How To Do A Warm-Up For Ballet Class
Doing a warm-up before class is essential to your health and performance. The purpose of a warm-up is to prepare your body for the physical demands of class. It increases body temperature, improves flexibility, and helps you get in the proper mindset. Follow these three points for a great warm-up.
1. Dress warm
Cold weather, air conditioning, and lack of exercise can contribute to stiff muscles. When getting dressed for ballet class, it’s important to layer your clothing for extra warmth. Add a sweater, or wear sweatpants over your tights. Legwarmers are a great addition to any dancers wardrobe; they look like long socks and they insulate the muscles surrounding the calves, shins, and ankles. Some students prefer to keep these layers on throughout class, and shed them as they get warmer. Dressing warm helps the muscles to relax and creates a suitable environment for stretching.
2. Arrive early
Once class starts, it doesn’t stop, so you want to give yourself time to prepare. There is nothing worse than arriving late to class and being out of the loop physically and mentally. Sometimes, circumstances outside of our control prevents us from being punctual, but otherwise, it is best to arrive 10-15 minutes before class starts to stretch and practice breathing. If we show up late, we feel rushed and our body doesn’t have the time to adapt. Arriving early gives you the opportunity to switch gears, and focus on what you’re doing in the moment.
Stretching increases mobility in the joints and allows for greater flexibility. It is a common misconception that you must be naturally flexible to do ballet. This is not the case. Practicing even mild stretches before class can greatly improve your overall performance. Try these common stretches in your warm-up:
(a) Straddle stretch (as pictured above). This stretches your hamstrings and inner thighs. Sit on the floor with your legs spread out in the letter V. Turn your upper body towards each leg, and try to reach your hands to your feet. You can modify this stretch by moving your legs closer together, or by reaching for your knee instead of your foot. If you’re advanced, you can touch your chest on your knee, or touch your chest to the floor, in between your legs. Remember, keep your knees straight and touching the floor. Don’t allow them to pop up as you stretch.
(b) Pike. This stretches your hamstrings. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, closed tight and straight. Your knees should be touching the floor. Reach forward and try to touch your toes. If you need to modify, just reach for your shins. If you’re advanced, touch your chest and stomach to your thighs. Again, your knees should stay on the floor.
(c) Butterfly. This stretches your hips and gluteals. Sit on the floor, and bring the soles of your feet together, forming a diamond. Holding onto your ankles, pull your heels in closer to your body, and lean your chest towards your feet.
(d) Quad stretch. This stretches your upper thighs. Stand with your legs together and steady yourself against a wall, barre, or chair. Bending your knee, lift your foot behind you and grab it. Gripping your foot, pull your foot into your body as far as possible. If you have knee problems, simply lifting your foot and holding it in your hand can provide an adequate stretch.
You can also use tools in your warm-up such as a foam roller, or taking advantage of the barre to lean on. Always listen to your body when stretching. If you feel sharp pain, stop. Remember, your warm-up should be a gentle preparation for class, so be careful not to overextend yourself.
image credit: M.A. Cabrera Luengo
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