Enhance your daily stretch routine by adding this stretch series! Follow along day to day and increase your flexibility with the Flexistretcher!
Follow along and purchase your Flexistretcher here : http://bit.ly/1Wg7w7l
SETUP: Holding onto something stable, lift the right knee to the side towards your shoulder, with your heel slightly forward of your knee.
- From this position you can perform the full grand ronde de jambe by starting with front extension, moving through side extension, and finishing to the back in an arabesque.
Make sure to adjust the straps if you are having difficulties going from side to back.
- Keep external rotation in both the standing and working leg.
- Focus on the side to back action, lengthening the leg out into the strap and finishing higher to the back.
- Pull up on the quadriceps and engage the hamstrings of the standing leg.
WATCH OUT FOR:
- The legs swinging or dipping down.
DANCER FOCUS: This exercise gathers the elastic resistance qualities of the Flexistretcher with PNF stretching techniques to train both your working leg and standing leg on the proper alignment necessary to complete a grand rond de jambe.
Here is a great read we discovered! Check out what The Journal of Dance Medicine and Science had to say about importance of flexibility in dance.
Dance and Flexibility
Dance, and in particular ballet, is portrayed by beautiful body shapes and lines, much of which are due to flexibility. In all its beauty, ballet is an art form based on standardized movements, stylized steps and time-honored techniques that have been passed down by dancers for more than 300 years.
The ability to achieve seemingly impossible positions is essential and an integral part of the art form. A dancer's facility is their main tool to be able to achieve these positions and communicate through their movements. Therefore, excellent levels of flexibility, or range of motion (ROM), are imperative for maximizing the versatility of movement. Typical extreme joint positions include hip flexion, extension and outward rotation, spinal extension, and ankle plantar flexion.
Joint flexibility is essential for dancers to be able to perform the correct positions, execute the steps with ease, and supply the choreographic demands.
Learn more about stretching techniques for dancers from the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science http://www.iadms.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=353.
Paschimottanasana-Seated Forward Bend is a stretch that is common in both yoga and dance conditioning.
With this pose, yogis feel the benefits of a lengthened spine, stretched hamstrings and an invigorated nervous system while dancers receive these same benefits along with added improvements in extreme leg movements such as developpé or grand battement.
When folding forward, it’s best to maintain a “flat” back that is neither arched nor rounded. The neck should be in line with the rest of the spine. Often times, students round the back in an attempt to achieve the goal of “touching the nose to the knees.”
In fact, the best manner to fulfill that goal is to do the opposite of rounding and to hinge at the hips when bringing the body forward. In addition if one has tight hamstrings, it is more effective to bend the knees when folding. Rounding too much in the forward fold can lead to a backwards rotation of the pelvis and a collapsing of the chest over the belly which lead to intervertebral disc compression in the anterior of the spine.
Try the Forward Fold with your Flexistretcher to encourage hinging at the hips, keeping a neutral pelvis, practice pelvic stabilization, maintaining a flat back and lengthening through the legs.
SETUP: Sitting up, extend both legs in front of you and wrap the Flexistretcher center foam pad around both feet. Hug the legs together and choke up on the straps if you do not feel enough tension.
ACTION: Fold forward, with your chest toward your thighs, as you pull on the straps to intensify the stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
REPETITIONS: 5 times
Actively hug the legs together and press them into the floor.
Pull up on the knees and lengthen through the heels.
Keep both hips pressed into the floor.
Maintain head in line with the spine. Think “of hair line to toes”
Keep elbow hugged into your sides and drawing back as you fold forward.
Pull hips back and down.
MUSCLES TARGETED: The hamstrings along with the gastrocnemius located in the back part of the lower leg, and the erector spinae which extends throughout the lumbar spine.
CHALLENGES: To intensify the stretch, grab hold of the metal pieces of the Flexistretcher.
MODIFICATIONS: Slightly bend both legs or bend one leg in towards your center.
DANCER FOCUS and BENEFITS:
Hinging at the hips while maintaining a neutral pelvis while achieving sufficient hamstring flexibility can greatly aid in improving and maintaining correct form when performing skills such as developpés and grand battements.
CONTRAINDICATIONS: This particular pose is not good for those with chronic back pain.
Extreme hamstring flexibility is a necessity for accomplishing movements required of a skilled dancer. This stretch is very beneficial in increasing mobility in the hip and hamstring flexibility which aids to increase the leg height in developpé front or side. Overusing or gripping of the hip flexors to developpé the leg front or side hinders mobility, strength and form. Practicing this stretch with the Flexistretcher encourages hinging at the hips without the limitations of gravity. It allows you to focus on maintaining a neutral pelvis rather than “tucking” which can help with technical mis-alignments when trying to master certain movement patterns. Stabilizing the pelvis is very important when looking to improve front extensions and keep correct form. Since the muscles that are used to lift the leg attach onto the pelvis, they will tend to produce undesired movements of the pelvis, lumbar spine and leg unless the pelvis is stabilized. Drawing focus to these key concepts in a basic forward fold will help to develop a better awareness and the ability to improve technical requirements and desired aesthetic that dancers strive for.
Forcing, Tucking and Gripping! Oh My!
Many alignment issues arise when trying to achieve maximum external rotation. Here are 3 issues that dancers can deal with:
1. ) Forcing
Turnout describes the position of the legs, in which each leg is rotated in the opposite direction from the other and facing away from the midline of the body. When focusing on turning out, think of laterally rotating the femur bone (thigh bone) with in the hip socket, utilizing the deep external rotator muscles to achieve correct form.
So what? Strengthening your external rotator muscles will help you rotate from the thigh bone rather than twisting or forcing from the foot or the knee to achieved the desired aesthetic.
The turnout muscles, are recruited for most functional movements in ballet. Dancers often attempt to achieve or increase these “turned out” positions with excessive motions of the ankle and knee or posteriorly tilting(tucking) the pelvis to give the visual of the required aesthetic.
So what? Learning to work in a neutral pelvis position will result in recruiting the correct muscle groups, therefore avoiding injury and skillfully performing required movements with ease.
There is a set of 6 small muscles deep inside the hip that act as the "turnout" muscles and function to laterally rotate the leg in the hip socket. Because the deep six are located under the gluteus maximus, typically one of the strongest muscles in your body, they are often overshadowed by it.
So what? When tucking or working in incorrect alignment you risk overusing other muscles groups. A dancer might try to get the effect of using the deep six muscle group by squeezing their glutes and this over recruitment may cause a lack of movement in the hip (lower extensions!) or an over developed buttocks.
When focusing on turnout the key is to concentrate on rotating from the leg while keeping a neutral pelvis. You will then be able to strengthen the desired muscle group and avoid the glutes working in over time.
Stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee with these 5 exercises. These are especially fantastic for all the hyperextended athletes out there!
Try the Forward Fold with your FLX Ball to encourage hinging at the hips and keeping a neutral pelvis. Pull the feet toward you as pull up on the thighs and lengthen through the spine.
Focus on keeping the hips firmly on the ground and feeling the thigh bone drop in the hip socket. Pull the toes down towards the floor as you feel your heel reach towards the ceiling.
Keep both hips square and pull back on right side as you fold forward. Pull elbows back by your side and reach the center of your chest towards your thigh.
Pull up on the thigh and the muscles surrounding the knee to straighten the leg.
Challenge: Add an ankle weight.
Perform little walks. Press the shin out into the elastic 10 times and repeat with other leg. Perform at least 3 sets on each leg.
If a dancer or athlete does not display sufficient hamstring flexibility it might hinder their execution of certain movements required of the technique or sport.Read More
Here is a great exercise to practice engaging your abdominals to achieve a higher front extension. By strengthening your abs and learning to maintain a stable standing leg with this Flexistretcher exercise, you can improve your extension by learning to stabilize with your core.
Lying on your back, hold the Flexistretcher by the elastic shoulder-width apart, and pull your hands away from each other, creating a resistance. Arms are straight up toward the ceiling with the strap right over your chest. Bring your knees up over your hips to a tabletop position.
Extend legs toward the ceiling and lift your head and shoulder off the mat, reaching toward your legs, and gazing in at your belly button.
Lower one leg down to a high diagonal, with the other touching the elastic.
Hit the elastic twice with the leg up, while the other reaches long.
Switch legs and hit the elastic twice, keeping your arms in a fixed position, with hands pulling away from each other, and maintaining the resistance in the elastic.
Repeat 8 times.
For an added challenge, raise your arms back by your ears, keeping the tension pulled in the elastic. Pulse your legs without hitting the band, and keep your gaze in at your belly button.
Maintain a neutral spine and pelvis.
Keep your arms above your chest.
Use your abdominal muscles to pulse the leg and do not move your arms.
Watch out for!:
Incorrect alignment by tucking the pelvis under and using momentum by 'swinging' the leg to complete the movement.
Take care of your body - it's the only one you have.Read More
- Make sure that the straps are adjusted to the appropriate length and that you are holding onto something stable.
- Standing on your left leg, place both loops around the right foot. Bend your right leg behind you as you thread your left arm through the straps, placing the foam pad on your left shoulder.
- Holding something stable, lift the right knee up and, pushing into the resistance, extend the leg behind you, coming into a grand arabesque position.
- Slowly lower your torso towards the floor, lifting the working leg into a standing split.
- To return, lift the torso up so you are back in your arabesque. Then, bend your knee and turn it in, remove the foam pad from around your shoulder, and step out of the loops.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- Press into the resistance of the gesture leg to fully activate the muscles.
- Lift up through your upper back.
Have tight hamstrings? Try these Flexistretcher exercises to combat tightness and reach your performance potential:
Add these exercises to your warm up. You won't regret it.Read More
Combat tight turnout muscles and prep for class with this stretch.Read More