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10 Stretches for Ballet | Full-Body Stretching Routine

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Ballet is one of the most physically challenging activities. You’re moving your body at extreme speeds and constantly challenging your muscles’ range of motion. That said, stretching for ballet is critical. That’s why we’re going to highlight the best stretches for ballet that you can do today.

We’ll take a look at muscles used in ballet, common injuries, and how to prevent them by stretching. Then, we’ll leave you with a few tips so that you can get the right stretching routine down. Let’s get started! 

What Muscles are Used in Ballet

When you watch ballet dancers move, you’ll notice that they use almost every major muscle group. Because of how precise you need to be in ballet, every muscle plays a vital part in maximizing your performance. Let’s take a look at which muscles are used in ballet the most:

  • Calves: Ballet dancers constantly rise up on the balls of their feet, making the calf muscles an essential part of their training.
  • Hamstrings: Stretching and strengthening the hamstrings is crucial in achieving higher and fuller leg extensions
  • Quads: The quadriceps are responsible for the smooth execution of leaps and jumps. They also stabilize the knees during deep plies. 
  • Glutes: The glutes muscles play a significant role in maintaining balance and stability while performing turns and other movements.
  • Adductors: Ballet movements, such as grand plies, require strong inner thigh muscles (adductors) to maintain proper form and prevent injury.
  • Abdominals: The abdominal muscles provide a solid foundation for athletic movements, such as pirouettes, and help maintain proper posture.
  • Back: Strong back muscles are necessary for supporting the legs and core muscles in many ballet movements, including arabesques and lifts.
  • Shoulders: Ballet dancers use their shoulders to secure the upper body and maintain proper posture during movements such as adagio and allegro. 
  • Arms: The arm muscles are used for graceful, fluid arm movements and for supporting the upper body during lifts

Common Ballet Injuries

Ballet, despite its beauty and grace, can be a physically demanding form of dance that puts a strain on the body, leading to various types of injuries.

  • Sprains: Ballet dancers are at risk of spraining their ankles due to the repetitive movements and leaps they perform, causing strain on ligaments in key joints
  • Strains: Overuse or improper technique can cause strains in the muscles used in ballet, such as the hamstrings and calf muscles.
  • Stress fractures: The repetitive impact of jumping and landing can put stress on the bones in the feet and legs, leading to stress fractures, particularly in the metatarsals.
  • Tendonitis: Overuse and compensation of certain joints, such as the knees, can cause inflammation of the tendons and lead to tendonitis.
  • Back pain: Weak core muscles and lack of flexibility can place strain on the back muscles and spinal column.
  • Shoulder injuries: The repetitive movements and lifts performed in ballet can cause strain and injury to the shoulder muscles and tendons.
  • Foot injuries: Ballet dancers are at risk of foot injuries, such as blisters, calluses, and metatarsal stress fractures, due to the repeated impact of jumping and landing.
  • Overuse injuries: Overuse of certain muscle groups and joints can lead to injury, such as tendinitis and dancer's knee, if not properly managed and treated.

How to Prevent Ballet Injuries

Ballet injuries are common, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prevent them. Here are some of the best ways to prevent ballet injuries: 

  • Warm up properly: Before starting any physical activity, try to get a pregame stretch routine in. This will help get blood flowing and improve flexibility in the long term. This can include specific stretches for ballet, light cardio, and foam rolling
  • Activate core and leg muscles: Preparing your core and leg muscles for movements in ballet will enhance your stability and reaction time.
  • Maintain proper technique and alignment: Practicing good technique and alignment can help distribute weight evenly and reduce the compensations that lead to injury. This will minimize strain on specific joints and muscles
  • Listen to your body: It is important to listen to your body and not push yourself beyond your limits. If you feel pain or discomfort, take a break and rest before continuing. Overuse injuries can occur from training too hard or excessive strain on a specific muscle or joint.

The Best Ballet Stretches

Now that we’ve looked at why you should stretch for ballet, let’s take a look at the best ballet stretches you can do today. All of these stretches are designed to help open up your muscles and get you feeling good before your performance. 

10. Seated Hamstring Stretch

The seated hamstring stretch is a good litmus test for hamstring flexibility. While this stretch hits primarily your hamstrings, it can help with mobility in your entire posterior leg chain, including your calves, Achilles tendon, and lower back. 
Here are the steps;

  1. Come to a seat on your Yoga Strong Mat with your legs extended forward straight in front of you. 
  2. Then, separate your feet 6 inches apart and flex your feet up
  3. Now, continue to pull the chest forward, hinge from your waist and lower your torso, reaching for the tops of your toes. 
  4. Hold for 5 breaths. Grab your shins or ankles, or use a yoga strap if unable to reach your toes. 

9. Barre Hamstring Stretches

Barre Hamstring stretches require more muscle activation as they are performed standing instead of sitting. By combining stretching with muscle activation, you can efficiently prepare your hamstrings for ballet. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Start facing a chair or table about 12 inches in front of you 
  2. Then, lift your right leg up and place your heel on the chair, with your toes flexed up 
  3. After that, fold and lower your chest to your right thigh. Grab your right shin or toes to create extra length.
  4. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.

8. Inner Thigh Stretch

The inner thigh, also known as the groin, can become tight due to restrictions in your quad, hamstrings, or hip. Unfortunately, it’s usually a neglected muscle when stretching for ballet, increasing your chances of an injury. Do this inner thigh stretch to help open up your groin.

Here are the steps:

  1. Start standing in a broad base, with your feet wider than shoulder width. 
  2. To begin, bend your right knee and hip and lean into the outer right hip while maintaining a straight left leg and hold for 20 seconds.
  3. Remember, you should feel a nice pull into the left groin. If not, make a wider stance. 

7. Front Split

Despite being a challenging position, the front split is one of the most iconic stretches for your leg mobility. In fact, the front splits are a great stretch for dancers and ballet artists alike. It effectively stretches both legs at the same time and gets blood flowing to your muscles. This makes it a great pre-performance stretch before you get on stage. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Start in a low lunge position with the right knee down and left leg up on a yoga towel.
  2. Place both hands on your hips and keep your front left foot flexed so the heel is on the ground and the toes are pointed up. Your right back toes should be untucked so the top of the foot rests on the ground.
  3. Begin to slide your front left foot forward, using the towel to help you glide.
  4. Once you feel a deep stretch in the front leg hamstring and back leg hip flexors, stop and hold this position. 

6. Standing Quad Stretch

The quads, located on the front thighs, help stabilize the knee and mobilize the hip. Weak quads can cause your knees to overcompensate, increasing the likelihood of a knee injury. Try doing the standing quad stretch before routines to warm up and after routines to increase your range of motion. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Start standing on your left leg. Use a chair or wall nearby to help with your balance.
  2. When ready, bend your right knee and bring your heel toward your butt
  3. Then, reach for your right foot with your right hand and grab onto your foot.
  4. Next, gently pull your right foot closer to your butt to increase the stretch on your quadriceps.
  5. Breathe and hold for 5 breaths and switch sides

5. Kneeling Quad Stretch

The kneeling quad stretch operates similarly to the standing quad stretch, but you may be able to gain an extra range of motion by kneeling instead of standing. As a result, including this kneeling quad stretch in your routine can be a significant addition to injury prevention. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Start on your Yoga Strong Mat in a half kneel position, right leg up, left leg down. 
  2. When ready, start to push forward from your left hip so your right knee moves forward over your toes. 
  3. At your threshold, pull back to the starting position, and push forward again, repeating 10x each side. Make sure you keep your glute on your back leg engaged and active. 
  4. To increase the intensity of the stretch and add more quadricep mobility, take your left hand and grab your left foot while in the kneeling position.
  5. With control, pull your left foot towards your left butt to stretch the quad. 
  6. If you cannot grab your foot without losing balance but still want to stretch your quad, use a Yoga Strong Strap

4. Lunges

Lunges are a good ballet stretch because they help to increase flexibility and strength in the legs, hips, and lower back, all of which are crucial areas for dancers. This is probably one of the most common leg stretches you’ll see and for good reason too. Lunges can loosen tight muscles, increase blood flow, and reduce your chance of sudden injury.  

Here are the steps:

  1. Start standing with your feet shoulder width apart. 
  2. When ready, keep your spine upright and shoulders back, and take a moderate step forward with your right leg.
  3. As you step forward, drop your right hip and bend your right knee to complete the lunge. Your knee should be stacked over your ankle. 
  4. Then, step back to the starting position and switch your lead leg.
  5. Repeat 10x on each side

3. Pigeon Pose

The pigeon pose is a beneficial stretch for ballet because it targets the hips, which are commonly tight in dancers. This stretch helps to release tension in the hips and improve their flexibility and range of motion, both of which are important for movements such as turns and jumps.
Here are the steps:

  1. From the downward dog, bring your right leg forward towards your arms. 
  2. Starting off, swivel the foot so your foot is towards your left wrist and the knee is towards your right wrist - making the shin almost parallel to the top of your Yoga Strong Mat. 
  3. Then, drop your shin to the ground and drop your back leg as well. 
  4. To drop further into the pose, untuck your back toes to lay the back leg fully. Pull your chest forward and then begin to lay your forearms down to the ground if accessible. 
  5. Hold 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

2. Butterfly Stretch

The butterfly stretch is helpful for ballet because it targets the inner thighs and hips, key areas for dancers if they want to move thoroughly. This stretch helps your muscle move farther and loosen tight muscles in these areas. This can improve the range of motion in movements such as pliés, grand pliés, and splits, and reduce the risk of injury

Here are the steps:

  1. Start sitting on the floor on your Yoga Strong Mat with your feet out in front of you. Take your right foot, and bring it towards your left inner thigh, with the sole of your foot facing the left inner thigh.
  2. Then, take your left foot, and bring it in so the sole of your left foot is making contact with the sole of your right foot. The knees are both splayed out wide. 
  3. While maintaining a straight spine, grab both feet with both hands and rest your elbows on the inside of your knee. 
  4. Breathe and hold for 20-30 seconds. 

1. Calf Stretch

The calves play an important role in stabilizing the lower leg, foot, and ankle. Stretching the calf muscles can help dancers perform movements with greater control and balance. You’ll also be able to avoid common ballet injuries such as plantar fasciitis

Here are the steps:

  1. While standing in front of a wall, place your right foot approximately 12 inches in front of the left and your hands on the wall
  2. Then, gently bend the right knee while straightening the back left knee and lean forward into the wall
  3. To increase the stretch, move your back leg further behind you and/or lean further into the wall in front of you
  4. Breathe and hold for 5 breaths and switch sides

Tips for New Ballet Dancers

If you are a new ballet dancer, there are several tips that can help you get started on the right foot.

  • Find a qualified instructor: A qualified instructor can guide you through proper techniques and provide constructive feedback to help improve your performance.
  • Warm up properly: Increasing blood flow and activating your nervous system helps prepare your muscles for movement. This can include stretching, band work, and foam rolling. 
  • Don’t overtrain: Avoid injuries and burnout by incorporating rest days and cross-training into your dance routine. This will help you stay fresh mentally and physically. 
  • Make time for stretching and strength training: Implementing stretches for ballet and strength-training exercises can help keep you strong and healthy for all types of activity.
  • Have fun and be patient: Most important thing is to have fun and be patient with yourself, as learning ballet takes time and practice.

Ballet is a rewarding sport, but it can be very challenging. Keep your joints and muscles loose by going through a stretching routine using our stretches above. It’s also equally important to not over-train and be patient. Flexibility is something that takes months, but it can pay dividends for your ballet if you commit to it.

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