within the population of dance teachers and students there
has been confusion in the past as to what that warm-up should
involve. Many in the Ballet world have believed that the first
few exercises at the barre are the warm-up, but this is not
so. The body needs to be thoroughly warmed up before any set
exercises take place if they are to be carried out as successfully
and safely as possible.
putting on an extra layer of clothing or turning up the heating
in the studio may mean the dancer feels warm, this does not
have the same effects on the body.
good warm-up is a group of exercises performed immediately
before an activity that provides the body with a period of
adjustment from rest to exercise. It is designed to improve
performance and reduce the chance of injury by preparing the
dancer mentally as well as physically.
warm-up should have the following beneficial effects:
make the muscles more stretchy.
This allows greater movement at the joints and reduces the
risk of injury. Muscle elasticity depends on how much blood
is running through it, so cold muscles with little blood in
them are more likely to become injured or damaged. Think of
muscle being like a blob of Blu-tack. When Blu-tack is cold
you can stretch it so far and then it will snap. But when
Blu-tack is warm you can stretch and stretch it and it feels
gooey. So it is with your muscles - it is simply the warm
blood rushing through the muscle that warms it up on the way
past and makes the muscle fibres more elastic. It's a bit
like the hot water in the radiator heating up the whole of
make your breathing faster and deeper.
This allows more oxygen to be breathed in and more carbon
dioxide to be breathed out. If you have warmed up well you
will feel less 'out of breath' in the exercise that follows
than if you try it from 'cold'.
make your heart best faster and stronger.
This delivers more oxygen and glucose to the muscles. Oxygen
and glucose are used as fuel to make energy, and then the
muscles use this energy to create movement.
increase the internal body temperature.
Capillaries in the skin will dilate (open up) and so you will
look more pink, or even red. You will also start sweating
as the intensity of the exercise increases. The reason you
sweat is to lose heat so that your body does not become dangerously
allow your nerve fibres to work more efficiently.
Messages carried down from the brain go to muscles, so these
muscles will react faster and in a more co-ordinated way.
Messages carried up to the brain tell it about what is happening
in the muscles and joints. The brain can then react by telling
the muscles to work in a certain way, and so many potential
mistakes and injuries are avoided.
allow time to focus.
This means the dancer can concentrate on the exercise to follow,
and if you are less distracted then you are less likely to
have an accident.
increase the range of movement available at joints.
This is due to an increase in the elasticity of the tendons,
muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues. So, for example,
you may find that your kicks are higher after a warm-up than
redistribute blood to where it is needed.
Blood is diverted away from some areas of the body (e.g. gut)
and into other areas (e.g. muscles and skin). This happens
suddenly when we have a sudden shock, such as nearly hitting
a car when riding a bicycle, or nearly slipping over on icy
ground. After these, our legs tend to shake and feel wobbly,
and we often feel 'sick' in our stomach. But if these same
changes happen more slowly (as in a warm-up) then this is
not a problem.
warm-up is necessary no matter how warm the environment. All
the above benefits can be obtained by a warm-up routine that
should include the following features in this order:
jogging, marching, skipping or similar rhythmical activity.
of a steady rhythmical nature involving other joints of the
body, such as gentle knee bends, arm swings, sways, trunk
rotation, step ball change. None of these should reach end
of range of movement so muscles and joints are not overstretched.
Incorporating arm movements at this stage will increase the
effects of the warm-up.
stretches to the large muscle groups, holding each stretch
for 10-15 seconds. An increase in flexibility through stretching
may reduce the incidence of muscle and tendon injuries. You
might want to stretch your quads, hamstrings, inside-thigh
and calf muscles at this time.
exercises, such as standing on one leg, then being able to
control bending and straightening the supporting leg and rising
on to demi-pointe.
long a warm-up takes will depend on your age and fitness level.
A young child would be exhausted if they had to jump around
for more than a couple of minutes, but a teenage student might
need to take 10-15 minutes to be fully warmed.
the fitter you are and the more often you train, the longer
your warm-up needs to be to have the same effects.
steps in the warm-up should be not overstretch you and should
not include sudden changes in direction, complicated leaps
or turns. Keep the steps simple and repetitive and leave the
technical bits to the class when the body is warmed up and
better able to cope with them. At the end of the warm-up you
should feel warm, relaxed and ready for action. If not, you
have either done too much, or not enough!
Cool-down at the end of class is also beneficial. After working
hard in class, it allows the body to gradually wind down towards
a resting state rather than suddenly stopping.
body will return to its pre-exercise state more quickly if
you perform light exercise during the recovery period than
should allow you to relax physically and mentally, and will
help to prevent muscle soreness and injury.
MSc BSc (Hons) CertEd (PCET) MCSP SRP AISTD
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