The Importance of Hamstring Flexibility in Ballet

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.  

 

Dr. James A. Nicholas, M.D., the founding director of the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hospital in New York, has experience working in the past with the New York Jets, asserts that “a gradual conditioning program, specific to your sport, will prepare the hamstrings for the high demands placed upon them during athletics”

In classical ballet technique, tight hamstrings can lead to an undesirable posterior tilt in the pelvis when attempting movements such as a developpe or grand battement of the leg to the front.  To make up for a lack of hamstring flexibility, a posterior tilt or "tucking under" of the pelvis will happen in order to achieve the full movement pattern.  This pelvic misalignment can lead to over using the quadriceps and hip flexors and can result in pain in the lower spine.

During your warm up or stretching routine draw more awareness to the anatomical alignment of your body while performing even the most common stretches and this can help improve the performance of even the most skilled dancer or athlete.

Try the stretches below to achieve an effective stretch to the hamstrings while focusing on maintaining a neutral pelvis.  

1.  Supine hamstring stretch with your Flexistretcher

While in this position practice the PNF stretching technique contract-release by contracting the hamstring as you push the leg into the strap and then releasing as your arms resist the motion.

CUES:

  • Flex at the hip rather than the spine

  • Keep the back in contact with the floor

  • Keep the arms still and press down to the floor with the palms of the hands.

2.  Seated one-legged hamstring stretch.

Try this pose with your Flexistretcher to focus on maintaining a neutral pelvis and folding at the hips.

Hinging at the hips while maintaining a neutral pelvis during this hamstring stretch can greatly encourage correct form that is need when performing skills such as developpés and grand battements.

CUES:

  • Pull the pelvis back on the side of the front leg.

  • The torso should be centered over the outstretched leg as you fold forward.

  • Lengthen your leg and press in into the Flexistrecher to deepen the stretch.

  • Emphasize folding at the hip rather than rounding the spine.

  • Practice with a turned out (externally rotated) front leg