Dancers need a thorough warm up to give a top notch performance. Jumping, kicking, spinning and leaping require flexibility and strength and should not be attempted until every muscle is warmed up and stretched out properly. Studies show that dynamic stretching is the most effective type of stretching for a warm up, and tailoring your dynamic stretching routine to your dancing will make it more effective.
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Dynamic Stretching Basics
A dancer's warm up should start with cardiovascular exercise, like some easy dance moves that are moderately intense. Do this aerobic exercise intensely enough so that it makes you sweat and increases your heart rate. Next, complete a thorough, full-body dynamic stretching routine made up of flowing motions that mimic the movements of your dance style. Start the movements small, increasing the range of your motion with every repetition. Complete at least eight repetitions of each movement, but do more if you are still feeling stiff. By the time you reach your final repetition, the motion should reach the limit of your flexibility.
Upper Body Stretches
Starting at the top of your body and moving down can ensure you do not miss any muscle groups when warming up for your dance practice. Start with dynamic stretches to warm up your neck and shoulder capsule. Nod your head up and down, taking care not to tip your head too far back. Turn your head from side to side, looking out over each shoulder. Lean your ear from shoulder to shoulder, and then circle your shoulders forward and back. Also include some stretches for your arms and upper back. Swing your arms forward and back so one crosses over the other. Circle your arms wide in one direction and then then other.
During dance, your torso needs to bend and twist with accuracy and ease. Focus some of your dynamic stretching on this area when you are warming up. While pulling your fists up under your chin and keeping your elbows close to your torso, twist from side to side while keeping your lower body stationary. Reach your hands down your thighs to touch the outside of your knee, switching sides to reach back and forth. Rotate your hips in a circular motion from one direction and then the other. Finally, reaching your arms out to the side, isolate your rib cage by moving from side to side.
End with a thorough series of dynamic stretches for your lower body. While keeping your leg straight, swing it forward and back, getting higher with each swing. Next, lift your knee in front of you, getting the knee a little closer to your chin each time. Kick your rear end while pointing your knee straight at the ground. Finally, rise up on your toes and lift your heels high off the ground. Then, rock back on your heels and lift your toes up off the ground.