If you are stretching before class with the goal of long-term changes in your flexibility, for example, you want to do a full split and need to work on it, save that type of stretching for after ballet class or between barre work and center floor work when your muscles are “warm.” If you want to warm up to take away stiffness, the type of stretching suggested below or I prefer to say warm up is good and won’t hurt you.
Prior to your ballet class there are several things you can do to warm-up and specifically activate your muscles. The goal of before class warm up is to restore your range of motion and to release tight muscles. This easy type of warm up also helps to provide blood flow to the muscles which brings essential nutrients into the muscle to repair, restore, and recover.
A great pre class warm-up for example would consist of high knee lifts like marching in place, torso twists, arm circles, jog in place or around the ballet classroom to elevate the heart-rate and get the blood moving.
Both of the types of stretching below have some short lasting effects on your range of motion and will help with your before class “pinchyness“.
Now lets say that you are a dancer of average flexibility and you have no problem extending to 90-degrees, and once you are warmed up, you can easily accomplish a good split and higher extensions. But, when you first enter the dance room, you feel that pinch and that crunch, sort of stiffness. In the traditional thinking, if you are a dancer who likes to come into the studio early to sit on the floor in a straddle, or lays on the floor with their toes over their head in a plow position, or even bending forward until the pinch slowly begins to ease, you are performing a static stretch. This is where you choose a position at the end of your range of motion, that targets a particular muscle, and hold it there.
Now dynamic stretching is active motions that will increase your joint range of motion. Some dynamic stretches are leg swings or correctly called balancoire, or grande battements can be done, and arm swings, too. My personal opinion is that static stretching is a pre cursor to dynamic stretching.
Some things to remember about stretching. If stretching feels good, then stretch. Just take care in doing it. Stretching should never hurt. Don’t reach past your natural range of motion unless your body is completely warmed up. Remember that your muscles are like rubber bands, they extend and contract again.
Here are some before class Static Stretches you can do
Calf Stretch: To stretch the pair of muscles located at your calf.
- Stand with your feet together. Place your hands on your hips, and extend your right leg back behind your body. Your left leg should be bent, your right leg should be straight, and both feet should be pointed straight ahead. Allow your body to fall forward slowly, be sure to keep your hips straight and not lift the right one. Keep your feet flat at all times. Hold this as long as you can, and then switch legs and repeat.
Hamstring Stretch: The hamstrings are the string-like tendons felt on either side of the back of the knee. They are attached to hamstring muscles and into the tibia, which is the inner and larger of the two bones in the lower leg, and extending from the knee to the ankle bone alongside the fibula, outer of the two bones in the lower leg, the hamstring muscles are located in the back of the thigh. These stretches will help to stretch those tendons.
- Sit on the floor, extend your legs straight out in front of you, and point your toes. Then, bend forward at the waist and reach for your toes. Hold this position, keeping your nose pressed to your knees and then flex your feet, holding the stretch. Hold this for as long as you can.
- You can also stretch the hamstrings by kneeling on your left knee while extending your right leg in front. Point your right foot and bend forward toward your right leg. If you are flexible enough, lay your upper body on your leg, without rounding the back. Hold the stretch for as long as you can, then switch legs.
Quad Stretch: The quadriceps are a large muscle group that is on the front of the thigh. Stretching this muscle group will improve your arabesques, too.
- While standing, and possibly holding on to the wall or barre, reach your right hand behind your body and grab your right ankle, so you’re standing like a stork. Slowly pull your ankle up toward your head be sure that your heel is always facing your butt and do not turn out at the hip. Hold it as high as you can. Switch legs, and repeat. Do not to over-arch your back while you are doing this stretch.
- Another quad stretch, can be done by lying face down on the floor, with your forehead resting on your arms in front of you. Straighten your legs flat on the floor behind you. Bend your left leg and grab your left foot with your left hand. Gently pull your left foot toward your left butt muscle. Strive to keep your left thigh flat on the floor. Make sure to keep your left foot in line with your left thigh. Hold the stretch for as long as comfortable, then switch legs.
Straddle Stretch: This stretch is for the hip adductors, the muscles on the inner thigh.
- While sitting, straddle your legs out as far on either side of you as possible. This is called a straddle seat. Bending from the waist, stretch your body over your left leg, shoulder to your thigh move slowly to the center space between your legs, and then slowly over to your right leg. Also, sitting up straight, twist at the waist and lay your upper body over your left leg and then the right one.
Releve Stretch: This is to warm up your feet and arches. Dancers sometimes don’t remember that the feet need some warming up, too.
- Stand in parallel position and slowly raise your body upward until you’re balancing on the balls of your feet. Balance as long as you can.
Remember a pre-class warm up to have a better barre……