1.) Focus on strengthening the hip and back extensors:
- Hip extensors (hamstrings) lift the leg to the back, so focus on using the hamstrings to perform the movement.
- Back extensors keep the torso upright as your pelvis tilts slightly forward once the leg is fully extended to back. This makes it necessary to engage the back extensors to prevent torso from falling forward.
2.) Aim to increase leg height without putting pressure or “sinking into” the lower (lumbar) spine:
- Maximize external rotation of the thigh bone (femur) in the hip socket rather than rotate the pelvis (ie: ‘alasebesque’)
- Think of “reaching the leg out” stretching across the front of the hip. (Really press out into the straps of the Flexistretcher)
- Focus on “lifting the leg from the knee” to encourage use of the hamstrings to extend the leg to the back
- Once full range of hip extension is achieved the pelvis pelvis must tilt anteriorly (forward). Concentrate on these cues, “pull abdominals in and up” while “lifting in upper back” to create an evenly distributed extension in the spine and to avoid sinking in the lower spine.
Here are 3 exercises to find correct form and improve leg height:
1. Arabesque with the Flexistretcher:
In a contract-relax active stretch with the Flexistretcher you assume a position and hold it there engaging the agonist muscles. These are the muscles required in ballet to développé the leg and hold a big extension, such as the arabesque. Then, by resisting the resistance as if you are pushing your leg down to the floor, engaging the targeted muscle, followed by the relaxation phase, and finishing with moving the limb into a greater range motion.
** Lengthen down into the resistance ("reaching the leg out") and lift 2 inches. Repeat 10-20 times. Rest and Repeat. Perform 3 sets.
2. Cambre with the FLX Ball:
Using the resistance of the FLX Ball to complete this exercise can keep the back strong and flexible for a more open arabesque and cambre back. Focus on lengthening the spine as you extend.
** 10 sets with arms back by hips in super human pose. 10 sets with arms in 5th position over head. 10 sets with arms in second position.
3. Hamstring Focus:
Try this exercise to focus on strengthening the hamstrings and external rotators of the hip to help improve your arabesque! The hip extensors (hamstrings) lift the leg to the back. Therefore, bringing focus to hamstrings and “lifting the leg from the knee” to encourage use of the hamstrings to extend the leg to the back will help increase leg height and reinforce correct form.