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Warm up for Dancers

What is a good warm-up for dancers? ​So often, dancers tell me they know a warm-up is important, and when I ask what specifically they’re doing to warm up, I usually get a confused look and some version of “Stretching, of course. Duh.” While there are several types of stretching, and each has their place, what dancers often mean is they are sitting on the floor and relaxing into a split, butterfly, frog, or some other position in which they remain still and soft tissues are pulled on while they chat with their friends. SPOILER ALERT…. A warm-up means the body is warm and that happens through movement – not sitting still on the floor. A good warm-up means the body is prepared for what comes next. So, a warm-up for dancing a contemporary routine should look very different than a warm-up for a hip hop number. Regardless of dance style, all warm-ups should have the same goals: gently mobilize the joints (all of them), dynamic stretching of large muscle groups (dynamic = moving), activation of small stabilizing muscle groups, stimulate and mobilize the nervous system, and increase the heart rate.

Did you know??

A good warm-up prepares the muscles, joints, heart, brain, nerves, eyes, AND inner ear. Talk about a full body warm-up!

​If you’re somewhat interested in the nerdy science behind what happens during an effective warm-up, keep reading. If not, no worries, skip ahead!

  • increased joint mobility due to decreased thickness and increased production of the synovial fluid – resulting in joints moving freely and helps to decrease wear and tear on the joints

  • “waking up” the nervous system – resulting in improved balance, reaction time, peripheral vision and spatial awareness, eye tracking, eye/head movement coordination and dissociation, and overall muscle function (the nervous system is the electricity that makes the muscles work!)

  • increased heart rate and dilated blood vessels – resulting in increased blood flow – resulting in increased oxygen and nutrients to muscles, brain, and eyes – resulting in improved physical performance, concentration, and spatial vision AND increased muscle, ligament, and tendon elasticity – resulting in decreased risk of tears

  • increased body temperature – resulting in increased muscle metabolism (without a warm-up, metabolism remains at rest – metabolic waste products including lactic acid accumulate and cause early muscle fatigue, which is a HUGE risk factor for dance injuries) AND increased nerve excitability – resulting in decreased reaction and contraction times and increased sensitivity of sensory receptors – resulting in improved balance and coordination

It is important to note, an effective warm-up is necessary before EVERY class, rehearsal, competition, show, and audition in order to prevent injuries and maximize performance. Other considerations for warm-up effectiveness include the duration, time of day, environment, upcoming dance intensity, previous injuries, and dancer’s age.

​If you’re curious whether your current warm-up practices are effective or you want some guidance on creating an individualized warm-up, click the button below and we can chat about your goals and come up with a plan for how to achieve them.


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