Stretching and Warm Ups

Stretching  and proper warmups are areas that shouldn’t be overlooked by dancers.

Depending on where you are in your training, that will determine what types of stretching and warm ups you should be doing and how long you should do them before beginning your routines.

If you are just beginning your season, I like the following formula for stretching and warming up my students.

2 to 2 1/2 hour class
30 minutes of stretching and technique.  (Remembering that technique is part of the stretch)
30 minute warm up, which can include a combination of running, cardio (running bleachers), and across the floor.
60 minutes of technical aerobic skills, and/or learning new routine.

* Running one mile is usually adequate enough a warm up.
You are not there to run, but dance.
* Running three miles is excessive and not recommended.

As students progress through the season
30 minute stretching and warmup combined
90 minutes practicing routines for competitions and performances.

Water breaks come at 60 min, 30min and 30min. The extra breaks taken at 30min intervals are due to the high aerobic intensity during the 2nd half of the training day. Students need to fuel their muscles with oxygen and water. Upper level dancers may not require or want these breaks as frequently. You can adjust times per your teams aerobic ability.

There are many styles and types of stretches that one can use. Being able to stretch properly however without damaging your muscles, tendons, or skeleton is important.

Splits training
Weather you are doing left, American right, or center splits, remember you are stretching first – that means you don’t bounce. No slam splits until fully warmed up!

One thing I like to point out to my students is the proper positioning of your legs in a center split position. Your KNEES are pointed toward the ceiling. That will keep you from rotating your hips in the wrong direction. Follow your knee down to your feet. Make sure you are not sickling your feet inward or outward. When pointing your foot you should have a good bevel. Straight lines.

When you stretch side to side or leaning forward, don’t bounce. You are stretching – not bouncing. KNEES TO THE CEILING!

To properly stretch your feet I like some of the following warm ups.

1. Releves done slowly in each position, and then gradually going to releves done as FAST as you can!

2. Without taking your foot off the floor, write the alphabet with each foot.. Write things backwards and forwards. Using a ball to work your feet is also good.

3. Get a piece of surgical tubing (theraband) and wrap it around your toes.  Holding the tubing firmly add tension and  flex and point your foot.  Pointing and flexing your foot helps develop the instep.

4 . Ankle circles are good for loosening up tight muscles. A lot of injuries occur  at the ankle.

Back of legs and calfs

1. Touching your toes, and then rotating  from the balls of your feet to your heals  upward and down.  Feeling the pull in the back of the legs and calfs.

2.  Wall sits and planks.  Many students prefer planks over wall sits.  The planks look similar to a mountain climber position done on the floor.   I will use wall sits as a disciplinary measure if need be.

3. Monster walks across the floor is another good toner stretch.  Basically you do a deep lunging walk, while not allowing your back  knee to NOT touch the ground.

Quads & hamstrings
Leaping, kicking, turning all require strong muscles. A good dance routine will have many transition levels as well. It is important to have strong muscles to handle the endless stooping, bending, and snap flashes.  But strong muscles are only as good as a proper stretch will take them.

A very simple stretch can save you a lot of grief and pain. Holding on to a chair, or if you are well balanced, bend you knee and grab your foot behind you. While holding the stretch, make sure your knee is pointing down to the ground.  The knee should also be level side- by- side with your standing leg. Reverse the stretch on the other side.

Back, sides, neck, arms and shoulders.
Find what stretches work best for you and your team. Don’t skimp on stretching.

The dance
Depending on the level of dancing you are doing, that will determine the amount of stretching and warmup you will need.

At the college/professional level you can expect your routines to be intensive. Typically at this level you will learn at least 5 main dance routines, plus minor dances. You are expected to also learn all the cheers to help with the spirit team. That means you will also learn all the dance moves that go with the cheers (cheer songs). You will pretty much be constantly learning.

You may also be required to perform with the pep band, and that will add an addition 4 to 6 hours a week to your training.

A typical warm up is a six minute mile, with stretching done before. That six minute run is to be as close to a mile as possible. To help with leg development, running bleachers can be substituted for the  six minute mile.  You should be able to do 20 to 40 bleacher runs ( up and back down – that counts as one).

You are required to have a set of light weights for warm ups. You need at least 1-2 pound weights for both hands and ankles.

Don’t forget you will also have to pack your own gear, which may include flags, exercise balls, and weights. Bring a car, some dorms are more than a mile away from the practice site. Did I mention it snows?

Whatever stretches you prefer to use – make sure they are done properly. Stretching is serious business. It should never be taken lightly nor done improperly. Guarding your body against injury is what stretching is all about.

Warming up your body and gaining aerobic ability over time is also very important. Warm ups, like stretching should be a gradual progression – unless it is HELL WEEK, and you better come already prepared.

When you dance on the floor, your stretching and your warmups should have helped you develop technical skills that make  your lines look clean.   Your body should be uplifted, balanced and controlled. You should have the proper aerobic ability to perform at your teams level.

Control, focus, and practice-practice-practice.

Attention… HUT!