Stretching forms an important part of any exercise program. It is necessary to do stretches, so that athletes are not only able to perform incredibly, but are also able to deliver consistent perfection over the years to come and avoid consequences like long term muscle strain. When muscles are stretched properly and adequately on a regular basis, they become more flexible, and hence, less prone to injury. Improper stretching can put a lot of stress on the ligaments and damage them permanently, which needs to be avoided. Often athletes are asked to hold the stretch for a certain period of time. However, it is not the correct practice, as the time for which a person can hold the stretch varies from one individual to another. At the same time, the period for which a person can hold the stretch is different for the same individual on different days. Same is the case with ballet stretches. To attain the desired flexibility of the muscles, it is important that ballet flexibility stretches and exercises are performed consistently.
Ballet Flexibility Stretches
Before you start stretching, it is important that you warm up your muscles. Warm up is necessary, as it readies the body for the strenuous physical activity that is to follow. It also increases elasticity and the amount of blood flow to the muscles. Unlike in strength training, where the muscle fibers are actually broken and then they heal themselves, ballet stretches are such that they do not cause any damage to the body.
Stretch # 1
The most basic stretch, which a ballet dancer should learn, is the splits. They are important, as ballet dancers may have to do splits a number of times throughout the day.
- To do this stretch, sit on the floor, but keep your spine vertical and centered.
- Extend your legs out onto either sides and spread them as wide as you can.
- Rotate your torso towards the right and slowly as you breathe out move your torso over the leg, leading with the sternum.
- Hold in this position, until you feel that your muscles are relaxed.
- Slowly come back to the starting position and repeat for the left
Stretch # 2
To achieve flexibility in the legs, it is important to stretch the hamstring.
- Sit on the floor and extend your legs in front of you.
- Make sure you either point the toes of both your feet away from you or you flex them towards you.
- Now, exhale as you bend your upper body down over your legs, by extending the arms over the legs first.
- Hold this position, till you are relaxed and then come back to the starting position.
- Repeat the stretch by reversing the feet action. In other words, if you flexed your feet the first time around, now point them, and repeat the exercise.
Stretch # 3
Calf stretches are necessary in ballet dancing, as the calves are responsible for a number of ballet steps, which include relevé, pointing the toes, and balancing on demi-pointe or full-pointe.
- Position your feet by placing the right leg in front of the left leg.
- Keep your left foot straight, gradually bend your right knee and slightly lean forward using your upper body.
- As far as possible, try to keep the left heel on the floor, but don't strain yourself and ease back if you feel pressure on the front of the ankle.
- Hold the stretch until your calf muscles are relaxed and repeat the same for the other leg.
When you stretch body parts for flexibility, it important to understand that stretching is not a "no pain, no gain" exercise. It should be done gently and needs to be persuasive to the muscles. Stretching routines can also be designed so that all the muscles are stretched on a regular basis.