Warming Up for Dance

Dynamic Warm Up and Static Stretching

Static stretch
Stretch. Troy Aossey / Getty Images

Every dancer knows how important it is to warm up the body before dancing. A proper warm up will prepare your body for dancing and help warm your muscles to prevent injury. It's easy to neglect a warm up session altogether or rush through a few stretches way too fast, especially if you are pressed for time. But your body craves a slow, gradual wake up session. In fact, a proper warm up will have you covered in sweat before you even start class. Try thinking of a warm up in terms of two phases — a dynamic warm up followed by static stretching.

Dynamic Warm Up

Every serious athlete begins a workout session with a dynamic warm-up. A dynamic warm up is simply moving while you perform stretches. It might seem like sitting down to stretch would be a good way to warm up before you start dancing, but stretching "cold" muscles can actually lead to injury. Dynamic stretching will help get your blood flowing through your muscles, loosening, and preparing your muscles, ligaments, and joints. Raising your heart rate will circulate the blood through your entire body.

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The following movements and exercises can be incorporated into a dynamic warm up that is perfect for dancers. Aim to spend about five minutes during this phase of your warm up.

  • Jogging in place - Ballet dancers are often seen jogging in place backstage in full warm-up gear prior to warming up before a show. Begin with your feet in parallel, and start alternately raising and lowering your heels. Gradually increase the movement by picking your feet completely off the floor. Incorporate full arm circles to really get the blood flowing. As you feel warm, jog in circles or even around the studio.
  • Shoulder rolls - Get the blood flowing through your arms by gently rolling your shoulders. Lift your shoulders up and down, both forward and backward.
  • Leg swings - Swinging your legs to the front and back will warm up your lower body quickly. Hold onto a barre or a chair and wing your legs one at a time.

Static Stretching

Static stretching involves stretching while your body is still, as opposed to moving dynamically. Static stretching is achieved by stretching your body to a point of tension and holding the stretch for a few seconds at a time. This type of stretching will help lengthen and loosen your muscles and increase your overall flexibility.

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Static stretches should be performed before dancing to prevent muscle injuries, and after dancing to prevent tightness. Aim to hold static stretches for 10 to 60 seconds.

  • Toe touches - With your feet parallel, bend at the waist and touch your toes. Keep your knees straight if you can. As you gain flexibility, try to grab the back of your lower legs with your hands.
  • Split stretches - Dancers benefit greatly from the ability to do splits, both straddle as well as front splits. If you have your splits, try holding them for 30 to 60 seconds. As your flexibility increases, try propping your feet up in over splits.
  • Leg stretches - Lie on your back with legs out straight on the floor. Raise one leg and gently pull the leg toward your face with your hands. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
  • Cool down - The best time to gain flexibility is after your body has worked. After a long dance class, use static stretches to help cool your body down and increase flexibility. Perform stretches more slowly, and concentrate on your breathing.

Watch Now: How to Do Warm-Up Exercises for Ballet