Is Your Warm Up Reducing Pain and Preventing Injury, or Causing It?

Are your dancers experiencing chronic pain and soreness in their hamstrings, hips, backs, necks and
shoulders? Every time they sit down do they quickly become tight, stiff and feel stuck? If so, you may
need to examine your warm-ups, stretch routines and cool downs. Much of the stretching being
carried out by dancers has been handed down from teacher to student, and it isn’t necessarily up to
date with the information we know these days. Nor is it up to date with the amount of hours dancers
are putting in each week. Dancers are being pushed at an accelerated rate with vigorous training and
higher demands. The way in which you warm them up and cool them down may need to be adjusted
to meet these demands. Before a dance class (or any workout session!), it’s important to take some
time to give your body a proper warm up. An effective warm up should consist of a series of activities
designed to gradually increase your heart rate and blood flow to muscles. Two main reasons for
warming up are to reduce the risk of injury and to prepare the body for the activities to come. Your
Stretch Routine or Cool Down should be done at the end of class when the muscles are warm and the
dancers don’t need to be prepared for quick and dynamic movement.

HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR WARM UP, STRETCHING and COOL DOWN

Designing an efficient and effective warm-up, stretch routine and cool down can be a challenge! It is
important to understand that they are different things designed for specific results. A detailed
understanding of anatomy and physiology is necessary to create the right sequences and routines for
you and your students. Without the knowledge you may be increasing your dancers chance of injury
and creating chronic pain in their bodies. An efficient warm- up consists of several elements:

  • A “Warm – Up” Phase
  •  A Dynamic Phase
  • An Active Phase

The warm-up phase should last 2 – 4 minutes and consist of gentle movements designed to “get the kinks out”. It should bring mobility to the joints and feel good. Examples Include:

  • Supine Spinal Twists
  • Cat/Cow Variations
  • Standing Roll Downs

The Dynamic Phase consists of active and dynamic stretching. This can last anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes depending on what your dancers have done prior to class and what they will be doing after.

Dynamic stretching increases flexibility through controlled movement. This increases blood flow, nervous system activity, range of motion, awareness and performance. Examples include:

  • Sun Salutation Variations
  • Dynamic Variations of combined Yoga Postures
  • Core and Stability Work
  • Active Stretching

Your Stretch Routine or Cool Down is best done at the end of class when the muscles are warm and the dancers don’t need to be prepared for quick and dynamic movement. These sequences or routines should be designed to sooth the nervous system which allows for greater increases in flexibility and mobility. Taking time to properly stretch and cool down is optimal for recovery, pain management and performance. Use static stretches in the form of active and passive holds. Examples include:

  • Yin Yoga
  • Static Stretching
  • Passive Stretching
  • Myofascial Release

Vary your warm – up, stretches and cool down routines to maximize strength, flexibility and mobility. As well as reduce pain, prevent injury and optimize performance and recovery. I get it. All of this information can become overwhelming and you may be tempted to go back to way you were doing things before. To keep things simple and help move you forward I will leave you with these two videos to help illustrate some of the information above. Enjoy…

Think Dynamic and Active to warm up:

Think Passive and Static to cool down:

For the love of dance education!

xo