Flexibility Exercises Hamstring Stretches And Hip Flexors
Flexibility Exercises For Dancers – Muscles That Get Left Out
Dancers want to get higher leg extensions and fluid movements. Usually when they think about flexibility exercises they want to focus on the obvious muscles like:
- the hamstrings, and hamstring stretches for higher leg extensions to the front
- the adductors, for higher leg extensions to the side, and sideways splits
- the psoas, or iliopsoas muscle, hip flexors that also allow the leg to lift at the back, with the back remaining upright
The luckiest among the “born to dance” are those with flexible muscles, and longer ligaments allowing plenty of joint movement – and yet – not as much as the gymnast or circus contortionist has. Hype-rmobility has its own problems and challenges for ballet dancers.
If all the muscles in the body are equally flexible, ease of movement is optimal. For example, when the leg rises to the side, the opposite side of the body does not try to follow. What that means is that the opposite hip, or standing leg hip, does not move off the standing foot, causing the standing ribs to lean far away from the raised leg.
This would happen, if the adductor muscles allowed the leg to rise, but the spinal muscles needed flexibility exercises, therefore pulling the body out of alignment. Alignment will change, the higher the leg rises, yet balance must be maintained, with the body over the supporting foot. Once a dancer is in pointe shoes, there is little leeway for the placement of the body on the tiny ballet toe shoes platforms.
For flexibility exercises along the spine, and the sides of the hips, you can sit in your sideways split, legs held straight. Holding the core muscles, stretch up with the left arm, and then bend sideways over the right leg. You will feel a stretch along the left spinal muscles, and a little in the hip area. The left hip should not come off the floor. You do not need to bounce or pulse – just hold the stretch for about twenty seconds, then slowly release.
Do the other side, then repeat both sides again.
To get a more targeted stretch in the hip area, bend the left leg, bringing the foot right up to the body. Do the side bend again, and you will feel more stretch in the hip area. Do not push the bent leg down, as this will strain the knee joint. You may find that your range of stretch is smaller in this position. Repeat the other side, and then both sides again.
This is one example of flexibility exercises, in muscles other than the legs. Achieving a full body balance of muscle tension and muscle flexibility is the result of:
- stretching the hip flexors
- strengthening the hip flexors
- hamstring stretches
- hamstring strength
Besides stretching and strengthening the large muscles groups in the lower body, understanding how to relax and release tension from the scalp muscles, the neck muscles and the shoulder/upper back muscles is important.
Hamstring stretches are much more beneficial if the upper body muscles are stretched, and the tension is released.
Believe it or not, releasing tension in the neck muscles and upper back muscles release tension in the hip flexors, giving you a higher arabesque.
To progress with flexibility exercises, hamstring stretches, and full body tension release, patience and a good home program is important. This DVD of flexibility exercises is easy to follow, even if you’re a beginner.