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Dance and flexibility: limits and enhancement of joint mobility

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

What does it mean to be flexible?

A person endowed with flexibility has the ability to freely move a set of joints throughout their range of motion, without any limits and without experiencing pain.

There are many factors that influence flexibility: the anatomical structure of the joint, ie ligaments, tendons, muscles, skin, adipose tissue, and so on; physiological factors, sex, age, body and atmospheric temperature, and even the time of day, accumulated fatigue and mood.

Given that it is not necessary to be extremely flexible to dance, it is also true that from the point of view of performance, joint mobility is an essential component and must be developed and maintained through an adequate training program based on stretching.

The greatest increase in flexibility occurs between 7 and 12 years and decreases with age. However, the greatest contribution to the decrease in flexibility is not ageing as you might think, but the lack of training and physical activity, caused by a sedentary lifestyle.s.d correct in order to ensure adequate muscle oxygenation and alleviate the state of tension due to the execution of tendu, rond de jambe, grand batteman, etc.

After this brief overview, let's clarify some basic concepts relating to flexibility training. First, safety is paramount. Stretching the body too quickly or excessively is dangerous, it can cause muscle tears and injuries to ligaments and tendons that will affect general health.

Second, stretching doesn't mean warming up. In fact, the purpose of the warm-up is to increase the temperature of the muscle tissue in order to produce a short-term musculoskeletal change and prepare the dancer for the next session of activity. Stretching the muscles, on the other hand, has the goal of inducing a more long-term change in an individual's range of motion.

This implies that the time before class should not be used to increase flexibility, because warm muscles are more stretchable and responsive, so it is better and much healthier to stretch after class or rehearsal, when muscles are trained.

Flexibility training is a game of patience, perseverance and determination. It's about using the right technique and the correct stretch sequence. Training even lightly four to five times a week will produce much greater benefits and results than short, strenuous bursts of stretching that damage the dancer in the long run.

While stretching implies consistency and persistence, it is also essential to give the body the right time to rest, process and possibly repair physical injuries. Dancers perform most successfully when their bodies are rested and relaxed, so they will need to learn to manage fatigue and stress that can cause muscles to contract excessively and negatively affect concentration.

More commonly, dancers suffer injuries to the lower limbs, hip and back, therefore it is necessary to work on the hip flexors, the hamstrings (also called hamstrings) and the calves. The latter in particular deserve great attention because they help lengthen the hamstrings and lower back, creating the much-loved lines. Here is the wonder of our body, every part of it is connected with all the others.

It is therefore necessary to take the time to stretch the entire body and in the correct order, starting from the upper part of the body, proceeding downwards, making the stretching gradually more intense. In all this, breathing plays an essential role, it must be deep and correct in order to ensure adequate muscle oxygenation and alleviate the state of tension due to exercise.

There are two types of stretching, static or passive and dynamic. The first involves holding the position for a certain period of time and takes advantage of the action of inertia, gravity acting on the body or the help of a partner. The second, on the other hand, occurs in movement and is due to the action of the muscles that stretch the antagonists, as occurs for example during the execution of tendu, rond de jambe, grand batteman, etc.

As height increases, the center of gravity rises and this happens so quickly that the brain does not have time to calculate the new rules to achieve equilibrium. Strength training and stretching are therefore even more important at this stage to avoid injuries and injuries.

The truth is therefore that anyone and at any age can become more flexible if they learn to do it correctly and if they commit themselves with perseverance and willpower, essential skills to approach dance.

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