With TV programmes like "Strictly Come Dancing" and "Dancing with the Stars" having huge success in recent years, dance has undeniably become more popular.
For many people, it is a way of engaging in a form of artistic expression as well as doing exercise to stay fit and healthy.
However, to ensure what you're doing is effective and not causing injury, dance should be supervised and taken seriously as if it were dance training.
This requires a warm-up which focuses on stretching the muscles to avoid strain.
Time needs to be devoted to this crucial step before each session.
Here is some information to help you master the warm up like a pro!
How to Stretch Properly
Stretching is the first step of any sport. Whether you're playing basketball, tennis or dancing, warming up your muscles is essential.
It helps to prepare the muscles which prevent injury.
Did you know most injuries in sport are caused by careless training or poor stretching?
In dance, every muscle in your body is being worked. Although it is an artistic discipline, the sporting element is very important.
It is therefore important to prepare yourself both physically and mentally to make sure you warm up appropriately.
Choose Your Outfit
To execute moves well and be comfortable, dancers often wear elasticated bottoms that allow the body to move freely.
In this case, opt for leggings or yoga pants.
These are very suitable for dance classes.
When choosing an outfit, make sure to opt for breathable fabrics as well. Warming-up is when you'll start to sweat. It is key that your clothes don't retain the sweat so that the body can stay at the right temperature, especially in dance to be able to do the splits.
For tops, a leotard or wrap top is good for this kind of sport. These can be easily removed if necessary.
If you have long hair, tie it in a bun. This hairstyle is the most practical because no stray hairs will bother you during practice.
Choose Your Spot
A workout can be done just about anywhere, the main thing is to feel good!
Whether it's your garden, the nearby park, your living room or bedroom, go for it.
However, you need to think about preparing the environment so you can practice in good conditions.
Go for a spot without too much furniture or objects around you. This prevents you spending all your time trying not to break Aunt Margaret's vase.
If you don't have such a place, try clearing the area before you start.
Don't forget to put out a floor mat so you do not hurt your knees or back.
Choosing Which Muscles to Stretch
Stretches are sets of dance exercises with two goals:
- to lengthen the muscle,
- to improve your range of motion
Warm-up the muscles, yes, but which ones?
Each sport uses specific body parts as well as specific muscles. That's why it's important to know the muscles involved in an activity like dancing.
For a dancer, the legs and hips are very important in order to do jumps and the splits without injury.
The targeted muscles are therefore:
- the triceps sural (calf muscles),
- the hamstrings,
- the foot muscles,
- the quadriceps,
- the iliopsoas.
When you're a dancer, the ilio-psoas must be stretched perfectly.
But what is this muscle?
This muscle is actually a set of muscles that connects the thighs to the pelvis and the lumbar vertebrae as well.
When well stretched, this muscle will not only help you strengthen your legs but also achieve the splits. Dancers must not ignore the importance of warming-up their muscles if they want to create beautiful poses without damaging the arch of their back.
But dancing also uses the upper body which is just as important as the chest.
Warm-ups must therefore target not just the back but also the shoulders and neck. Especially when it comes to doing lifts.
Warm-up Before Stretching
Warming-up the muscles is basically the same for everyone.
Even if a dancer does not always use the same muscles as a swimmer, they will still have to take time out to warm-up the body, focusing on the most used muscles.
Allow 10 to 15 minutes for your warm-up to start the session, then warm-down for about 10 minutes at the end. Use these last minutes to relax listening music, for example.
Don't rush through the warm-up.
This is how the most common accidents occur. You think you have stretched our muscles enough, you pull a little too hard and the worst happens.
To do it right, take your time. Gently stretch your muscles. You should feel a pull without it hurting you.
By going too fast and too hard, your muscles will retract and do the opposite of what you're trying to achieve.
Learn how to listen to your body and its limits.
The warm-up should stretch the muscle slightly without over-stressing it, and for this, everyone has their own limits.
Don't try to copy your friend or a teacher. Other people may be more naturally flexible or more experienced than you. In addition, flexibility in dance is not always obligatory.
Warming-up should be done before each sports session, including dance. This step should not be skipped.
Before starting a training session, the warm-up is used to prepare your body. Once the session is over, a warm-down helps you recover and ensures you don't stop working out too abruptly.
Stretching on a daily basis is also excellent for your general health.
There's no need to practice a high-intensity sport or train every day in order to warm-up. Stretching your body allows you to stay in shape. And why not take this opportunity to spend some time with your partner?
Before starting the exercises, remember that breathing is a key element throughout the stretching session but also during training.
You have to learn to master your breathing from the beginning of the workout to keep a consistent pace.
If you remember your P.E. classes at school, this set of exercises should be familiar to you.
Sit on the floor with your legs tense in front of you. The goal is to come touch your feet with your hands and hold this position for around 20 to 30 seconds. Try not to flex your knees if you can.
Then stand up and cross your feet. Once again, try to touch your toes. Hold again for between 20 and 30 seconds and release. Remember to breathe then reach for the other crossed foot.
You can also do this exercise in reverse.
In other words, put your hands on the ground with your knees bent. Gently, slowly unbend your knees to stretch your legs. This exercise has the advantage of helping beginners very gradually.
Lunges are also good exercises for working the legs. Put one leg in front, forming a right angle with your knee. The other leg should be stretched back as far as possible.
In order to prepare your feet to do the splits, sit down and put your foot on the opposite thigh.
Use one hand to hold the heel and the other to touch the tip of the foot and pull it back. Then make small circles with the whole of the foot. Repeat the exercise several times with each foot.
Work At the Bar
Not everyone has the convenience of having a ballet bar at home. Don't panic, it is always possible to use stage barriers or a piece of furniture of the same height.
Make sure, however, that it is stable enough to support you.
Stand next to it and put your outer leg on the support. Bend towards your leg if you can't feel it pull enough.
And to train even faster, why not study dance at A-level by taking dance classes near me?
Work the Psoas
Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight and the soles of your feet on the floor. Raise your knee as high as possible then hold. Perform a set of ten then breathe before starting again with the other knee.
All these exercises work specific muscles for dance training. However, it is important to think of warming-up all your muscles including the neck, shoulders, and back. Get inspired by the exercises you learned at school. They are a solid basis for warming up.
You can also enlist the help of a private teacher, at least at the beginning to make sure you don't make any mistakes.