So often dancers come into the studio and sit on the floor to stretch before class.
You’re not alone.
Stretching has long been a go-to for dancers when trying to improve flexibility, prepare for dance, and even calm pre-performance anxiety. But, how much of your stretching is done out of habit (what you think you’re supposed to do) versus done as part of a strategic plan for achieving your goals? As with every exercise, I encourage you to consider the purpose of your stretches.
I would also encourage you to consider whether your stretching routine is helping or hurting your performance and if it’s putting you at risk for injury. As a dance physical therapist, I often see injuries related to less than optimal or even unsafe stretching practices. Check out the tips below to keep you safe while stretching.
Tips for safe stretching:
Dynamic stretches (through movement) are perfect as part of a warm-up
Static stretches (holding a position) can be used after you’re already warm or as part of a cool down
Avoid holding stretches longer than 2 minutes if you’re about to dance – continuous static stretching has been shown to decrease muscle strength, power, and speed short-term – all of which are extremely important for dance, particularly big jumps
No stretch should be painful or give the sensation of tearing, heat, or tingling
Stretches should be felt in the muscle belly (the bulky part) rather than near the bones where it attaches, along the entire line of the muscle, or in an area you’re not trying to stretch
You should be able to breathe comfortably throughout the duration of the stretch without grimacing
Stretches that result in hanging on ligaments are never a good option
Other things to consider…
The body takes the path of least resistance so you will naturally move/stretch from where you already have enough movement rather than where you need movement
For dancers with growing bodies, use caution with contract-relax type stretching – forceful muscle contractions can cause issues at the growth plates
If stretching has not increased your flexibility thus far, then stretching may not be the answer – you may need a different strategy
If you want to learn more about how to safely improve your flexibility, or would like guidance in creating a stretching routine customized to your body and goals, schedule a Discovery Call and we can come up with a plan together.