Thursday, March 19, 2015

From the Knees Down

In the following three posts, I will be talking about exercises and stretches for your body to help you obtain those "ballerina goals", otherwise known as the "ballerina look." As always, do what's best for you and don't go to the point of pain, but only slight discomfort. Let's get to it, especially because you know what's around the corner? SUMMER.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a ballerina's knees is hyper-extension. This is something you are born with, or aren't, and therefore you SHOULD NEVER FORCE IT. It does create beautiful lines, but you can be just as beautiful without those knees that bend backwards. One thing I suggest for all dancers looking for those sculpted muscles is simple. Use them, especially in this region by "pulling up" your knee cap. This engages your muscles in movement, using them for initiating movement, rather than your bones or joints.

The difference between pulled up and relaxed knee caps. 

Your calves are probably constantly being worked if you are doing pointe, or just ballet in general, since your foot is in a pointed position more than a relaxed one. You should engage your calf anytime you point your foot or straighten your leg to get the most efficient workout. This usually means pointing your foot all the way to your toes, as well. One good exercise for your calves is relevés. It is best done in multiple positions, as well as doing them on one leg. You can also make it more challenging by standing on a stair so that when you lower, you are going further than a regular standing angle of the ankle. 

Because you use these muscles so much, they get very tight, and there lots of stretches, but downward dog or simply extending a leg behind you in standing position does the trick. Stretch it often during class (especially after combinations) to prevent them from cramping and becoming even tighter. 

Feet are often mesmerizing beauties, or the thing ruining your line. You can improve them of course, but it isn't hard to cause damage. Strengthening wise, there are two major things. Theraband and how you use your feet in class. You can buy Therabands of different strengths and what it does is cause resistance for your feet as you point and flex, and helps you work your whole foot. On that subject, during class anytime your foot leaves the ground, extends along the floor, or rises up to relevé, you should be using all parts of your foot. Think of massaging the floor (or even air) and articulating how you point your foot. 

Now as for stretching your feet, this is where you can hurt yourself if you aren't careful. Stretching them on your own (with your hands or the floor) is the best way to stretch them because you are in control and can ease off if it's too hard of a stretch. One way, is to sit with both feet straight out in front of you and gently push on your arches, working your way on to your toes, eventually pushing on your whole foot. This stretches your hamstrings as well. Another way is to stand, and cross one foot over the other so that the top of your foot is towards / on the ground. Plié both legs (slowly), pushing the foot crossed forward, with that heel slightly outward so your aren't stretching in a sickled position.

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