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Enhance Your Workout

10 Best Stretches for Dancers | Improve Dance Flexibility

It may not seem like it at first, but dancing is one of the most physically challenging sports. You need to master a variety of movements and flexibility is key for keeping your body safe. If you're a dancer--or are looking to start dancing--let's look at how you can improve your flexibility today. 

What Muscles Are Used in Dancing

Just about every major muscle group is used in dancing. Look at any basic sequence you do. You use your quads, hamstrings, and glutes to leap and turn. When dancing with a partner, you use your shoulders to lift the other person for aerial performances.  

These are all examples of how your body incorporates every muscle group. Some other muscles used in dancing include:

  • Back
  • Hamstrings
  • Biceps
  • Deltoids
  • Calves
  • Core

Don't leave your body to chance. Stretch all your major muscle groups thoroughly or you'll risk a number of different injuries. 

Common Dancing Injuries

Dancing is a physically demanding activity that can lead to a variety of injuries. Here are some of the most common ones: 

  1. Sprained ankles
  2. Stress fractures
  3. Tendinitis
  4. Knee injuries
  5. Back injuries
  6. Trigger Toe
  7. Snapping Hip Syndrome
  8. Hip Impingements

Most of the pain you usually feel after dancing is muscle soreness. But, it can be hard to discern muscle soreness from an actual injury. If you experience any of the following types of pain after a dance session, you might need to get your body checked out.

  • Pain during the night
  • Progressive pain with active movement
  • Pain before you start a movement
  • Pain that causes you to shift your weight

How to Prevent Dancing Injuries

Dancing injuries will only happen if you haven't properly prepared your body to undergo intense physical movement. If you want to prevent dancing injuries, here are some of the things you can do: 

  1. Warm up before your rehearsals. Gradually increase your heart rate and prepare your muscles for activity.
  2. Improve muscle strength through consistent exercise and lifting sessions.
  3. Stretch and foam roll regularly to keep your muscles loose. This will help prevent muscle sprains and strains.
  4. Use correct posture to practice proper body movement
  5. Wear the right footwear and clothing. Make sure to also keep your dance space safe. 
  6. Cross-train and switch up your dance activities to prevent overuse. Overuse is the easiest way to hurt your muscles.
  7. Practice stretching routines to delay the oncoming muscle soreness. Doing these stretches with a partner can make it 10X more fun.
  8. Listen to your body and take rest days when you need them.

Should You Stretch Before or After Dancing? 

You should stretch after dancing rather than before. When you stretch before dancing, your muscles are cold and less pliable, which can increase the risk of injury. After dancing, your muscles are warm and more pliable, making you more receptive to a higher range of motion.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't warm up before dancing. Your warm up should be a combination of dynamic stretches and light cardio. This will get your blood flowing and prepare your muscles for your dance routine. 

The Best Dancer Stretches to Try Today

Here are some effective stretches that any dancer should try today.

10. Side Twist

The side twist stretch is a great way to open up the chest and shoulders, while also stretching your obliques and back. Here's how you do the stretch: 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart
  2. Take your right hand and place it on your left hip
  3. Slowly twist your torso to the left. As you do this, bring your left arm over your head
  4. Plant both feet firmly on the ground and try to twist as far as you comfortably can
  5. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds
  6. Repeat on the other side

Use deep inhales and exhales to keep your muscles relaxed. This will extend the stretch. 

9. Triceps Stretch

The triceps help stabilize the elbow and extend the forearms, a critical muscle group if you're dancing with a partner. If you want to keep your upper body joints healthy, here's how you do the triceps stretch

  1. Standing or sitting, raise your right arm vertical in the air.
  2. Bend your right arm at the elbow so your hand falls to the middle of your upper back.  
  3. Grab your right elbow with your left hand and pull down so your hand crawls further down your back.
  4. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides.

Focus on releasing tension in the triceps and shoulders, and don't try to yank your hand too hard. 

8. Frog Stretch

The frog stretch is a already popular stretch among dancer. It stretches the inner thighs, groin, and hips, preparing your body for common movements like the splits and kicks. 

  1. Start on all fours facing the long side of your Yoga Strong Mat
  2. Turn the toes outward so the insides of your feet are facing the ground.
  3. Begin to spread your knees out as wide as you can on the mat. Toes should still be pointed outward and your hip externally rotated
  4. Once you feel a full stretch from hip to hip, breathe and hold for 30 seconds. To increase the stretch length, drop to your forearms and rock the hips back and forth. 

7. Neck Stretch

All dancers know how important the neck and shoulders are, especially when it comes to your body's range of motion. To keep this area healthy, you'll need to know how to do a neck stretch: 

  1. Start by sitting or standing up straight.
  2. Bring your right hand to the left side of your head, gently pulling your head towards your right shoulder.
  3. Keep your shoulder down and relaxed while you hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
Keep your breathing steady while doing this stretch. Do not strain your neck or pull too hard on your head. Otherwise, you risk injury. 

6. Seal Pose

Seal Pose, also known as "Matsyasana," is a yoga pose that opens up the chest and shoulders. Doing this pose will help your improve posture and increase lung capacity. For dancers participating in high-cardio routines, the seal pose is a must-do. Here's how you do the stretch. 

  1. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs crossed.
  2. When ready, place your hands behind you, fingers pointing towards your back.
  3. Lean back and bring your head and shoulders to the floor. Lift your chest up afterwards. 
  4. Hold this pose for 15-30 seconds and breathe deeply.
  5. Release the pose and sit back up.

The neck and shoulders may want to tense up while performing this stretch. Make sure to breathe when you're holding the pose. This will avoid putting stretch on your lower back.

5. Butterfly Stretch

Your lower body is just as important as your upper body, which is why you need to do the butterfly stretch. It works the inner thighs, hips, and groin, all of which you use for your dance routines. 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. Bring your left foot in. The sole of your left foot should be making contact with the sole of your right foot. Knees should both be splayed out wide. 
  3. While maintaining a straight back, grab both feet with both hands and rest your elbows on the inside part of your knee. 
  4. Breathe and hold for 20-30 seconds. 

4. Shoulder Squeeze

Your shoulders will naturally feel pretty sore after dancing. The shoulder squeeze helps release muscle tension in your upper body. Here's how to do a shoulder squeeze: 

  1. Start by sitting or standing up straight.
  2. Place your arms behind your back, and clasp your hands together.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, and hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
  4. Release the stretch and repeat the stretch a few times

Relax your shoulders to prevent any strain during the stretch.

3. Reclined Pigeon

Your hips and glutes are used the most when you dance. They help lift you in the air and rotate during your sequences. If you don't want to injury these areas, try doing the reclined pigeon pose:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bring your right ankle up and rest it on your left knee.
  3. Gently press your right knee towards the floor with your left elbow.
  4. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and release.
  5. Repeat the stretch on the other side.
Breathe steady while doing this stretch. It will help your body relax into the pose and you won't strain your lower back. If you do end up straining your back, do some dynamic lower back stretches to recover. 

2. Lunge With Spinal Twist

Another stretch that opens up your hips is the lunge with a spinal twist. It also stretches out your thoracic spine, the base of all movement. Here's how you incorporate it into your stretching routine: 

  1. Stand up straight
  2. When ready, step forward with your right leg and bend your knee at the same time to form a lunge
  3. Keep your left leg straight, and press your hip forward. Emphasize a strong, clean movement.
  4. Bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee, and twist your torso to the right
  5. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, and release
  6. Repeat on the other side
This is a stretch that feels really good to do, but it's important to stay in balance. Control this stretch if you want to feel the effects. 

1. Splits

This list would not be finished if we did not include the splits. Splits are one of the most popular stretches for dancers. It is an advanced exercise that requires you to master your flexibility. Additionally, it takes a lot of practice and is the baseline for a lot of movement. Here's how you perfect the splits: 

  1. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
  2. Then, slowly slide your left leg forward, keeping your right leg straight behind you.
  3. Following that, slowly lower your body down towards the floor, keeping your left leg straight and your right leg extended behind you.
  4. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and release.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Dancers, Start Stretching Today!

When it comes to dancing, flexibility is the name of the game. Being flexible helps prevent injuries and enhances your body's overall  movement. Incorporate 

Try using some of our recommended exercises above and see how your flexibility increases. It's important to remember that increasing flexibility takes time and you have to be consistent to see results. But if you stay true to your routine, the results will be worth it.