dancers are clear about the stretching they need to do. But
some of them don't actually do it, and others would be better
if they changed what they were doing!
of the stretching being carried out by dancers has been handed
down from teacher to student, and it isn't necessarily up
to date with the information we know these days.
There are many reasons to stretch. It might be:
increase muscle length permanently. For example, stretch the
hamstring muscles so that over time we can kick our leg higher
to the front.
prevent muscle bulk formation, especially the calf muscles
which a dancer wants to be strong and slim, not short and
prevent or alleviate delayed-onset muscle soreness. This is
when you ache the day after doing a new exercise, or after
doing more than you are used to.
disperse lactic acid build-up. This can build up if you have
worked a muscle really hard.
reduce tension in the muscle. Sometimes a muscle can hurt
if we have held an awkward position for a while, or if we
are very stressed.
increase elasticity temporarily. This is to make our muscles
more stretchy in the exercise that follows immediately after
reduce the risk of muscle injury. If a muscle is more stretchy
then it is less likely to be overstretched when we exercise.
part of a rehabilitation programme. Sometimes we are given
stretching exercises to help a muscle heal after an injury.
really need to know why you are stretching to make sure you
are doing the right type of stretching to achieve your goal.
muscles should we stretch?
This is a very individual matter. Many people stretch the
muscles that are already very flexible, because it looks good
to the people around them. But they should really be spending
time stretching their least flexible muscles, and those in
which they've had an injury in the past.
be specific to your activity. Choose the muscles that need
to be stretchy to allow you to do what you do safely. For
example, you might need to stretch different muscles before
a tap class than before a ballet class. Or it might be the
muscles that you have just worked hard in class that you need
to pay some attention to afterwards.
about what your activity requires and what your body needs.
- This is stretching that involves bouncing at the end of
a joint's range of movement, usually using body weight. A
typical example is the dancer, with one foot resting on the
barre, bouncing into box splits. This method is effective
at increasing muscle length, but carries a risk of causing
damage to muscle by overstretching.
Static - This is where the dancer moves a joint to a position
where they can feel tension in the muscle being stretched,
and hold that position still for an extended period. Studies
have shown this to work just as well as ballistic techniques,
but it doesn't carry the same risk of injury.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation - Some people call
this contract/relax. The dancer resists a partner pushing
their limb, then they relax and the partner moves their limb
further into range. This requires good communication between
the dancer and partner because only one of them can feel if
and when it hurts. Many professionals feel that this should
not be used by children and teenagers who are still growing.
No. Pain when stretching means muscle fibres are being torn.
These will heal with a scar tissue which is inelastic. It
will never act like normal muscle tissue, and is at greater
risk of problems in the future. The saying "No pain, no gain"
is just not true, and is dangerous.
should you stretch?
Always warm-up adequately. This means that muscles are at
their most flexible and least likely to get injured.
compete when stretching. Concentrate on what you need to achieve,
not how fabulous or pitiful the person next to you looks!
that stretching is an important part of cool-down and of injury
MSc BSc (Hons) CertEd (PCET) MCSP SRP AISTD
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