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With the holidays looming I often hear my dancers saying… “Yeah, I’m going to stretch so much over the holidays and get REALLY flexible for next year!”  Now while its fantastic that everyone is super keen to improve their mobility, I thought that it was a great chance to give you some tips that can not only help you get the most out of what you are doing, but to also help avoid the possible side effects of over stretching!

Some things that we can do to enhance your mobility program, and avoid injury are:

1. Get moving in the mornings!
2. Work on your own particular restrictions, and work on those
3. Use whole body movements
4. Do not over stretch
5. Focus on strength with movement

6. Focus on the mobility of your spine

1. Get moving in the mornings!

Have you ever rolled out of bed and just felt stiff, and bit sluggish compared to later in the day? Or perhaps you have the sensation that everything is all stuck together? Well chances are, it probably is! As we sleep, or rest for anything longer than a few hours, we start developing “muscle fuzz” – tiny adhesions between all of our different fascial layers. This differs between individuals, and by what you were doing the day before, but can often be the result of a heavy class, or big stretching session the day before. As we rest, and the body ‘heals’ up any tiny micro-tears, these adhesions start to develop. This is why it is so super important to get up and get moving first thing in the mornings.

This does not mean that you need to go into a big stretching program, but some gentle fascial mobilizing exercises can make a huge difference to how you feel for the rest of the day, and on your long term flexibility. This is why so many martial arts practitioners, yoga devotees and dancers insist on their routine simple warm up every day.

In the following video Sally, one of our brilliant Physiotherapists, demonstrates great ways to free up your lower legs first thing in the mornings to help you feel fantastic!

 Click here to watch the first videoPart1_FascialMob

Click here to watch the second video

fascial mobilisers image part 2

2. Work out your own particular restrictions, and work on those

There is no one mobility program that is right for everyone, so it is very important to find out exactly where in your body the restrictions are that are holding you back. While most people will immediately think of their hamstrings, as his is where they feel the tension, this is often actually a symptom, rather than the cause. The main tension point for tension felt in the hamstrings is often in the neck, the ribcage, the low back or deep in the muscles of the hips, as participants in our flexibility workshops often discover with surprise! About 80% of people (both adults and students) respond really well to the neck releases that we do in the first part of the workshop… If you have not already seen the video demonstrating this simple technique. Click here to view it.

Once you know where your particular restrictions are, you can tailor your whole mobility program to become much more effective. One student applied just 2 sections of the Front Splits Fast program into her normal routine after we did the workshop and increased her forward bend reach by over 8 inches in 6 weeks! 

 

3. Use whole body movements

Many dancers focus too much on stretching their Hamstrings, Calves and Quadriceps. While it is not a bad thing to stretch out these individual muscle groups, the truth is that our mobility needs to dynamic and multi-directional. Using a simple Sun Salutation (as demonstrated in the Front Splits Fast Program) can be a great way to wake up all of your muscles and include all parts of your body in a quick and effective warm up. Try to include full body stretches in your program to really accelerate your progress.

increase flexibility

4. Do not over stretch!

Have you ever had that feeling when, after stretching for a while, you feel kind of un-coordinated, and a little bit clumsy? Far too many people sit in long, sustained stretches too early in the day in order to try and get more mobile, and this can actually be detrimental to your dancing. If you hold any muscle on a long sustained stretch for longer than about 30 seconds, it actually wont be able to contract properly for at least half an hour! So while you can use this technique to turn down the activation in muscles that like to work too much, it’s just not a great idea to sit in second splits before doing battery!

 

If the muscle is in this state it is also more likely to get injured as it won’t have very good reflex contraction to protect you if you mistimed a step. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do longer sustained stretches, it just means that they are best done towards the end of the day – not just before you are about to perform!

 

5. Focus on strength with movement

The more important element of any mobility program is actually being able to use and control your mobility. Far too often I see girls who can over-split when stretching, but can only hold a développé to 90 degrees! If this is you…. Please read Part Three of our Training Turnout Article series that helps you master the strength in the end ranges that is needed to control your legs en l’air. 


6. Focus on the mobility of your spine

Many students are mobile in their hips, but lack the mobility in their spine that is needed to execute their dance moves safely. In our most recent workshop I noticed so many different shaped backs during a simple roll down, and this is a great place to start with improving your whole body mobility. Check out the Spinal Mobility section of the Front Splits Fast program for safe ways to do this!

I hope this article has helped you think of some new things to try over the break! Make sure to let me know how you go!

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