So almost everyday I tend to get asked questions about stretching. Why? When? How? And so it goes on. In this blogpost I thought I would cover the main aspects of stretching.
Stretching is important because it helps improve flexibility (increases your range of motion). It assists in correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position (because of so much time at our computers, many of us have tight chest muscles which pulls the shoulders and head forward, leaving us with a hunched shoulder look). Not to mention potential to decrease injury by preparing muscles for work before activity as well as increase blood and nutrient supply to muscles, thereby possibly reducing muscle soreness
I am naturally flexible and have never struggled with doing either of the splits, frog or the bridges. For a person that is naturally flexible and bendy, strength doesn’t come as easy whereas a person that is stiff and doesn’t stretch as easily, usually has stronger muscles- or easier to build strength.
When should you stretch? Although the flexible part comes naturally for me, I have stretched a lot & still do. Stretching after class is essential in order for your muscles to not get too tight or sore the day after working hard. When warming up, stretching is also important to get the muscles nice and warm; to be able to do even deeper pliés, bigger jumps, better adagio and amazing battements. The times in between all this may be hard to fit in stretching but believe me, if you want to see results; what you do outside class is just as important as how you preform in the actual dance class. If you know that you already are flexible enough- be careful not to spend too much time on this, instead focus on strengthening exercises in order to prevent injuries.
However, if you want to improve your flexibility you need to find time outside dance to stretch. Try to do it while doing other things, like reading, studying or watching TV. Make sure to hold each stretch that you’re doing for at least 30 seconds but no longer than 2 minutes. Remember to breath your way through it. Doing other things while stretching will make you focus on something else rather than the pain that the stretching is causing. Exactly how much pain you feel when stretching a certain muscle will vary, depending on how flexible you are. Some people will be in almost unbearable pain while others may not even feel something. Pain is okay to have unless it doesn’t stay for longer than some hours. If you find yourself having pain days after stretching, you should adapt your stretching to your body’s reaction, maybe rest some days and massage tensed areas.
How should you stretch? This is of course an extremely broad question and up to each and every individual to realise. If you are tying to manage the splits, put your focus on stretching the hips and the inside of your legs. Lay on your back and open your legs à la seconde, gently press your legs down to the floor with the help of your hands. You can also ask a friend to push your legs down the floor while you try to close them for 10 seconds, then relax. After being tensed like that your legs will go closer to the floor when relaxing, repeat this set 5 times. If you want to increase thoracic back flexibility you should combine doing the cobra stretch with back lifts.
I hope this post gave you some help when it comes to stretching. If you still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments down below or write a direct message on Instagram @ moa.andreasson.
My next dance related blogpost will be all about how to prevent injuries from happening by building strength.
Take care!! Xx