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As dancers, we all want to know how to improve flexibility and how to get flexible fast. But what are the techniques used to do this? We will teach you how to increase back flexibility, along with hip, and leg flexibility but to also teach you how to maintain it, and so maybe you can then teach others in the process. I’m sure you can all touch your toes and do the splits – well done! – but there is always more to be done and your body needs to be looked after to enable you to perform / dance to the best of your ability.
Warm Up And Take Your Time
Do not rush into any stretches and do anything before you have properly warmed up your body. It is important not to hurt yourself and not stretch too hard or too far to increase your flexibility. It is a marathon, not a sprint.
Really Listen To Your Body And Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
If there is a stretch that is too difficult and you really want to prove you can do it, maybe try a modified way of doing that particular stretch and build up to it over time. You do not want to pull a calf muscle or hurt your neck as everybody’s level of flexibility is different. Therefore, do not hold stretches too long and at the start of the class, holding stretches for 15 seconds is long enough. Towards the end of the class, holding them between 60-90 seconds is suggested.
Start With Dynamic Stretches To Increase Flexibility And Then Do Static Stretches Afterwards
Dynamic stretching is said to be “a type of sports fitness routine in which momentum and active muscular effort are used to stretch and the end position is not held.” These stretches tend to be those which demand more movement, warming your body up and those which increase your heart rate. These would include; hip circles, and backward lunges or leg swings.
You would then move onto static stretches, which you hold for longer periods of time, such as lying flat on the ground on your back, with one of your legs raised and pulling it into your chest and back out again to stretch the hamstrings.
There is a type of stretching called ballistic stretching which should be avoided if you are a beginner as it incorporates bouncing to rapidly stretch and then relax the muscles and tendons. It can lead to muscle strain and injury.
Use Strength Training
This will enhance your flexibility and can bring variety to your routine as a dancer. There are flexi straps that dancers can use to help you do this. I will explore this further when discussing particular stretches.
How do you build flexibility in a safe way and what types of exercises can I do to increase flexibility in legs?
Stand with your legs a bit further than shoulder width apart, and reach down to touch the ground. Hold the position for about 10 seconds. Then reach to the side and grab your ankle. Hold this again for 10 seconds. It is important to remember at this point, that if you cannot stretch all the way down fully to your ankle, then reach as far as you can. Repeat on the other side.
Turn back to the center, make sure both of your feet are turned out and with feet flat on the ground hold your ankles. Then bend and straighten your legs 5 times. It is like you are doing squats. Hold the position for 2 seconds when down near the ground each time.
When you are squatting for the 5th time, hold your legs at this position for 10 seconds, lifting up your chest and push back on your legs with your hands on your knees.
The next exercise will also increase hip flexibility. Go into a straddle and bend in one leg. Reach over the top of the straight leg and hold for 10 seconds. You can then reach over the top of the bent leg after this. Do not stretch too far, only do what you can. You can also repeat the stretch with the leg bent outwards behind you as well.
Butterfly stretch – you bend both legs in and push them together whilst sitting. This will increase the flexibility in your legs and hold for 100 seconds. For a deeper stretch, try and push your legs down to the ground. Hold for 10 seconds.
Pike stretch – sit down on the ground, with your legs stretched straight out in front of you. Reach forward to the end of your toes – or as far as you can – and hold for 10 seconds.
Cobra stretch – Bring your legs together. Keep the tops of your feet pressed to the floor, and as you inhale, peel your chest slowly off the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, down, and away from your ears. Keep your elbows pointed directly back. Bring your belly button to your spine to protect the low back.
Lie on your bag and bring the left leg towards your chest and then straighten it and stretch it out and back as far as you can over your head. Repeat using the right leg.
The following poses can additionally help to enhance your flexibility, as well as broadening the chest. You can use any such as; lunges, splits, the boat pose, the dolphin pose, the bridge pose, hand-to-big-toe pose. And for pure relaxation after all the poses to enhance your flexibility, try the legs up the wall pose – it’s a winner as it takes the pressure off your legs and feet!
It takes time and practice really does make perfect in this game. But go at your own pace and you will reap the benefits. People are always wanting a quick fix and ask how to improve flexibility fast? It is not entirely possible, but if you can use some of the techniques and exercises quoted above each day, then you will feel a difference and you will feel stronger and every move you make as a performer will come with more ease. Remember to maintain the stretches and physical motivation as if you take a break, you will find it harder to get back to the level of flexibility you had before. Little and often and commitment are both key to improving flexibility.
So that’s all for now on the basics of increasing your flexibility, but if you want to learn more, there are plenty of videos you can watch on YouTube which will take you through step by step each exercise. Any exercise which improves your hip flexibility and your legs will only lead to a more powerful dance performance. Happy stretching!
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