Are you having a hard time getting those splits? Flexibility is so important for dancers. It makes movement such as leg extensions, jumps, and more much easier! So how do you actually get those dance splits? If your at home stretching method is just plopping down into the splits and pushing as hard as you can, once in a blue moon, you are doing it wrong! Have no fear we are here to help!*
1. Be warmed up. To avoid injury, always warm up your muscles before stretching. Take at least 5-10 minutes to get the blood flowing. Start with large movements of the arms and legs. Jumping jacks, sautés, plies, burpees, etc. Breathe through the whole warm-up to get the oxygen flowing as well!
2. Stretch more than just your splits!
If your goal is to get your splits, you have to do lots of stretching and not just your splits. You need to go through a series of stretches. Different stretches will improve your flexibility in assisting muscles and make it easier to reach your goal. While splits might be the ultimate goal, overall flexibility is important. Go slowly and gently into your stretches, breathing as you do to get oxygen to your muscles. Here are some stretches, although there are many more you can do:
3. Assisted stretching. This is a great option for
dancers and better for more advanced dancers. Use a trusted adult to help you . Lying on your back, extend your leg to the ceiling and the other leg on the floor. Have your adult gently push your leg down toward your face. Tell them when to stop, you might have some discomfort while stretching but not pain. So if it is painful, have them stop. Using the assisted stretch allows you to breathe and try and relax the muscle in the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds at a time. Remember to keep your leg rooted on the floor and hips square. The adult should put their hand on your opposite hip to keep you from rolling.
4. Stretch regularly. Your splits won't happen overnight. You have to consistently work your flexibility in order to get your splits. It may take some time so don't get frustrated. Set a goal for yourself. Determine how long you want to take to get your splits. This will also depend on how far you are. At least 4 weeks is recommended to safely get there if you are already fairly close. "Slow and steady" wins the race and prevents your from getting injured! Then determine how many times a week you want to stretch. We recommend at least 4-5 times a week.
5. Stretch After Class:
We discussed warming up before you stretch. But another prime time to get the most out of your stretching is after dance class or other sports and exercise. Your body is completely warm at this point. This will also help reduce tightness and soreness. Instead of speeding out the door after dance class, take at least 5 minutes to cool down and stretch out your muscles.
BONUS PRO Tip:
As you work on your flexibility for dance, also work on STRENGTH! While flexibility is extremely important for dancers and any active person, flexibility without strength is dangerous for dancers. If you stretch your muscles but don't have strength to support yourself, you will be prone to injury. Also what good is being flexible if you don't have the strength to hold up your leg or strength to jump off the ground? Here are a few easy strength exercises that dancers of all ages can do at home:
Side leg raises
*Please note that stretching and any form of exercise can lead to injury. Please stretch at your own risk. See website disclaimer for more information.