Before we begin it's important to note that all our bodies, our strengths, and weaknesses, are completely different for each individual. Its therefore always important to get a tailor-made conditioning program from your health professional, to help with strength and injury prevention.
In saying that there are a few common exercises and stretches that are beneficial for all dancers!
1. Calf Raises
Establishing 25 – 30 good quality single leg calf raises, is great for strength, alignment and injury prevention. It’s hard work to get to 30 especially for young dancers so make sure you gradually work your way up, and focus on alignment and technique rather than getting as many as you can in!
Start with your hands on a barre or stable surface, and your feet in parallel. Left one leg to a comfortable position. In a slow, steady, rhythm rise up to the ball of your foot then back to flat. Once you have completed your set of 25 - 30, simply swap legs.
Doming is an exercise used to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the feet. These are all the small muscles of the foot that are responsible for the finer movements, and to stabilise and support our arches. They can fatigue quite quickly so having adequate strength is important.
Start standing with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your toes and heels on the floor, lift up the balls or your feet up to create a ‘dome’. Hold the dome for 4 counts then relax. Repeat 10 times – and remember to keep your toes straight!
3. Resistance Band Pointing
Using resistance when we point our toes/feet is a great way to build up strength and focus on technique.
Start sitting with feet in a flexed position in front of you. Place your resistance band under the balls of your feet and pull tight with your hands for resistance. Slowly point your toes/feet, going down for 2 counts then back up for 2 counts. Repeat 10 times, and make sure you focus on correct technique while pointing (no sickling or fishing!)
4. Calf Stretches
Tight Calves is a common problem for dancers, especially given all the work we do on demi-pointe. Making sure your calves are supple is important for alignment and injury prevention.
Start with your legs 1 meter apart, with one foot in front of the other. Bend the front leg until you begin to feel the stretch in the calf of your back leg. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds. Then bend your back leg at the knee so you feel the deeper muscles of the calf begin to stretch. Hold this for a further 20 seconds. Then swap legs.
5. Foam Rolling
Using a foam roller is a great way to release tension in all the muscles of the lower limb, and should be part of all dancer’s rest and recovery regime.
Start with the foam roller under the belly of the muscle you wish to roll out. Then roll yourself back on forth over the foam roller, along the muscle, using your body weight for maximum impact. Always start with the larger muscles in your leg and work your way down.
Do you have any more questions about strength and conditioning for dancers? Then contact us for an appointment with our dance podiatrist Caitlin.