In last week’s blog, we detailed some stretches to help dancers develop the flexibility required to create beautiful lines in leg extensions. But, flexibility is only the first step -- you also need to develop the strength and control to keep your leg up once you’ve stretched it there!
Here are some strengthening exercises designed to target all the leg muscles you’ll activate during a leg extension:
Glutes and Hamstrings: Pelvic Raises
Lie on your back with your knees bent, soles of your feet on the floor, and hands down by your sides. Your inner thighs, knees, and ankles should be gently squeezing towards each other. Pressing the palms of your hands into the floor, slowly roll through the vertebrae of your spine so that your pelvis raises towards the ceiling. Engage your glutes to pulse slightly higher and roll back down. Repeat for 10 reps.
Take your right toes to your left knee in a parallel passe position and repeat on one leg for 10 reps. Repeat on the other side.
Reminder: Throughout this exercise, you should be engaging the abdominals to support your lower back, breathing deeply to keep the neck long, and engaging the inner thighs to keep your legs together.
Psoas: Leg Lifts
Start on your hands and knees with your back straight, neck long, and abdominals engaged. Make sure that your hands are stacked directly under your shoulders so that the shoulder forms a 90 degree angle. Raise your right leg so that it is extended toward the wall behind you with a flexed foot. This is your starting position. Now, engage your right glute and lengthen your right psoas muscle in order to lift your right leg toward the ceiling slightly. Make sure that your back stays straight (not arched) and that your pelvis stays in line. Repeat for 15 reps and switch to the other leg.
Reminder: In order to keep the back from arching, you will need to stabilize your shoulders by rotating your arms outwards and sending energy through your palms, down into the floor. Keep your eyes looking six inches in front of your hands so that your neck doesn’t release toward the ground.
Abdominals, Psoas, and Glutes: Superman Plank
Begin in a plank position on your hands and feet. Again, stack the hands directly under the shoulders and send energy down into the floor. Without allowing the tummy to sag or the pelvis to rotate, lift your left hand to the wall in front of you and your right foot to the wall behind you with a flexed foot. Hold for a moment and return to the plank. Then repeat the motion with your right arm and left foot. Repeat 10 times on each side, making sure to engage your full abdominal wall throughout the exercise.
Reminder: During this exercise, you might notice that you have an easier time on one side than the other. If this is the case, don’t worry! Simply hold the pose for slightly longer on your challenging side, working for stability and balance.
Rotators and Obliques: Clams
Lie on your right side, with your right arm extended on the floor above your head and your left hand on the floor in front of your stomach. Bend your legs to a 45 degree angle and stack your left foot onto your right foot. Keep your heels connected, open your left knee toward the ceiling as high as you can without allowing the pelvis to move. Slowly lower the leg with resistance. Repeat 15 times and switch to the other side.
Reminder: Your first time trying this exercise, you might not be able to open your knees very wide. That’s perfectly fine! The most important thing is that your pelvis stays still and that you isolate the hip rotator muscles. As you continue to practice this exercise, you’ll open up your rotation and achieve a wider angle in the hips.
Glutes, Quads, and Calves: Plie Squat Jumps
Begin in a deep, turned out second position plie with your back straight, chin level to the floor, and knees open over toes. With as much power as you can, jump into the air with the legs extended in a V below your body. Your knees should be straight and your toes should be pointed. Roll through the feet as you land and return to the deep plie. Repeat 10 times.
Reminder: Although this is a leg exercise, you shouldn’t forget about your upper body! Keep your shoulders down, rib cage closed, and abdominals engaged in order to keep the back straight throughout the exercise.
Calves: Calf Raises
Begin in a closed parallel position with your arms down by your side. Raise to your maximum releve. Then, lower the heels until they almost make contact with the floor. Just before they touch, return to releve. Repeat 20 times. Then, change to a turned out first position and repeat.
Reminder: Every time you raise, you want to support your calves by engaging the glutes. This will ensure that you keep your posture. In turnout, you want to try to connect your knees each time you lower toward the floor.
Have fun working those legs, dancers!
Want an extra dance specific workout each week? Join us for Stretch, Strength and Conditioning with Mahi Performance every Tuesday afternoon -- contact us for more info.
- Team BoPPA :)