2017 GOAL : A better Arch

3 exercises to improve your arch and pointe work. Try these exercises to strengthen and release the muscles of the feet!

FLXball Metatarsal Press

SETUP: Sit down with your right heel resting on the ground and place the FLX Ball under the toes or your right foot.

ACTION: With wide straight toes press down into the ball and hold for 5 seconds. Aim to press with the back of your toes to keep the toes very straight.

REPETITIONS: 10 times

SETS: 2-3

FLX Massage Ball Release


Practice this self massage technique both before and after class. Slowly roll the ball under each foot, pausing and breathing when you find points of tension.

Flexistretcher Foot Press

SETUP : From a supine position, place one foot into the center foam of the Flexistretcher, making sure the ball of the foot is on the strap.

ACTION : Slowly press through to demi-pointe and then returned to a flexed position.

REPETITIONS: 10 times

SETS : 2 -3

2 Key Exercises to Improve your Arch

Because of the continual impact requested of the feet in dance, fallen arches or improper technique at this part of the body can impact the entire alignment of the body and contribute to acute or chronic injury at the ankle, knee, hip, and/or back. Strengthening the muscles of the foot is incredibly important, which can result in a greater sense of balance and stability, better alignment, and more supple feet for greater artistic expression. 

Try these FLX-inspired supplemental foot strengthening exercises to improve your arch, jump, and pointe work!


Metatarsal Press with the FLX Ball

Metatarsal Press

SETUP: Sit down with your right heel resting on the ground and place the FLX Ball under the toes or your right foot.

ACTION: With wide straight toes press down into the ball and hold for 5 seconds. Aim to press with the back of your toes to keep the toes very straight. 

REPETITIONS: 10 times

SETS: 2-3


Plantar Flexion

Plantar Flexion

Focusing on correct aligmnent and strengthening the instrinsic mucles of the foot. 

Action : Shape the FLX ball and hold for 10 counts. 10-15 SETS.

Dancer: Julia Lipari Photography: Nathan Sayers

3 Exercises to Keep Your Feet Strong & Flexible

After hours of rehearsal and show preparation, how do you keep your feet strong and supple to sustain a full season and avoid injury?  Because of the continual impact requested of the feet in dance, fallen arches or improper technique at this part of the body can impact the entire alignment of the body and contribute to acute or chronic injury at the ankle, knee, hip, and/or back. Strengthening the muscles of the foot is incredibly important, which can result in a greater sense of balance and stability, better alignment and more flexible feet for a desired aesthetic and greater artistic expression. 

Here are three key ways to keep those feet healthy this round of performances:

1.) Full Plantar Flexion Focus:

Improper alignment of the foot in relevés and landings from jumps can lead to two of the most common dance injuries: ankle sprain and fifth metatarsal fracture (so common, in fact, that it is also referred to as the Dancers’ Fracture).

Poor alignment of the foot and arch can also weaken the ligaments that connect its many bones. A result of this can include a “fallen” arch – permanent loss of flexibility and lift in the longitudinal arches – along with a host of secondary conditions such as tendonitisstress fractures, and integumentary (skin and nail) problems.

Exercise How-To

  1. Your heel will leave the ground as your aim is to straighten your leg.

  2. Remember to feel your toes, metatarsals, and now arch pressing down into the ball.

  3. Return to your starting position by going backwards through the steps until your heel is on the ground.

2.) Relevé Walks: 

To improve releve and arch aesthetics we have to improve all the surrounding muscles in order to see visible results. The foot and ankle have to be strengthened to its maximum range. Strengthening these muscles will help increase the arch resulting in a more desirable line and foot for beautiful ease of movement and flexibility.

Exercise How-To

  1. After finding leg alignment, slowly shift your weight to the balls of the feet and without deviating out of alignment, lift the heels up.

  2. Once the heels are up, walk the right foot forward followed by the left foot.

3.) Self-Massage:

The intrinsic muscles of the foot are important to mastering balance, coordination and strength within all ranges of movement.  Especially in dance, weakness in the intrinsic muscles can create a claw or hammer toe effect. This effect results in poor alignment when pointing the foot and attempting to stand on demi pointe or en pointe. Strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot will help to create a more desirable aesthetic when pointing the foot by maintaining length in the toes.  Self-massage techniques can be implemented by placing a ball under your foot or calf and roll until you feel a tight spot and hold for 30 seconds. Keep repeating with different spots, from your heel to your metatarsals.

Exercise How-To

  • Use the FLX small massage balls to apply myofascial massage techniques to the instep of the foot. 
  • Use the FLX Medium Ball & Infinity Ball to roll out the lower calf area allowing for a release in tension for more ease and flexibility.

How to Increase Ankle Strength for Pointe and Petit Allegro

Luciana Voltolini, American Ballet Theatre for FLX. Photography, Renata Pavam. ©FLX. 2014.

Luciana Voltolini, American Ballet Theatre for FLX. Photography, Renata Pavam. ©FLX. 2014.

Ankle and foot flexibility and strength is imperative for successfully mastering technical requirements with the desired aesthetic that all dancers strive for.  One important movement essential to the foot and ankle mechanics in dance technique is the relevé (demi-pointe) and plantar flexion (pointe) positions.

Karen S. Clippinger, author of Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology, asserts that “the repetitive use of the demi pointe places a lot of demands on the foot and requires a specialized strength, flexibility and technique development.”

When finding this necessary strength it is important to couple the leg and foot together.

The co-contraction of the leg and foot allows the weight to rise and lower in correct alignment from the toes without undesired inversion or eversion (rolling in or rolling out).  

Recruiting the stirrup muscles assists in this ‘coupling’ of the leg and foot to achieve the highest possible relevé without the common weaknesses that could cause injury.

These muscles function together to form an anatomical stirrup, which loops around the midfoot and helps control its movements.   

Relevé walks with the FLX Ball will allow you to feel the co-contraction of the leg and foot and the stirrup muscles at work! This will help strengthen in a way essential to improve your relevé and pointe.


FLX BALL: Relevé Walks

Devon Teuscher

SETUP: Stand with your legs and place the FLX Ball between the ankles.

 ACTION: After finding leg alignment, slowly shift your weight to the balls of the feet and without deviating out of alignment, lift the heels up. Once the heels are up, walk the right foot forward followed by the left foot.

REPETITIONS: 10 times for 3-5 sets

CUES:

Keep hips level. Watch out for the hips rocking side to side.

How To Strengthen the Muscles of the Foot for Ballet Technique

Feet. They bring stability to the extension of an elaborate port de bras in a variation. They spring a runner forward in the last minute across the marathon finish line.  A reaction begins in this foundation, and dysfunction from the lower leg can travel up to the quads, hip, IT band and even the lower back.  

The performance of the body begins with the foot and with a firm, grounding base there the body can perform to its utmost potential.  Is enough care placed on the two body parts that allow the body to walk, stand still and move in any manner we desire?

Foot Exercises for Ballerinas

Although there are various muscles in the foot, the intrinsic muscles of the foot are highly important in that they support the medial longitudinal arch and are used to “lift the arch” to prevent undesirable pronation. In addition, these muscles control the movement of the toes.  The primary action of the toes is to propel the body forward.  The intrinsic muscles of the foot must fine-tune the stability and support of the foot as it moves through the heel to toe weight distribution during walking. In dance, weakness in the intrinsic muscles can create a claw or hammer toe effect. This effect results in poor alignment when pointing the foot and attempting to stand on demi pointe or en pointe. Strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot will help to create a more desirable aesthetic when pointing the foot by maintaining length in the toes.

Sometimes dancers are plagued with Plantar fasciitis, which is the inflammation of the plantar fascia that runs along the bottom of the foot. This tissue connects the heel to the base of the toes.  The tissue is essential to everyday movement such as walking and running.  Deep fascia, when functioning properly, allows muscles to move independently of each other without impingement on surrounding nerves and blood vessels.Under normal circumstances, the plantar fascia acts as a shock-absorbing “bowstring” within the arch of the foot. If tension on this “bowstring” becomes too great, irritation or inflammation can occur, causing pain. Chronic inflammation may eventually cause a heel spur.

In addition, tightness in plantar fascia can have unwanted repercussions in the lower leg especially tightness in the achilles tendon.  Both the plantar fascia and the achilles tendon connect to the heel bone (calcaneus).  This can hinder mobility in ankle movement, specifically when attempting to point the foot to its full range of motion and can cause undesirable pain resulting in achilles tendonitis.  

Stretching the achilles tendon, calf muscle and plantar fascia and strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot can improve foot mechanics and reduce stress on the foot.

You can use your FLX Ball to strengthen the intrinsic muscles and use the FLX Massage Balls to release tension. By applying myofascial release techniques and focusing on massaging pressure points within the foot with the FLX massage balls, the connective tissue of the foot is rehydrated making it more supportive, allowing the body to release long-held tension frequently leading to chronic pain symptoms.

Flexible Feet with Self Massage

Rolling and self massage are important parts of any dance or athletic program. Just like stretching you should roll every time you dance or exercise.  

Flexible Feet

WHY?:

  • Some light rolling before a workout will activate muscle fibers and bring blood to the areas that will be utilized during the activity. 
  • Releasing tension in your lower leg and foot will help to alleviate pain and regain flexibility and strength. 
  • Tight muscles can start pulling over time, which can cause the muscles to work improperly, leading to injury.
  • Tight muscles of the foot and ankle will decrease flexibility and limit the full range of motion that a dancer could move his\her foot.
  • Got tendonitis?! Applying these rolling techniques can help accelerate the healing process and when implemented into a daily routine can help avoid tendonitis due to repetitive strain as seen in many dancer related cases.  

When rolling with the ball apply self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques by rolling on the ball until you feel a “trigger point -  knotty, involuntary contractions of muscle bundles”, pause and hold for 10-30 seconds.  

FLX Massage Balls

Avoid applying pressure on bones and joint and just focus on the muscle. This pressure will help to release knots and tightness in the muscle. Implementing rolling into your routine is very beneficial for dancers and athletes and can:

  • aid in preventing injuries

  • physically de-stresses your body so it can work more efficiently

  • increase flexibility

  • increase blood flow, which helps for faster recovery from workouts

  • reduce soreness from workouts