. 

 

Correct Posture 

Stretching puts your muscles into correct alignment, which aids in creating good posture.  This is critical in correcting your posture and allowing for both technically perfect dance moves and dance moves that are comfortable for your body.  When you have poor posture, you will incur more injuries when dancing.   

 

Lengthen Muscles 

Stretching prepares the muscles for any type of dance routine.  This helps to prevent stressed muscles.  Stressed muscles can lead to injuries which can take dancers away from their sport while recovering or rehabilitating.  Lengthened muscles will prevent muscle-tightening spasms and uncomfortable movements during the dance routine.  They also help to improve your energy and focus when dancing. 

Improved Flexibility 

This is incredibly important for dancers because it helps to improve our kicks, splits, leaps, and other dance moves particular to each style of dance.  Dance is especially important for jazz and ballet dancers because these routines incorporate a lot of lengthening moves.  Flexibility is critical in doing many of the activities and exercises expected of dancers. 

 

 

Prevents Injury 

Perhaps the most important reason for stretching each time you practice your dancing is to prevent injury.  Many dancers suffer from injuries related to broken bones and sprained joints.  To avoid these injuries, it is advised to always take the time to stretch and loosen up your muscles first.  We must improve our dancers’ health to avoid the risk of common dance injuries.  It prepares the body for the dance workout that will follow. 

 

Improves Energy 

Stretching oxygenates the brain and helps to improve energy.  This will give dancers an extra boost while they are in class.  They will also be able to take more away from each dance session by being able to pay full attention the entire time.  By stretching, the brain will be able to retain focus on obtaining new skills. 

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