The kicks, leaps and poses involved in dance require extensive flexibility. Improving your flexibility not only leads to a greater range of motion for your muscles, it also relieves stress, improves your performance and even prevents injury. Stretching is also an important component in a warm up that readies your body for performance or practice. Stretch daily for the best results, and in all cases, never stretch to the point that you feel pain.
Before you start your dance workout, you need to warm up and ready your body for action. Dynamic or active stretching is the type of stretching you should use in your warm up. After a five to 10 minute period of light cardiovascular activity, perform a routine of dynamic stretches including all of the muscle groups in your body. Use the same routine each day so that you do not omit any muscle groups. Start with small motions, increasing the range of the motion with each repetition. Perform the motion at a slow and steady pace.
Dynamic Stretching Routine
Perform eight to 10 repetitions of each of the following motions. With your feet shoulder-width distance apart and your knees bent, warm up your neck muscles by nodding your head up and down, then turning your head to look over each shoulder, and finally lowering your ear to each shoulder. Move on to your upper body, doing shoulder circles forward and back, horizontal arm swings in front and back of your torso, and full arm circles. Warm up your torso with side reaches, sliding your hand down the side of your thigh to touch your knee. Do twists by keeping your lower body stationary while your upper body moves from side to side. Finally, for your legs, do straight leg swings forward and back, front knee lifts, back kicks where your heel hit your buttocks, and toe and heel raises.
To improve flexibility, you also need to incorporate static stretching in your training plan. Static stretching involves stretches that are held in a stationary position. This type of stretching is best done at the end of your workout or dance class, when your muscles are thoroughly warmed up and extremely supple. In a stretching position, lower your body into the stretch until you feel a gentle pull in the belly of your muscle. In addition to improving your flexibility, static stretching at the end of your workout can serve as a cool down period and reduce soreness after your workout.
Static Stretching Routine
Hold all stationary stretches for 30 seconds and repeat each stretch up to three times. Start with split stretches. Execute front splits on both sides and middle splits. Consider split variations such as hyperextending your split by placing one foot on a prop or reaching forward to touch your nose to your knee. Include bridges to increase your back and abdominal flexibility. Finally, do not neglect your upper body. Round your upper back by grabbing your hands in front of your body. Stretch them away from you and grab your hands behind your back and extend them from behind you.