Every dancer (and their teacher) knows the importance of warming up. Whether it be before a class, audition, competition or performance, a well-performed warm-up will prepare your body for the activities or lesson ahead. It can be easy to neglect a warm-up altogether or rush through a few stretches but your body benefits from a thorough warming up. When executed correctly a warm-up prepares you both mentally and physically, increases coordination and proprioception, raises the heart rate, circulation and body temperature, enhances joint movement and mobility, and supports overall performance while reducing and preventing the onset of injuries. In regards to warming up, there are two important phases to think of - dynamic and static.
A dynamic warm-up helps to loosen your muscles and joints. It’s essentially ‘moving while you stretch’. By promoting blood flow and circulation, it helps prevent injuries and muscle soreness through the increased delivery of oxygen to the tissues and muscles. The increase in body temperature that occurs also allows the muscles to contract more efficiently by increasing the contractile speed (twitch contraction and relaxation). Through the elongation of muscles, elasticity is improved as well as joint range of motion due to the increased flow of synovial fluid lubricating the joints. A dynamic warm-up and dynamic movements wake up the nervous system and get the brain communicating with the muscles, allowing them to work more efficiently.
Jogging on the spot - you can incorporate full arm circles to really get the blood flowing. Once you are a bit warmer you can start jogging in circles or around the room/studio. Neck isolations - move your head up and down, right to left, shoulder to shoulder. You can also do some circle head rolls by dropping your head down to the right corner and rolling to the left corner and then rolling back. Or tilting back to the right corner and rolling back to the left corner and back again. Shoulder rolls - get the blood flowing through your arms by gently rolling your shoulders. Lift your shoulders up and down, both forwards and backwards. Forward and lateral hip/leg swings - to warm the lower body. Forwards and backwards, side to side. You can perform these by holding a barre or chair. STATIC STRETCHING
Static stretching involves holding a position for 20 seconds or more to elongate the muscles. It’s achieved by stretching your body to a point of tension and holding the stretch for a period of time. It assists with lengthening and loosening your muscles, thereby increasing your overall flexibility. It’s often more effective than dynamic stretching for long-term flexibility and should be performed after a dynamic warm-up and before you start dancing to prevent injuries. Incorporated as part of a cool down, it also enhances muscle recovery by preventing tightness and tension in the muscles.
Forward fold/Toe touch - with your feet in parallel, bend at the waist and touch your toes, keeping your knees as straight as you can. As you gain flexibility, try to grab the back of your lower legs with your hands. Lunges/Split Stretches - low lunge position with the back knee down, top of the foot resting on the ground, hands placed either side of the front foot. Begin to glide the front foot forward, stretching the leg as you go until you reach a split. Hold both the lunge and then the split. Repeat on the other side. Leg Stretches - lie on your back with your legs straight on the floor. Raise one leg and gently pull it towards your face with your hands. Switch your legs and repeat. Cobra Pose - laying on your stomach, place your hands directly under your shoulders, elbows bent straight back, hugged towards your sides. Lift your chest off the floor, roll your shoulders back and keep your gaze straight ahead. Ensure your elbows continue hugging your sides. Warming up doesn’t only physically prepare you for the task ahead, it also prepares you mentally. Going into a class, competition or whatever else you may be performing in without being adequately prepared can easily throw you off your game. To prevent this from happening use your warm-up time to not only physically warm up but also remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and mentally prepare for the task ahead. Doing so you’ll be less likely to give up when things get difficult, ensuring both your mind and body are ready to succeed.
Now let's get ready for that lesson!