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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Best stretch for quads


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My legs are quite hyperextended. I have long muscles that don't appear bulky, but recently realized just how tight my quads are. They're out of balance with my hamstrings. Makes sense because of the hyperextension. I have very narrow hips and deep sockets too. Decent amount of rotation in the joint, but I'm not especially turned out. I have trouble controlling it. When I come up out of plie, at the last moment of straigtening, my leg looks like it rotates in, no matter how "quiet" and placed I keep my hips. It must have something to do with the shape of the socket? grrr....Anyway...I just added this for some "clues" about what my body is like...


My roommate is an ex-dancer and is a pilates instructor. She suggested the stretch where you are in a lunge and pull the foot toward the glutes. This is EXTREMELY uncomfortable for me (It feels painful on my knee, and sometimes makes my adductors cramp up...so much that I have to punch them). But the more "basic" quad stretches...I just don't feel. Should I persist with the uncomfortable one until it feels more comfortable?


Any guesses why my adductors totally cramp when I try to do these stretches? The one where you're in a split and pull the back foot up (more extreme version of the lunge one) does the same thing. Adductors spasm and cramp :shrug:

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I'm probably direly unqualified to give technical advice, but from what I understand that lunge stretch can terrible for your knee because it is easy to twist the knee at an unnatural angle and put stress on the joint. If it hurts your knee, STOP. You don't want to injure anything. Your knee should not be able to twist very far laterally. I have a teacher who told me that whenever you stretch quads with your knee bent you should take extra care to make sure your thighs stay paralell, if that makes sense. So if you're stretching like that, make sure your knee is not rotated at a strange angle.


I have terribly tight legs and this stretch with the exercise ball has helped loosen my quads and hip flexors up a lot. I also just got an exercise band (looks like a pilates band, but has handles) to stretch with. I picked up at TJ Maxx, so I'm not sure if you can find it anywhere, since that's like a closeout store. But I think you could probably find something similar. It has stretches printed on it. Unfortunately, the kids made off with it, or I'd grab it, but it has some decent lower body stretches. When I find it, I'll see if it has anything useful on it.


As far as the cramping, I'm not sure why that happens. Maybe it's a strength imbalance?

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Amy is right, lampwick. If it hurts the knees, DON'T do it! :shrug:

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It hurts because I'm rather low in body fat and my knee digs into the floor---the knee itself isn't really feeling anything bad. Is fine with a pillow or towel under it. Maybe I'll just be sure to always have a towel. duh.:shrug:


The jumpy adductors are annoying. They'll do this sometimes with plie in second. I remember them always being like this, even when I was a kid. There's some structural/strength imbalance that affects my adductors when I bend my leg (at different angles too...turned in and turned out). And I can't figure out what it could be.


Maybe it'll remain a mystery...it doesn't affect me a lot. Could be a vitamin deficiency ...dehydration...too many factors I guess.

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Lampwick, the stretch your roommate suggests is a good one. I know what you mean by the knee digging into the floor too. You might try putting a sponge, pillow, or something else soft under the knee as you do the stretch. That will also increase the stretch by the way.


If you are not feeling any stretch when doing traditional quad stretches, I’d try to figure out why.


Personally, I can’t imagine one not feeling the stretch in traditional quad and hip flexor stretches such as the yoga pose dhanurasana (bow). My sense is that you are quite flexible, but that shouldn’t keep you from feeling a stretch.

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"She suggested the stretch where you are in a lunge and pull the foot toward the glutes."


Personally, I hate this one. Many problems-


1. Knee digs into floor, as already pointed out. ALWAYS use padding.

2. You have to balance at the same time as stretching - this means you are not concentrating on the stretch, and it is difficult to relax into it. It helps if you hold onto something, but I find it is still not as good as it should be.

3. I find these self-assisted pulls not very effective. Somehow the very act of pulling means you do not relax into the stretch as mush as you should. I find it is much better if possible to relax into a stretch under the force of gravity, if a way can be found to do this safely and under control and not overstretch.


If you can do it, I suggest what is called the "hurdler's stretch" - but some people counsel against this. Tuck one leg back and have the other forward, and lean back. You can put a cushion under your behind if necessary to reduce the stretch. I think however, dancers may have problems with this stretch. If you turn the leg in at the hip (opposite of tumout) then the foot is beside the hip, bulky calf and thigh muscles wont get in the way, and it strains the knee less (there should be no stress at all on the knee OF COURSE). But if you cant turn in the legs you should not try this as it may stretch ligaments on the side of the knee. And you have to watch sickling in and out. However, if you can do it without straining the knee, its a good one. Even better if you can do both sides at once, but you have to be the right body type for this. You can sit up on a cushion if necessary to make the stretch as mild as you want.


If any one knows whether ballet dancers in general shouldnt do this one, I'd be glad to hear. As I said, some people counsel against it for everyone, but my impression is that it depends who you are. For me, I do both sides at once and just lie back flat - I could go to sleep in that position.


"The one where you're in a split and pull the back foot up" - I suggest that this is not particulary useful for what you want if that is what you were suggesting. The reason is that the split tilts the hips up at the front before you start the movement - this pre-stretches only one component of the quads - the rectus femoris. Then pulling the foot up stretches this muscle even more, and that is likely to get to its limit before the other components of the quads have even started to get much of a stretch.



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Yes, the hurdler's stretch with a bent front leg and leaning back was shown to me by a dancer.


Turning in is perfectly comfortable with my body type and I feel no strain on the knee..but yes, I was wondering about the angle of it...if it was really getting into some hip ligaments more than the quads.


I guess it's tough to know without seeing the particular body.

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Yes, the hurdler's stretch with a bent front leg and leaning back was shown to me by a dancer.


Turning in is perfectly comfortable with my body type and I feel no strain on the knee..but yes, I was wondering about the angle of it...if it was really getting into some hip ligaments more than the quads.

^^Oh my, I'm sorry, I thought the "hurdler's stretch" was what you were talking about in the first place. I've been hitting the cold medicine a little too hard lately, I guess. :innocent:


Back to your regularly scheduled thread...

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I do the "hurdler's stretch" as well everynight and I've never quite figured out what angle to have my leg at! As a result I hold it turned in, straight, and turned out (one leg at a time) each for 30 seconds.


Is it bad to do the hurdler's strech with the knee/leg at a certain angle? It seems to stretch a different area each time.


sorry I guess question is sort of the same as lampwick's!

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Protecting the knee is the main problem with this stretch; I'm not aware of issues with the hip as lampwick finds and I wonder if they are critical ones, or just the muscles being worked in unexpected directions.


I think what I'm saying below goes over earlier posts, but maybe in more detail:


About the angle of the knee - if you keep everything straight, the calf will be directly below the thigh. Then everything is in proper alignment and twisting of the knee is not a problem. However, other problems may come in. For instance, your calf muscle may be bulky and not let your knee bend without the front of the knee being stretched open. Solution - sit on a cushion so you dont bend at the knee so much (be sure to keep hips level), or use the position below.


Alternatively, you can rotate the leg in (opposite of turnout), so that the foot ends up on the floor beside the thigh when you sit down (taking care not to wing it out or sickle it in). If you are careful, you will find what angle to rotate your thigh at so the knee bends without twisting. You can either sit on the floor, or if that is a problem, raise yourself on a cushion, taking care not to introduce an extra twist to the knee. (This assumes you have sufficient turn in at the hip joint).


Leaning back with the thigh turned in may make some expected patterns of muscle stretch in the quads and adductors, but this will not be a problem once you are used to them.


In some people apparently some ligaments are tight within the knee joint itself, and this means that those ligaments get stretched if either of these are done; bulky calves may make this worse. These people should not do this stretch at all. But most people can.


Most of these precautions came about because a lot of people who try and stretch are bulky, inflexible, athletes. But if you are lithe and flexible you can try a lot of variations (as les_sylphides says) without problems, as long as you take care to pay attention to what is happening to your knees.



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Something brought up in this thread made me think, if I can rarely feel a stretch should I bother doing it??


Just a little background, I have hypermobility syndrome, and am extremely flexible everywhere. I have seen many physios etc. who have all been shocked at my flexiblity. I don't push my flexiblity, ie. do the splits off the ground etc. as there really is no point. I am quite mobile enough for ballet and being more flexible would in my case be even more of a problem. However, I do stretch, during and after classes, but (very) rarely 'feel' a stretch in my muscles. Is there any point??

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Wow, what a problem to have R.Mc! Oh there is the story of how Marcus Alford went into a layout one time and gave himself a bloody nose because he forgot to turn his head to the side! I have no information on your syndrome.


Okay, Lampwick, there is one stretch that hasn't been mentioned.

To stretch your left leg:

1. lie on right side w/ legs at 90 degree angle.

2. pull left leg with left arm, keeping bend in knee, back, parallel to ground, towards your bottom & back. I feel a stretch here, not sure if you will. :shrug: I can pull each leg to where it is in line with my torso, no farther, my quads are a little tight too. :)

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R.Mc - it has been argued (though I dont know wth how much evidence) that people who are hypermobile should take their joints regularly through their full range of motion.


This was argued by a trainer who works with hypermobile children. He's called Phil Lancaster and is from Runcorn. He had a website that I was hoping to refer you with lots of informaiton, but it seems to have been taken off. A Google search seems to get him confused with a religeous educator of the same name.


Obviously there's no point in trying to make your muscles go further - they already go far enough or too far (strengthening is the issue for them) - but the surfaces of the joints need exercising and maintenance too. Lancaster argues that if you restrict the range of motion below what was developed naturally, the joints degenerate. I dont know how much truth there is in this.


Personally I would take stiffness, pain, or discomfort as a guide. If you can make a movement naturally, and there is no negative consequence, then it might be a good idea to do the stretch every so often. You for instance need strength in every part of your range, and you only get this if you work the muscles in that range. If you feel anything going wrong (even a little) then decrease what you are doing, if you are going beyond the range of a normal flexible dancer. But I admit, I have absolutely no medical evidence for this.



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Thanks Jim, all that you have said is what appears to agree with my body (with the exception of a painfully lax ankle-aargh!).

I go to a school where I spend an extra hour in the pilates room everyday alongside my normal classes. Didn't do this in the first year (now I am in my second) and I spent most of the year injured watching and the end of the 1st year in a plaster cast! This year, although I have been injured I have been much more proacitve and it has really paid off.



Tiffany- I was performing a contemporary piece once, and really going for it, and on one step where we had to grand battement devant, I hit myself so hard in the head with my leg that I fell over! I had the largest bruise just above my right eye, and had to tell people who asked that I had kicked myself.... noone outside my ballet class believed me, I'm sure!

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I use a stretch similar to Tiffany's except that it is the bottom leg (the leg against the floor) that is pulled back with opposite arm). Both shoulers should remain on the floor. This 'cross pull' helps the knees from twisting which can be a problem with anyone with less than 'straight' legs :devil:

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