Leg Stretches for Ballet Dancers

A dancer places her foot on the ballet barre to stretch her hamstrings

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Leg stretches are important for ballet dancers. Stretching the muscles of the legs, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, will improve flexibility as well as help to prevent injury. It can also enhance your performance as a dancer. The following ballet stretches for your legs are performed on the floor, but are easily adaptable to the barre.

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Quadriceps Stretch

A woman stretches out her quadriceps muscle on a yoga mat

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The quadriceps are the big muscles along the fronts of your thighs. Not only will stretching them prevent them from becoming tight, but it will also help to improve your arabesque. Stretching your quads regularly improves overall form and flexibility while helping to prevent injuries from ballet dancing.

  • Lie face down on the floor, with your forehead resting on your arms in front of you.
  • Straighten your legs flat on the floor behind you.
  • Bend your left leg and grab your left foot with your left hand.
  • Gently pull your left foot toward your left glute. Strive to keep your left thigh flat on the floor.
  • Make sure to keep your left foot in line with your left thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds and breathe during the movements, and then switch legs.
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Hamstrings Stretch

A ballet dancer stretches her hamstrings by bending forward over her extended leg

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The hamstrings are the long muscles that run down the backs of your legs. Dancing is difficult with tight hamstrings, so stretch them as much as possible for optimal flexibility. Again, well-stretched hamstrings can also improve your dancing form and prevent painful injuries.

  • Kneel on your left knee while extending your right leg in front.
  • Point your right foot and bend forward toward your right leg. If you are flexible enough, lay your upper body on your leg, without rounding your back. (Don't worry if this hurts a little or the stretch feels a little sharp; flexibility will improve over time.)
  • Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds. Breathe into the extension and then switch legs. 
  • To enhance the stretch go back and repeat it on each leg at least once. Sometimes you can gain a deeper stretch by taking a break and repeating the stretch again later. You may also want to try other ballet stretches in between this stretch and then go back to it again later.
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Calf Stretch

A dancer warms up before a performances by stretching her calf muscles

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Your calf muscles run down the backs of your lower legs. The calves are responsible for many ballet steps including relevés, pointing the toes and balancing on demi or full pointe. Keeping the calves stretched is very important for dancers for overall performance and injury prevention.

  • Stagger your feet with your right leg in front of your left.
  • Keeping your left foot straight, bend your right knee, slightly leaning forward with your upper body.
  • Try to keep your left heel on the floor, but ease back on the tension if you feel a strain on the front of the ankle. Flexibility will improve with time and practice, so don't push it too much.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, making sure to breathe while stretching. Then switch legs.