ave you been dreaming of your legs lifting effortlessly into the air, resting by your ear and being able to hold it there with ease? Have you been wishing for better extension? To get yourself to a place of long lines and lift, it's a balance of proper alignment, strength training and strategic stretching.
Below you'll find your 4 step cheat sheet to better extension that you can start working on today!
Just like in a full split leap, the legs cannot fully extend unless they're properly turned out. Working the turn out can come from strengthening the rotator muscles of the hips and can be done very easily with an exercise like clam Shells.
- Lay on your side with legs stacked and knees bent.
- Keeping toes connected, lift the top knee WITHOUT rocking hips backward.
- Hold at the top for a count and return to original position.
Repetitions and Modifications: Repeat 20 times each leg
[+] add an athletic band around upper thighs.
So often the leg can't fully extend because you’re gripping for dear life with your quads hoping to keep your leg lifted, when in reality you should be lifting from supporting muscles like the core and outer hips. This becomes easier the stronger the core becomes. Try this exercise for engaging the deep, hard to reach abdominal muscles.
- Begin laying on your back with hands gently pressing rib cage down and knees tucked in toward chest.
- Leaving rib cage down and low back glued to the floor, extend one leg out about 3 inches from the floor
- Flex the extended leg
- Pulse the leg up and down 5 times
- Switch legs
Repetitions: Repeat 4 times on each leg
Heal The Hips
The hip flexors (which are a group of muscles) in the hips are the main crew for lifting the leg above 90 degrees. With this much responsibility they deserve some respect and some TLC. One exercise you can implement strengthens the hip flexors and the other stretches it strategically.
- Starting on your knees, step one foot forward into a lunge
- Raise your opposite arm above your head and rotate your hips sitting deeper into the lunge.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side
- Begin on one leg with knee bent and other leg extended forward with foot flexed
- Gently pulse the extended leg up and down focusing on squeezing the top of the leg.
Repetitions: Pulse 12 – 15 times and switch legs.
Your Butt comes First
Extension in an arabesque is usually limited from tight hip flexors (see above) and most dancers try to lift with their back. Something I ALWAYS struggled with! There's an order in which your muscles need to fire beginning with the glutes, hamstrings, then the low back. You can better understand how to engage your glutes with simple exercises like glute bridges and glute bridges on one leg.
- On your back with your knees bent, lift your glutes so there is a straight line front your knee to your shoulders. Squeeze at the top.
Repetitions: Repeat 20 times
[+] Add a band above your knees for extra resistance
Try these exercises and more next time you’re warming up to see your extension and strength lift to new heights!