Research Associate at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries tells us her 2 favorite Flexistretcher exercises

Leigh Schanfein is a freelance dancer and research associate at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, NYU Langone Medical Center. Her current research at HCDI covers a wide range of topics concerning injury prevention among dancers. Leigh is on faculty at Barnard University as adjunct lecturer of biomechanics in the department of dance. She attended our recent training course and is a Certified FLX Conditioning Specialist, here are two of her favorite concepts with the Flexistretcher!


1. The Flexistretcher can be used to do really simple stretches. // You totally do not need any tool in order to do these stretches; I can easily hold my leg with my hands and pull it towards my face and stretch my hamstring, for example. But, the stupidly simple thing I discovered was that by using the strap around my back to hold my leg instead of using my arms, I could completely relax my upper body during the stretch. This was such a new sensation and makes all the sense in the world - when we do a battement or developpe devant, or any movement really, we want to do it without tension in the upper body, to look effortless and to have freedom to move the upper body separately, so the ability to stretch without upper body tension directly trains this. I’m so late the the game to discover this, but I’m so glad I did. It also means you can more easily do PNF (proprioceptive-neuromuscular facilitation) with yourself.

certified flx conditioning specialist

2. The second concept is that by having the Flexistretcher crossing the opposite shoulder in any arabesque-type stretch, it really enforced keeping the torso square to extend both sides of the back and to contract muscles on both sides as equally as possible. Because the band has elasticity, it makes you have to work in the stretch in all directions (it helps stabilize but won’t hold it for you) so instead of, say, a right arabesque making you work super hard with the glutes and spinal muscles on the right side, the band encourages both sides of the back to work for it. You can also use your hip flexors to engage them through that unique range of motion, the adductors, internal or external rotators - basically there is this combination of support and resistance in every direction. This felt amazing for me since I have ligament laxity in my spine and need to target symmetrical strength throughout my spine and pelvis.

FLX Conditioning Specialist Training

Interested in attending the next FLX Conditioning Specialist Training?

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About FLX Training Methods: Adhering to the technical requirements and desired aesthetic for which elite level dancers and top athletes strive for, FLX offers a researched training approach of flexibility conditioning techniques combined with methods of pilates, yoga and sports conditioning for optimal results in mobility and strength. Utilizing the elastic resistance and fully adjustable straps, the Flexistretcher® allows one to perform dance-specific or sport-specific movement patterns, concentrating on improvements in execution and mobility. Elastic resistance training methods have been used by top coaches, trainers and rehabilitation experts for decades. Implementing these training methods with the Flexistretcher® allows one to extend their range of motion, without the limitations of gravity, optimizing improvements in flexibility and functional strength. Functional and versatile, the Flexistretcher® is a great tool to implement into your training routine from the studio, gym or home. 

The Flexistretcher®: Harnessing the power of elastic resistance, the Flexistretcher® has become the training tool of choice by professional dancers globally.

WHY?    The Flexistretcher® is used for facilitated stretching which is an active way of stretching that engages isometric contractions to achieve greater flexibility. Utilizing elastic resistance allows for a variable resistance throughout out an exercise, not relying on gravity, and requiring muscle activation throughout the stretch. Furthermore, as the person stretches the band, the resistance increases, challenging the muscles and allowing a full range of motion. The shorter the straps are adjusted the tighter the tension, raising the intensity of the exercise. Working against this resistance forces the muscle to respond with increased effort, which promotes muscle growth, strength, and power.  Lightweight and portable, working with the Flexistretcher® allows you to keep up with your flexibility and strength conditioning routine and create a series of tailored exercises from the studio, theatre or gym.

Learn the fundamentals of the Flexistretcher® and resistance training methods. By incorporating these methods into your personal training or teaching practice you can extend your knowledge and effectively help your clients or students build functional strength while increasing mobility. 

What you will achieve from the course:

  • Master the fundamentals of elastic resistance training methods with the Flexistretcher®.
  • Familiarize yourself with key techniques to safely increase flexibility and strength.
  • Learn exercises and stretches tailored to complement classical ballet training.
  • Strengthen weakness and release muscle tightness to avoid injury and incorrect alignment.
  • Certified FLX Conditioning Specialists (CFCS ) will be able to implement an effective flexibility and strength training program in a class setting.
  • Throughout the intensive 2 day course you will learn the basics of working with the Flexistretcher®, the FLX Ball and the FLX Infinity Ball.

Follow this link to register:  http://flexistretcher.com/pages/flx-conditioning-specialist-application

Have questions? Send an email to admin@flxnyc.com with FLX Training Interest in the Subject Line.

**Prerequisite required. One of the following background can apply: Extensive dance\ballet background, professional dancer, fitness training or certificate, Pilates, yoga, college dance program, extensive sport background**

Strength Training with the Flexistretcher

Every flexibility routine should be paired with a strength routine. Strength training, or resistance exercise, has been used for performance enhancement in rehabilitation and sport-specific activity for years. Working with the Flexistretcher allows one to simulate functional dance or sport specific movements, while increasing strength with a more targeted focus.

What is muscular strength? Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle to exert a maximal force against an object.

What is strength training? Strength training can be defined as a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction which builds strength.

FLX products can be utilized to trigger the 3 key muscular contractions to improve strength.  Here's how: 

1.) Eccentric Contraction:  Elastic resistance provides this type of muscle contraction by lengthening the muscle as it resists a force, emphasizing the return phase of the movement.

When using the Flexistretcher, not letting the band snap back to place, and actively controlling the return phase of the movement, involves challenging the muscles with an eccentric contraction.

2.) Concentric Contraction:  Involves the muscle shortening while contracting against resistance.

An example of this type of contraction with the Flexistretcher is a bicep curl.  The muscles are challenged with a concentric contraction on the up phase of this exercise, so that as the loops are pulled closer to you, a concentric contraction is involved.

3.) Isometric Contraction:  Occurs when the muscles exert force, but there is no change in length or movement of the joint.  

Stretching with the Flexistretcher actively engages the muscles isometrically to maintain the position, such as the ballet arabesque position.

Expert Tip: The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that a strength training program should be performed a minimum of two non-consecutive days each week, with one set of 8 to 12 repetitions for healthy adults or 10 to 15 repetitions for older and frail individuals. Eight to 10 exercises should be performed that target the major muscle groups.

To advance your strength training practice, focus on....

  • Adjusting the level of resistance
  • varying the number of repetitions
  • changing the pace of the exercise,

Active Stretching for Optimal Results

Two common stretching techniques are passive and active stretching.

Passive vs. Active

Passive Stretching

  • Also known as relaxed stretching.
  • involves a partner or external force applying additional pressure to increase the intensity of a stretch with no muscle activation relying on the force of gravity.
  • This type of slow, relaxed stretching is useful in relieving spasms in muscles after an injury.
  • Performing a split is an example of a passive stretch.

Active Stretching

  • The key to effective stretching with the Flexistretcher is engaging an active stretch based on proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).
  • The PNF stretching techniques employs the concept that the muscle relaxation part of the stretch is fundamental to effectively enhancing flexibility and deepen the stretch.
  • A popular PNF technique is the contract-relax, where the muscle is stretched, contracted, relaxed, and stretched further.
Cow Face Pose

By using the methods of active stretching while using your Flexistretcher, you are simultaneously strengthening the muscles while improving mobility. In ballet this is an extremely beneficial way to work because you are able to improve strength with a more targeted focus. Developing the necessary strength to perform fundamental movements required in ballet such as an arabesque or développé à la seconde is equally as important as flexibility to execute properly. 

Is the Flexistretcher beneficial when you are already flexible?

Absolutely! We recommend attaining a certain level of flexiblity before performing the advanced stretches with your Flexistretcher. The Flexistretcher not only allows you to stretch in functional dance positions, but lets you strengthen while in the pose. The ultimate goal is not just gaining the flexibility required, but the strength necessary to sustain the movement. 

Flexibility paired with strength is imperative for functional movements required of ballet or a particular sport.  In ballet and most sports, extreme mobility and strength are mandatory to accomplish even the most introductory movements and necessary to advance to the top of your field. 

Flexistretcher

Utilizing the elastic resistance when performing stretches or exercises with the Flexistretcher increases muscle strength in a safe, productive manner.

How?  

As the band stretches, resistance increases, providing a stimulus to the muscle. This resistance does not rely on gravity.  Instead, elastic resistance requires muscle activation throughout the muscle’s range of motion, eliminating the possibility of using momentum and ‘cheating’ your way through the exercise. Moreover, strength training with elastic resistance provides variable resistance to promote the development of muscular strength and endurance. In a variable resistance exercise, the force applied to the muscle varies at each stage in order to create constant tension, causing the muscle to work harder to execute the movement.

The result is a stronger more controlled execution of functional movements necessary to be at the top of your game!

Muscular Imbalances can Lead to Injury

Muscular imbalances can lead to compensating and incorrect form which can result in injury. The repetitive nature of ballet and most sports can cause certain muscle groups to work way more than others leading to a muscular imbalance. This type of work can inhibit a dancer or athlete from attaining peak performance if a weakness or tightness is never addressed.

A Common area of muscular imbalance for dancers tend to be the muscles of the hip:

1. Tight hip flexors

2. Imbalance between deep external rotators vs inward rotators

3. Tight and weak hip abductors:  The ability to externally rotate or turn out the hip is fundamental to ballet

Supplemental hip strengthening is important because dance requires the strength to hold the legs in high ranges of motions that are not utilized in normal day activities.  One might choose to only strengthen a certain area required for a certain movement, however for the elite-level dancer a more balanced set of exercises is necessary for perform the advanced movements correctly and avoid injury. Make sure to address each of the muscle groups of the hip; the hip flexors, extensors, internal rotators, external rotation, hip abductors, and adductors.

In order to keep your body in peak performance ... be aware of these common muscular imbalances and make sure to work on them in your daily strength and stretch routines.
Some exercises to practice for the hip are: 

  • Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Monster walk to strengthen Hip Abductors
  • External rotation hip abductor exercise

Strengthen the hip abductors and improve leg height to the side

Katrina Motley Side Développé

Extreme range of motion at the hip is essential to achieve the desired dance aesthetic. The ability to externally rotate or turn out the hip is fundamental to ballet.

Strengthening the hip abductors is key for achieving a high leg height to the side in a développé or extension. This muscle group is responsible for lifting the leg to the side.

However, a common muscular imbalance found in dancers is tight and weak abductors. Muscular imbalances can lead to compensating and incorrect form, which can result in injury. The repetitive nature of ballet and most sports can cause certain muscle groups to work way more than others leading to a muscular imbalance. This type of work can inhibit a dancer or athlete from attaining peak performance if a weakness or tightness is never addressed.

Strengthen the abductors with monster walks.

MONSTER WALKS:

SET UP: Standing with legs shoulder-width apart on the foam pad, take the loops in your hands. Slightly bend the elbows, keeping them glued by your side (not going behind you), with palms facing up, maintaining a bicep curl. Pull up enough so you feel resistance in your legs and arms.

ACTION:

Begin by pressing out with your right leg and step diagonally forward.

Repeat with the left, and continue with 10 walks forward and 10 walks back. Make sure to keep your legs shoulder-width apart as you walk, and keep the tension in the band.

REPETITION: Begin with 5 walks forward and 5 walks back

SETS:   3-5 sets

CUES:  Watch out for the pelvis tilting. Keep the hip bones level and concentrate on movement in the leg only.

MODIFICATIONS: Take smaller or bigger steps.

MUSCLES TARGETED: abductors and glutes

The muscles acting in the hip abduction are:

1) Gluteus Medius

2) Gluteus Minimum

3) Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)

4) Sartorius

References:  Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology,  Karen S. Clippinger

Flexibility training techniques

When looking to improve your flexibility it is very beneficial to understand the different techniques involved, which ones are proven more beneficial, and how to apply them to your flexibility routine.

Rachel Hamrick

An educated dancer is a healthy one! Don't let injury set you back. You might not see an injury right away, but frequent muscle misuse can result in incorrect form, causing an injury years down the line.

Ballistic stretching

The oldest technique is the ballistic stretch, which consists of repetitive bouncing movements and uses a swinging momentum of the trunk or limb, forcing the limb into an extended range of motion when the muscle has not relaxed enough to enter it.

The trouble with ballistic stretching is that it is not well controlled and the end position is not held, so it is easy to over extend and risk injury. These movements should only be performed when the dancer/athlete is well warmed up or they could potentially cause an injury to muscle tissue, tendon or muscle connective tissue.

This type of stretching should be performed with caution and has been virtually abandoned by almost all experts in the field due to safety concerns.

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching incorporates movements that mimic a specific sport or exercise in an exaggerated yet controlled manner; often include during the warm-up or in preparation for a sports event.

As an example of dynamic stretching for ballet, a controlled développé to the front or side dynamically stretches the hamstrings as it reaches maximal height.

This type of stretching is best for getting the body ready for an activity and used as a warm up. These stretches should be performed slowly to start and gradually increase the speed and power of the movement.

Passive stretching

Passive stretching is a technique in which you are relaxed with no muscle activation relying on the force of gravity. This type of slow, relaxed stretching is useful in relieving spasms in muscles after an injury. 

Static stretching

Static stretching involves holding a position and elongating the muscle to its tolerance. That is, you stretch to the farthest point and hold the stretch.

Once in the stretch position, remain in that position for 30 seconds, then relax. Each stretch should be repeated three to four times.Static stretches should never create a sharp or painful feeling. As one relaxes into the stretch, there may be a very slight lengthening of the muscle (stress-relaxation),but there is no rapid limb movement as in ballistic stretch. The stretching force is often created by gravity acting on the body. This force is applied in a slow and steady manner, and it is important to continue regular breathing throughout the stretch. 

Active stretching

Active stretching is one of the methods of stretching most used by today's dancers, athletes, athletic trainers, coaches, and professionals. This type of stretch requires muscle activation with no use of momentum to move into a deeper range of motion. With active stretching you are able to increase flexibility safely while simultaneously strengthening the muscles. This is crucial for movements in ballet because the goal is to have the strength necessary to hold the limbs in an extreme range of motion and be able to move through these positions with ease and control.

When engaging an active stretch a common technique proven beneficial is proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). The PNF stretching techniques employs the concept that the muscle relaxation part of the stretch is fundamental to effectively enhancing flexibility and deepen the stretch. A popular PNF technique is the contract-relax, where the muscle is stretched, contracted, relaxed, and stretched further.

The Mighty Psoas

Taking a look at Jacqui Greene Haas’s Dance Anatomy offers great insight into the workings of the psoas muscle in relation to dance-specific movements.

The iliopsoas consists of a group of three muscles. The iliacus, the psoas major, and the psoas minor which are located in the inner part of the abdomen attaching at the bottom of the thoracic spine(T12) and along the lumbar spine(through L4) and pass down over the front of the hip joint, attaching at the top of the femur(thigh bone). The main action of the iliopsoas is to flex the thigh at the hip joint and is key for dancers to lift the knee above 90 degrees and hold the leg at above average heights.  

One topic discussed in his work is that of the important iliopsoas muscle. Weakness and tightness of the iliopsoas can result in mis-alignments of the lower back and pelvis, which then affect the legs and stability of the spine.  

Since the iliopsoas originates on the anterior aspect of the lower-spine vertebrae, when it is tight it pulls the lower spine resulting in a tilting of the front pelvis forward. Dancing in this anterior pelvic tilt and lower back arch creates an inactivity of the abdominals and adductors.

A weak or tight psoas muscle can "snap" which is  a common occurrence in dancers.  Snapping hip syndrome occurs when the iliopsoas tendon moves over the head of the femur.  This is common in extreme leg movements such as a grand battement or developpe a la seconde. Hass states that “Maintaining strength with turnout throughout an entire range of motion allows the iliopsoas to function in a position that reduces the snapping. Maintaining the flexibility can also help keep the tendon from snapping.”

Here are two exercises to help strengthen and stretch this important muscle!

Try this great psoas stretch: 

Psoas Stretch

Here is a great abdominal exercise to help strengthen the psoas:

Psoas Strengthener

Hold the Flexistretcher pulled to a slight tension directly over your chest. Keep your arms held in this fixed position. Scissor your legs hitting the top leg into the center of the strap and switch legs. Lower your arms if your leg is unable to reach the strap. Repeat 15-20 times.

 

Functional Training Advantage: Dance Fitness

Significant advances have been made in the progress of physical conditioning and physical fitness.

 

In the 1960’s, it was common for an athlete to “play themselves” into shape or for professional dancers to “dance themselves” into shape. Since then, we have come a long way. As competitive and skill demands started to rise, it became more apparent that implementing a supplemental conditioning routine tailored to a specific sport or type of dance would enhance individual performance.

In dance, the body is the instrument of the dancer. He or she must make sure to maintain the body in top physical shape to keep up with the demands of current choreographic work and avoid injury. As discussed in an article on Dance Fitness by the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS),

“It has been found that there is a discrepancy in the physical intensity level between training, rehearsal, and performance. This means that training methods, which are generally based on tradition, are not sufficient to help prepare dancers for the higher, more physically demanding aspects of performance.”  

In a well-rounded dance conditioning program, it is necessary to consider all the components of fitness: 

  1. Aerobic fitness – associated with moderate, longer-term levels of activity.
  2. Anaerobic fitness – associated with high intensity,maximal, short bursts of activity. • Muscle endurance – the ability of a muscle to produce continuous movement.
  3. Strength – the ability of a muscle to produce a maximal force on one occasion.
  4. Power – the explosive (speed-related) aspect of strength.
  5. Flexibility – the range of motion at a joint in association  with the pliability of a muscle.
  6. Neuromuscular coordination – associated with balance, agility, coordination and skill.
  7. Body composition – the make-up of body weight by percentage of muscle and fat.
  8. Rest – a period of no activity, to allow for recovery and regeneration.

According to IADMS, as we understand and develop more appropriate dance training methodologies, dancers can reap the benefits of enhanced performance, reduced injury and ultimately longevity in their careers.  Implementing a supplemental conditioning routine will help maintain a dancer in elite form and help them advance, rather than always recovering from injury. 


The Body as a Sculptor of Artistry

Classic Ballet

“Dance design is not simply one element; it is that without which ballet cannot exist. As aria is to opera, words to poetry, color to painting, so sequence in steps -- their syntax, idiom, vocabulary -- are the stuff of stage dancing.” --LINCOLN KIRSTEIN, Forward- Four Centuries of Ballet.

Luciana Voltolini for FLX, Renata Pavam Photography

Luciana Voltolini for FLX, Renata Pavam Photography

Ballet is based in the traditions of the past beginning in the royal courts of King Louis XIV. The qualities of grace, beauty and regality were instilled as foundations in the balletic tradition. From there, the stage was set to create an art form that revels in the power of the body to not only serve as means of conveying these elegant qualities but allowing the artist to communicate his or her beauty and artistry.

The tradition of Ballet has surpassed these early foundations into the creation of the pointe shoe along with high extensions, precision of movement, and turnout (outward rotation of the hip). Complicated movement patterns that depicted demanding steps and showed off leaps and turns were choreographed into the stories of the classical ballets. Tutus evolved into shorter forms as well in order to further show off and demonstrate the movements of the legs.

As Kirstein states, it is not simply one element that contributes to the creation of the balletic design and this design has and continues to evolve from its beginning. While the courts of King Louis emphasized the subtle beauty of regal movements, ballet dancers since that time must now work to add physicality and strength. They must join these traits to complete the movement patterns required of choreographic standards of the current dance world and to appear effortless in these moments of movement. The body then becomes a means of artistic expression, divulging the dancer’s soul.

With ballet further evolving into the future as an art form that showcases how powerful the body can be, the increase in the flexibility allows dancers to more fully connect with audiences both emotionally and physically.  The artist is a sculpture who uses their body to transmit artistic expression.

Ballet dancers are accomplished athletes and artists who strive to push the standards of the past. An increase in the skill and athleticism of the ballet dancer allows the artist to more freely express themselves in the movement. Transforming the technical foundation that takes years of fine tuning into art is the beauty of the individual artist and of ballet itself.

The Value of the Adductors for All Athletes

Cow Face Pose with Flexistretcher

Different arenas and actions, but the same muscles, react to achieve an injury free success in all athletic movements: the co-contraction of the hip adductors and hip abductors.

Studies have shown that the lower body has an important role in increasing the speed of the throwing motion of baseball pitching. Maintaining mobility in the hip is important for baseball players to be able to take larger strides.  For example, one of the most common problems with pitchers is lack of hip mobility, which can have detrimental effects on mechanics, velocity, and long term arm health.

The hip adductors are responsible for stabilizing the pelvis and moving the leg towards the midline of the body (adduction).   In dance, the adductors are activated when the legs are drawn together, especially in jumps that have leg beats in the air.  

Maintaining a balance between the hip abductors and the hip adductors is a mechanism that ensures pelvic security and stability." -Jacqui Greene, Dance Anatomy

The balance between the muscles of the hips allows for the body to react quickly in jumps, runs, or kicks in addition to more complicated movement patterns that arise in choreographies.

 

How to Prevent Hip Adductor Injury

Hip adductor injuries occur most commonly when there is a forced push-off (side-to-side motion). High forces occur in the adductor tendons when the athlete must shift direction suddenly in the opposite direction. As a result, the adductor muscles contract to generate opposing forces. By incorporating these practices into your training, you can avoid hip injuries and up your performance potential: 

    • Spend some time warming up:  A warm up works by slowly increasing heart rate and blood flow in the body in order to prepare the body for class and/or rehearsal. A good warm up is important before engaging in any form of athletic activity to prevent injury. 

 

    • Implement a Flexibility Training Program: This is necessary to maintain a healthy range of movement and allow the body to move freely within the movement patterns that are asked of it. 

 

    • Cross train with Yoga: Many yoga poses are hip openers that stretch the groins and adductors, which allow for greater range of motion.  A consistent yoga practice will help you prevent injury while increasing flexibility in the hips.  We recommend this yoga practice that you can do at home with your Flexistretcher.

The Science of Flexibility

Within a given sport or dance form, flexibility is specific to the demands of the profession and particular patterns of flexibility are related to frequent or unique joint movements.

Julia Lipari

In these fields, successes and failures are visible for all to see. In a dance context, one can do little to hide a poor arabesque or failed grande jete.  According to the Michael J. Alter, the author of Science of Flexibility, the word flexibility can be defined in several different ways depending on the discipline or the nature of the research. In physical education, sports medicine and allied health sciences, the simplest definition of flexibility is the range of motion (ROM) available in a joint or group of joints.  Many researchers and clinical investigations of flexibility use the maximal joint range of motion (ROM) as the dependent variable to measure flexibility.

Alter's research is a great reference, providing a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of stretching and flexibility.  Here are some key points from his study that will give you a better understanding on the actual science behind functional flexibility and training: 

  1. Functional flexibility is unique to each sport or dance style: The ability to use the full range of motion within a joint at normal or rapid speed in high performance physical activity refers to "functional flexibility."
  2. There is a distinct difference between fast and slow functional flexibilities: An example of slow functional flexibility in ballet is the ability of the dancer to raise and hold the leg at extremes height. Conversely, an example of fast functional flexibility is a grande jete or split jump.
  3. Flexibility training programs are necessary. They help you to maintain a healthy ROM and allow the body to move freely within the movement patterns that are asked of it.
  4. Stretching and ROM exercises are not the same. Stretching takes soft tissue structures beyond their available length to increase ROM. ROM exercises are used to work within the limits in order to maintain the available length of tissue.

The potential benefits of a flexibility training program for your functional needs are limitless. Set your goals and grab your Flexistretcher.  

The Principle of Overload

Sometimes it is difficult to maintain goals and intent amidst our routine of exercises that we complete day in and day out. It is simple to just go through the motions. However in these moments, we need to remember the importance of completing the specific goal of each exercise with intent and correct form.

Melanie Hamrick
“All exercises require control through the full range of motion and initiating movement through momentum and allowing gravity to take over the completion of the movement should be avoided." -Jacqui Green Haas, author of Dance Anatomy.

With a renewed intent to complete exercises with control and maximum skill and efficiency, you can then take on the "principle of overload" to further increase your strength and work muscle groups past their normal load. 

As a dancer and athlete who is more attuned to the focus of each exercise, you maintain maximal contraction throughout the entire range of motion for a more effective routine.  This more efficient training uses fewer repetitions and more resistance, and it works your muscles to fatigue, giving you visible results in the areas you hope to improve. 

4 Facts about Stretching

 
Flexistretcher Front Split

1. What is stretching?    

Stretching is actively working to increase a range of motion around a joint. 

2. Why stretch?

Stretching is a simple and effective way to enhance athletic performance, decrease the chance of injury, and minimize muscle soreness.

When you increase range of motion in joint you increase the distance the limbs can move and contract. By improving flexibility you reduce risk of injury because your joints are better able to move through their full range of motion.

This can improve the muscle’s power, and your ability to actively control the muscles, resulting in a better execution of movement and an enhanced performance.

Other added benefits of stretching are improved posture, improved circulation by increasing blood flow to the muscles, increased energy levels, reduced muscle tension, and stress release.

3. What are the Dangers of poor flexibility?

Tight stiff muscles limit normal range of motion and interfere with correct muscle actions. This can greatly increases the chance of becoming injured and is why you must keep up with a daily stretching routine. 

4. Stretching is not a one time magic wand!

The benefits of stretching can be accomplished when flexibility training is applied professionally and diligently over an extended period of time. Do not expect miracles from a stretching routine it takes time, dedication, and determination!

Finding a Neutral Pelvis to Achieve Better Alignment

Learning how to find and maintain a neutral pelvis is key to core stabilization and learning and practicing this correct form will help to avoid injury and overuse of other muscles groups.

There are three natural curves in a healthy spine:

Neutral Pelvis
  1. The neck or cervical spine, which curves gently inward
  2. The mid back, or thoracic spine, which curves outward
  3. The low back, or lumbar spine, which also curves inward

It is important to maintain the neutral alignment of these curves to assist with cushioning the spine from excessive stress or strain. Learning how to maintain a neutral spinal alignment will also help to stabilize the spine during strenuous, advanced movement patterns.

As the pelvis is rotated forward in an anterior tilt the curve of the lumbar spine increases and as the pelvis is rotated back in a posterior tilt the curve of the lumbar spine is flattened. Both of these exaggerated positions can cause changes to the structure of the spinal curves that in turn potentially cause pain as well altered movement patterns

Finding Neutral Pelvis, Anterior and Posterior Pelvic Tilt:

The anterior, or front, group of muscles includes the hip flexors. The posterior, directed toward or situated toward the back, group of muscles includes the hip extensors, which consist of the hamstrings and the Gluteus maximus.

Photo by Gene Schiavone

Photo by Gene Schiavone

Setup

Lying supine, legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Arms long by sides of the body.

Action

  • Inhale as you pull your navel in and up, tucking the pelvis under.
  • This will bring your spine to an imprinted position, where your entire spine is pressed into the floor.
  • Exhale tilting the pelvis anteriorly, feeling your sitz bones reaching toward your heels and coming into a neutral spine by finding your natural curve in the lumbar spine.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Cues

  • Keep legs parallel with your toes, heels, knees and hips all in one line.

Dancer Tip! Proper or neutral pelvic alignment allows for efficient execution of movements and effective muscle recruitment, which is the building block for achieving the aesthetic line and skillfully accomplishing the movement patterns required in dance.       



Stretching the Adductors is Critical to Dance and Sports Performance

The main function of the adductors, or group inner thigh muscles, is to adduct the hip joint or move the leg closer to the midline of the body. The adductors play a key role in most daily activities including sitting and standing (hip flexion and extension), walking, running and are critical to dance or sports performance.

adductors

Keeping the adductor muscles supple can increase the range of motion your hips can move and reduce your risk of straining these muscles. A review published in the 2009 issue of "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" states that there is a strong correlation between a lack of hip adductor flexibility and an increase risk of hip injuries among soccer players and other athletes. When taking the leg into extreme ranges of motion such as when the soccer player kicks the ball vigorously into the goal or a dancer grand battements to the side, the risk of a groin pull increases if the balance does not exist between the hamstrings and the hip adductors.  A groin pull is common with higher leg extensions, running, jumping or sudden changes in motion-all common to sports and dance. 

Many dancers and athletes concentrate on stretching only certain areas of the thigh, the hamstrings and quadriceps.  But as we take our legs wider apart we become immediately aware of Adductors, a group that is too often ignored by most dancers and athletes. Unlike Hamstring focused stretches, Adductor stretches force us to take our Femur (thigh) bone away from its very stable ball and socket joint where it inserts in the hip.  Focus on stretches that lengthen the adductors, creating a balance with the hamstrings.  Here are some of our stretch suggestions for keeping the adductors supple to prevent injury: 

1.) If your hip adductors are moderately tight, take this supine inner thigh stretch with the Flexistretcher while lying on your back.

adductorballetstretch

Make sure to use the same rules of good alignment that you would use in any other forward bend (straight spine, shoulders away from the ears), even if this means that you go only half as far as you might expect.

2.) If you are ready to challenge your body a bit more, take a similar pose in Prasarita Padottanasana, or wide legged forward bend.  

Wide Legged Forward Fold

3.) Try the seated wide leg forward fold, Upavistha Konasana.  

Seated Wide Legged Forward Fold

4.) Middle split with the Flexistretcher utilizes elastic resistance to encourage full muscle activation and provides a challenge. 

Flexistretcher Middle Split