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Training Tips

 

Depending on the amount of training the dancer is on, the overall hours spent the studio may not be enough. This text includes some tips that may prove useful, for when work in the studio or the gym is not possible. This may be due to holiday season breaks, weather conditions or unavailability of the venue.

 

There are many ways dancers/gymnasts can ensure they stay on top of their training and progress. Whether this consists of work in a gym or individually done at home, the more work that happens both in the studio and out, the better the progression for each individual.

 

Firstly, it is important the dancer knows what their strengths and weaknesses are. What areas could do with improving? What does not need working on? Double the work means double the speed of improvement, and it shows your teacher your dedication, passion and work ethic.

 

red flagIf not done correctly, incorrect training can lead to injuries and even create further problems for the body in the future.

 

Whilst working on yourself may be encouraged, dancers and parents need to ensure the work happening at home is executed with the correct technique, and that the dancer is working the correct areas. Every individual has different needs, therefore it is important they know what their strong and weak areas are. If the dancers or parents are unsure how a particular move/exercise should be practised, asking the tutor to show and explain this would be the most sensible plan of action.

 

If working on certain exercises for flexibility or tricks seems scary, there are plenty of low level stretches that can be done to simply maintain flexibility, rather than to extend.

 

hamstring stretchHamstring stretches

 

Pike/forward fold: A simple yet effective exercise, which can be done at any time or space. If the dancer is quite hypermobile, progress the move by flexing the feet against a wall. This will extend the muscles further, allowing a more intense stretch. If this is still not achieving the desired stretch, the move can be progressed further by propping the legs on a higher level (e.g chair, blocks).

 

One leg standing pike folds:

 

one leg standing pike foldsUsually performed as part of a warm-up exercise for hamstrings, this move is also pretty easy to do in any space. Hold the stretch for at least ten seconds, before stepping through with the other leg. For an increased stretch, try pulling on the back leg with your arms. Repeat exercise until you reach the end of the space.

 

P.s If the space available is limited, simply turn around and repeat down the area once more.

 

Stretches with a theraband

 

There are many stretches that can be done with the aid of a thereband, and it is becoming an essential tool in many dancers/gymnasts training.

 

Some exercises may include stretches for:

 

• Legstheraband stretch
• Shoulders
• Feet

 

The benefit of using a theraband is that it creates a light stretch, and depending on your flexibility, you can adjust how hard a stretch you wish to create. This is the advantage of having a theraband designed with numbered sections, as shown in the image below.

 

theraband

 

If the aim is to increase flexibility, each stretch should be held for up to 30 seconds or more.
As the muscle relaxes throughout the exercise, push slightly further into the stretch.

 

dancerA strong dancer is a healthy dancer.

 

More areas your dancer could work on at home are those focusing on strengthening the body. This is always encouraged, as it ensures the body is strong enough to be able to execute the required exercises, without causing strain during moves such as when holding a balance, performing a leap, or when performing dances that require stamina. This also ensures the body is strong enough for all the elements which require flexibility, which if not strong enough, can also cause injuries for the dancer.

 

Conditioning exercises

 

This area is usually quite specific to what each individuals needs are. There is no need to bulk up muscle where you don’t need to. However, below are attached some basic pilates/conditioning exercises, which will cover the bases in the required areas for dancers.

 

Clams:

 

When executed correctly, this exercise can provide a strong basis – mainly working on the glutes. To add extra resistance, add a theraband/elastic.

 

clamswith or without a therabandclams with theraband

 

• Whilst performing this exercise it is important that the body remains straight. You can monitor this by either lying across a line on the floor, or by lightly placing your back against a wall (beware of leaning on the wall/try pushing the hip off the wall)
• During the exercise it is also vital that the core is engaged. Activate the lower core by imagining a belt tightening around those muscles – REMEMBER TO KEEP BREATHING -
• Imagine trying to fit a penny just above your hip/stomach, to create a small gap from the floor. This is to maintain the alignment of the spine during the exercise
• To do this, you may want to lie flat on the floor, rather than propped on one elbow (as shown in the pictures above)

 

Glute Bridges

 

glute bridgesThere are many variations to a glute bridge. The simplest and first version you will require working on, before progressing to the next step would be keeping both feet planted on the ground, whilst executing the move.

 

• During this move, it is important to roll through the spine both on the way up – and on the way down. Start this by firstly rotating the pelvis. Then following, bit by bit feel each vertebrae of the spine peeling off the floor. The same should be executed during the decline in reverse
• Engaged glute muscles
• Engaged core muscles
• Breathing

 

Progressions of this could be done as:

 

• Repeat exercise with a theraband (keeping the knees hip width apart and steady)
• One leg glute bridges
• Arms raised
• With a weight in your hands/on stomach
• Back propped on a raised surface

 

Superman

 

supermanBegin the exercise with both knees and arms on the floor.

 

• Ensure arms are in line under your shoulders
• Knees hip width apart
• Core activated
• Find the middle ground with your back. Create a happy cat, a sad cat and then find your centre in the middle
• To perform the move, begin to lift the opposite arm to leg
• Ensure glute muscles are also engaged, to enable the leg lift
• It is important that you try to maintain the square body (shoulders, hips) as much as possible throughout the exercise
• Head in line with spine
• Try to keep the weight in the middle, rather than leaning on one side during the lift
• And as always... Keep breathing! 

 

Foot exercises

 

It is possibly every dancers dream to have beautiful curved beaks when pointing their feet. While improvement is possible, it is important to note that everyone has different types of feet. Whether flat footed or naturally hypermobile, is it essential you consult with your doctor before attempting any of the following recommended exercises.

 

Towel or pen:
foot exercise towel
Begin on the edge of the towel, and reach the end by scrunching your toes to pull.
Another workout with the same effect is placing pens/pencils on the floor and trying to pick them up with your toes. Also a great workout set out as a game (e.g ‘who can pick up the most in a minute?’).

 

Rolling:
foot exercise roll
This exercise can be used on anything curved, such as a tennis ball, gold ball, massage balls or specifically crafted tools for dancers.

 

Releves
foot exercise releves
Simple yet effective, and can be done in any space. Pushing as high as you can on your releve, making sure the heels stay together, knees stay locked and that the dancer’s core and glute muscles remain engaged throughout the exercise. Great for strengthening the desired muscles of the feet, and also a good strengthening exercise for the calves.

 

*Exercise can be adapted and progressed by executing it from a raised surface (e.g steps).

 

Another easy foot exercise is simple point and flex movements on the floor. Working through the feet, extend as much as possible through the point – before re-flexing the feet.

 

Massaging the foot

 

foot massagePossibly the one requiring the least effort, would be to get yourself or (even better) a masseuse to deep tissue massage your feet. Whether a dancer or not, working all day on your feet can cause serious stress and tension to your feet. With all the jumping and gripping dancers put their feet through during training, there is much strain that is caused to those areas.

 

Massaging the feet can loosen up all that tension, and even allow extra mobility once relieved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

fun factsIn some cases, flat footed feet occur due to babies not going through the arch of the foot when learning how to stand/or crawl.

 

Please find below a video, demonstrating most of the above foot exercises and more. Remember, everyone’s feet are different, and perfectly curved alignments are not always the most realistic of goals. However, improvements can be made if you follow a routine with the exercises you find most beneficial.

 

 

slow and steadydance quote
Remember to never compare yourself to your friends. It is more important to have the correct technique, and work to your own pace – rather than causing yourself injuries due to rushing and careless training. This could create further injuries which could last a lifetime.

 

It does not matter how low you are in splits, or how high your leg lifts during that kick. This will improve in its own time, depending on your own body, needs and training regime.

 

Majority of the time, hyperextended people are in more risk due to the lack of strength in their bodies. Therefore it is vital that hyperextended dancers focus more on strengthening their bodies, rather than extending their flexibility.

 

Everyone’s needs are different. The most flexible dancer isn’t necessarily the strongest. The most expressive dancer isn’t always the most flexible. Dance is a harsh art form, and ‘perfection’ isn’t ever truly achieved. There will always be something to be picked on, whether it is your feet, turnout or posture. It is how you make people feel when they watch you. Most importantly, it is how it makes YOU feel.

 

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