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Mel Johnson

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There seems to be some sort of general confusion when the term "extension" is used, as to just what is meant. When the term is used anatomically, it means one thing, when it's used to describe ballet technique, it means another.


Anatomically, the term "extension" means the degree of travel of a joint. In legs, HYPERextension (hyper=too much) usually refers to the knee joint coming to full travel in back of straight. HYPOextension (hypo=not enough) usually refers to the knee joint coming to full travel in front of straight. Viewed from straight ahead, in sixth position, first neutral, feet side-by-side and touching, you can't tell hyperextension from hypoextension from a straight leg unless there are lots of shadows!


In ballet technique, when we talk about extension, we talk about how high and how well you can stick your leg up in the air!


Confusion comes about when you consider that an anatomically hyperextended dancer will usually have good balletic extension, but anatomical hyperextension is not necessary for good developpés! Nor does having knees that "lock in back of themselves" guarantee that you can automatically stick your leg 'way up in the air!:D


Responses or questions to this topic need not be limited to teens.

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Yes, from an anatomic standpoint an extended joint is one that is not flexed and a flexed joint is one that is not extended. Extension then means the stretching of a joint or limb, the "unbending" movement around a joint in a limb (as the knee or elbow) that increases the angle between the bones of the limb at the joint. Extension is moving from a smaller angle--say 90 degrees towards a larger angle such as 180 degrees (knees and elbows) and flexion is moving from extension to a smaller angle.


From an anatomic standpoint hyperextension would mean beyond the natural full extention ie more than 180 degrees for the knee or elbow. Hypoextension for the same knee or elbow would be less than 180 degrees.


The hips are ball joints so they can flex and extend as well as abduct and adduct, and even in-between

Edited by Stork
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Thanks ever so for the addition to the definition of extension of a joint, but the problem being addressed here is not the exquisite perfection of an anatomical definition, but the confoundation between what physiology says about the word "extension" and what it means in ballet. We've been addressing a lot of students who, I suspect, think that "hyperextension" means "high extension" - it doesn't. There is no such thing as "hyperextension" in the ballet lexicon.

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  • 1 year later...

This might sound stupid but I want help. I don't have hyperextension I have like under knee straightness, and I try to force it back and I work hard at making my knees as straight as possible but sometimes it hurts and I want straight knees! What do I do?! :)

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You've just described hypOextension. The knees come to full travel in front of straight and your knees always look bent. This is one for the old tennis ball therapy. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Straighten the leg, trying to keep your foot on the floor, until you've squashed the tennis ball somewhat. Release and repeat with the other leg. Alternate. You may find it to your advantage to start with a pretty dead ball, or something a little softer than a tennis ball.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest DaNcE4mE

My legs are hyperextended, but I don't have good extension! So I am just wondering, whats the best thing to do in order to improve it?

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The only way one improves extension is stretching properly and consistently, in addition, of course, to daily classes where you always work on extension. It takes a lot of time and patience if you do not have a lot of natural flexibility. I'm talking about years, not months or weeks! Keep working! :D

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  • 9 months later...
Guest deliriousdancer24

i have hypoextended knees too. it took me abaout a year for my legs to not look so bent in class but they still bend every now and then. I also have trouble with extentions but i have both splits so it doesnt make sense to me as of why my legs arent kicking me in my face. :P

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Splits do not have to fight gravity. Rotation and flexibility on the floor is one thing, standing on one leg is another. It requires alignment and weight placement and the strength to get the leg up and hold it. This takes a long time to develop.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have a hard time with extinding my leg into the air. I don't know why i'm having so much trouble getting my dumb leg up more than 90 degrese. Any tips on how to get my leg higher?

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Since you're in the 13-16 age group, don't worry about getting great high extensions right now. Make sure that you have your placement and alignment correct, and think of the thigh being correctly rotated in the hipjoint, with the supporting foot likewise turned out and supported by rotation of that thigh. Think of the working/gesturing leg as being lifted from underneath, by the hamstring muscles, even though it's not them that do the work. Also lift very well out of your supporting hip. Once you've got all that under control, then work on getting the leg up higher. Remember, once your knee goes to a certain height, that's it! You're committed, because the knee can never lower into an extension. :shrug:

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks Mel! You are very right, sometimes these terms get mixed up and result in misconception. :blushing:


Remember, hyperextension isn't all that it's cracked up to be and those woh nave it know that for sure. :D

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Guest Rizu-Chan

I really can't get my leg up high into the air, my 90 degrees is pretty pitiful. My ponche doesn't get very high, and I have a bad habit of getting my leg into a straight line with my back. This is one thing that drives me mad, and I was wondering what I could do about getting it higher, because I seem to have a different problem then Xandra. What types of streching would help? Thank you!!!<3

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