Ballet dancers must constantly fine-tune their legs and feet; it's what keeps them on their toes. Exercises with Thera-Bands offer ways to complement the strengthening moves at the ballet barre while at the same time stretching out hard-working muscles and tendons. Since so much power must be put into the lower body, dancers often overlook the equally important arm movements. By doing some simple repetitive arm exercises with Thera-Bands, ballet dancers--or anyone--may also increase upper body strength without adding a bodybuilder's bulk.
Stretching the Feet
Your feet play a vital role in establishing a strong foundation for control, according to Molly Weeks, author and creator of BalleCore, which integrates Pilates, Hatha Yoga and ballet. To stretch your feet, sit upright with one leg extended to the front, the other knee bent. Place the Thera-Band around the ball of the extended foot and point and flex the foot. As the foot flexes, pull the Thera-Band closer to the body, providing resistance against the foot. As the foot points, keep the resistance in the Thera-Band, feeling the stretch in the ankle and foot. This exercise builds ankle strength and increases joint motion, both important in overall body awareness and alignment. Perform eight repetitions on each foot.
Stretching the Legs
While you are stretching, Weeks suggests imagining you are being stretched out horizontally and vertically, creating length in your arms and legs and away from your center. One exercise to promote lengthening the legs involves a hamstring stretch by lying on your back and extending one leg up to the ceiling. Wrap the Thera-Band around the ball of that foot, flex the foot and inhale. Keeping the raised leg straight, exhale and gently pull the whole leg towards the body, feeling the stretch down the back of the leg, through the hamstrings and calf muscle,. Hold the leg close to the body for 30 seconds. This stretch helps increase flexibility in the legs and hips, improving ballet exercises such as developes, grand battements and leg extensions. Repeat on the other leg.
Strengthening the Arms
When performing arm exercises with Thera-Bands, the elastic resistance from them simulates the torque curves and strength curves in the human body, making upper body exercises with the Thera-Band quite popular, according to Phil Page in "Elastic Resistive Exercise Training" for the Thera-Band Academy. To perform a basic one, sit upright in a cross-legged position. Hold your arms out straight across from your stomach with one end of the Thera-Band in each hand. Inhale, and as you exhale, stretch the band several inches apart until it becomes taut, keeping your elbows lengthened but not locked and holding for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. Lift the arms to chest height and repeat. This can also be done with arms overhead and then lowered behind the back for a full upper-body workout.
- "The BalleCore Workout"; Molly Weeks; 2005
- Thera-Band Academy