Don’t Lose Your Step: Tips For Dancers to Stay in Shape in Isolation

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Photo by Patrick Malleret

With all of the essential social distancing/home isolation in place, studio time, rehearsals, performances are all on hold, at least for now. So what can dancers and performers be doing to stay in shape so that their bodies are ready for when things open up again?

The answer is quite simple – focus on the basics. Here are some recommendations for keeping your body in shape and dance ready while at home – even without the studio or gym.

Stretches

In general, maintaining good mobility can help alleviate general aches and pains.  Here are 5 lower extremity stretches that can be easily worked into any routine. The optimal time to incorporate static stretches are after working out.  Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat 2-3 times.

Figure-4 stretch: While laying on your back, bend your left knee and cross your right ankle over your knee.  Pull your left thigh slowly towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your hip.

Hip flexor stretch: Start by kneeling on one knee with the other bent at 90/90 in front of you. Squeeze your glutes so that your hips are in neutral position and slowly bring your torso and hips forward as one unit until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip.

Hamstring stretch: Sit with your legs extended straight out in front of you.  Without bending through your low back, lower your torso towards your thighs until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs.

Butterfly stretch: From a sitting position, bring the bottoms of your feet together so that your knees flare out to the sides.  For added stretch, you can use your elbows to press your knees down and lean forward slightly without bending through your low back.

Calf stretch: Start by standing and facing a wall. Bring your toes up and press them into the wall and lean forward slightly until you feel a stretch in your calf.  Repeat this with a bent knee.

Core

Keeping your core strengthened is key to the prevention of injuries to the shoulders, muscles in the back of the neck, front of the chest, lower back, and hips. When dancers think about core or abdominal exercises, they usually think that means sit ups and planks. Though these exercises can be effective, there are many more that can also be extremely effective. Many of the most popular core exercises are performed on the floor. However, the issue is that when you dance, you are standing up. With this in mind, adding core exercises in a standing position, either in a squat, split squat or single leg position can improve the benefit of core stability exercises.

The result of standing core exercises is a more stable dancer that will develop a better base for movement and reduce future injuries.

There are an infinite amount of core exercises that can be performed in a standing position and be extremely effective. One simple exercise that needs little equipment is the Pallof Press. It is a great anti-rotational exercise that works the abdominals, low back and hip musculature and helps create a more stable dancer. To perform this exercise, start with a resistance band attached to a fixed point. Facing ninety degrees from the band, start in a squatted position with the band in both hands and pulling your body sideways or laterally. With the hands at your chest, press the arms out, extending the elbows all the way. The resistance of the band, will pull back towards the fixed point. The objective is to resist this force. The resistance does not have to be too high. The biggest focus is to stay nice and stable as the arms extend directly in front of you. To add difficulty, change from a squatted position to a split squat position.

At some point studios will reopen and dance will resume. By stretching and keeping your core strengthened, performers will be able to return to the floor and stage more rested, healthy, and injury free.

Chris Phillips is an Athletic Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Sports Safety Specialist with over 25 years’ experience in professional hockey, football, dance, cheerleading, and soccer. Chris has worked with hundreds of professional, Olympic and Hall of Fame dancers and is the owner of Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Lake Forest, California. For more information, visit http://competesportsperformance.com/

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