WestSports Medicine’s Dr. Stu Steinman has worked as a sports medicine professional for more than 20 years, during which time he has offered treatment and prevention for a variety of activity-related injuries. In the summer of 2016, Dr. Stu Steinman presented on injury prevention at an international conference for dance teachers held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Dancers strive constantly for flexibility, often at the expense of their bone, joint, and muscle health. A common mistake is stretching before class, when the muscles are not yet warm. Stretching a cold muscle instead places strain on the joints and lead to long-term instability. Dancers who wait to stretch until the end of class, however, can hold a stretch for up to 60 seconds and gain more flexibility.
Experts also advise dancers against stretching the same muscle groups too often. While it is important to repeat a stretch several times per week to lengthen the muscle, a dancer must also take care to let the muscle rest and repair. By working different muscles on different days, a dancer can maximize his or her stretching time without over-stretching and impeding progress.
All stretches should be gentle and stop before the point of pain. Pain is the body’s sign that the muscle is over-stretched. For this reason, dancers should avoid asking partners to push on their bodies and extend a stretch, as another person cannot feel the discomfort that indicates the body has reached its limits.
Finally, dancers should remember to breathe steadily throughout the stretching session. By keeping the breath slow and even, a dancer can keep the stretch gently and protect the body.