Monday, September 3, 2007

Ballet Shoes, Ballet Stretches, and Especially The Splits

Get the right information about effective stretching that leads to high leg extensions and split jetes, a featured attraction of ballet. If you were not born with long ligaments, muscles and tendons, what are the best ballet stretches for you?

Add this Essentrics Flexibility For Athletes to your ballet stretches!

While you spend strength on fighting your own tightness, striving for that effortlessness in your ballet shoes and pointe shoes, other very flexible dancers are trying to reign in their movements to maintain form and balance.

But, ballet being the way it is, they look better during the struggle than the tighter dancers.

Stretches after exercising are the best. After class, do the following:

Sitting on the floor, stretch the legs out in front to stretch the hamstrings – one at a time, bending one knee, so as not to stretch the lower back, flex and point the foot.

After slow stretching, I recommend completely relaxing the legs and letting the torso sink forward, with a few deep breaths, to release tension before going into a second position split.

Splits In Second Position

Splits in second position should be opened fully but WITHOUT pain. Ideally have your pelvis upright, and your knees facing the ceiling, with the backs of your thighs pressing into the floor.

This mimics the position your legs/spine would be in, in a standing position.

  • Don't tuck your hip bones under 
  • Don't sway your back and roll forward off your pelvic bone onto your thighs.
  • Bend sideways over one leg, relaxing neck, shoulders, face and arms.
  • Straighten up, and bend forward, hold the abdominals, and keep legs straight
  • Straighten up again and bend over the other leg, repeat all
You want a stretch but not to the point of any sharp pains. You are applying stress to the soft tissues, but never painful or sudden movements.

How To The Splits In One Day - Not!

 It disturbs me to see any instruction about one day splits. That's just unreal.

A full 180 degree splits depends on overall extreme flexibility.Meaning, muscle elasticity and joint flexibility. Joints are held by ligaments, which don't stretch.

If you can't sit in this position but can only get, for example, down to a few inches from the floor (or halfway or three-quarter way down) stretch one leg at a time.

Sit down and stretch one leg devant. Let the back leg bend. Keeping the front leg straight and turned out, pull forward slowly, and when you can't go any further, hold your lower abdominals and let your upper torso bend over.

Your weight will effect the stretch, breathe deeply a few times, for about 10 seconds, and then come back up to a straight position. Do this four times, and change legs.

There is lots of arguments among trainers as to how long one should hold a stretch. Just know it's not a pain endurance exercise. 

Next, bend the front leg into a 90 degree angle so you can lean forward over it, and extend the back leg to a straight position. It will probably slide sideways so that it will not be behind the hip as it would if you were standing up.

Slowly move upright, stretching the front of the hip, do NOT go to a point of pain. Stretching is DISCOMFORT, not pain. Lean forward releasing the tension, and turn your leg in. Then straighten up again, and you will feel the stretch in a different area.

Do this several times and change legs. Eventually your leg will stretch out more behind you.

Another great stretch is to do a side bend away from the derriere leg – you'll stretch from your thigh through your hip area up the side of your torso.

To finally relax, sit in a splits position with both legs bent. Bend forward right onto your front leg and let the weight of your torso press your hip, inner thigh and groin muscles into a relaxed stretch.

Then bend back, but in a relaxed manner. Breathe deeply a few times and change legs.

If you have any muscles or joints stinging and aching after classes, ice. Get a soft gel ice pack, and you can use it 15 minutes per hour. Make sure the ice pack is wrapped in a thin towel and does not touch your skin.

Another therapy is a hot bath with a cup of apple cider vinegar. This draws the lactic acid out of the muscles and is extremely relaxing. Epsom Salts are good too. You won't smell afterwards, honest.

If you are a retired dancer, or are on a hiatus from classes and miss that wonderful stretched out feeling, I highly recommend the Essentrics Flexibilty For Athletes DVD to get really flexible.

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