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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Exercises to strengthen piriformis


Serendipity

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Hello to whomever can answer this.

 

On an AOL site, it suggests that the adductor/abductor weight machines work only a very small muscle and shouldn't be bothered with (for the general population, at least). But what about those of us who wish to be able to have stronger muscles in that area - the piriformis, that is?

 

Abductor is the one that moves the legs apart. Would using something like that help with strengthening the piriformis to hold turnout more firmly? (I HOPE this question makes sense!!)

 

I'm thinking not to replace ballet exercises (I have 6 or so classes a week, after all) but to enhance it when I'm at the gym.

 

Are those "small muscles" the AOL Health area talks about really the muscles I would want to work in the first place? (Whereas the general population likely couldn't care less!)

 

Thanks for any insight.

S.

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Serendipity, since you want answers from anyone who can answer it, and that is not allowed on this forum, I am moving this to the Adult Ballet Students forum where there are quite a few people who seem to be quite expert in terms of muscle usage. It's really not a Nutrition or Health question, but one of strengthening a certain muscle for better technique.

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Personally I think that if you are doing six ballet classes a week you are working your pyriformis muscle sufficiently. In fact, I might go so far as to say that ballet class is the best way to develop all of the rotator muscles in the hip.

 

If you are looking for additional exercise in addition to your six ballet classes, I suggest doing what I’ll call remedial exercise. Essentially that is exercising those muscles that are not used so much in ballet. In particular you might exercise the turning in muscles. Why? Well, the conventional wisdom is that when there is a muscle imbalance (one muscle stronger than its opposing muscle), there is an increased risk of injury. And no, turning in will not harm your turn out. Best ways to work your turn in muscles I think are by taking modern classes where a lot of work is done in parallel and in jazz classes that use a lot of turned in action.

 

If taking the extra classes isn’t an option, I’d just forget the whole idea and do whatever general exercises you enjoy doing. Think of it as cross training.

 

When I first started dancing I was attracted to the idea of dance conditioning. I was influenced by Sally Fitt’s writing in her book Dance Kinesiology. But I’ve pretty much done a 180 on the notion. Dance really uses the small muscles. But those small muscles are best worked through traditional dance classes. The extra work really isn’t worth the effort if you are taking enough classes. Better in my opinion is just to do other exercise that you enjoy and call it cross training.

 

If you are determined to exercise muscles you already use in ballet, I’d suggest looking at Eric Franklin’s book on dance conditioning. I’ve only thumbed through it, but it seems to have a lot of very specific exercises you might try.

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I second Garyecht's suggestion of using the Eric Franklin book. It's very good, with lots of visualisation techniques to make sure you are using the correct muscles.

 

An aside on weight machines at the gym: if they're working for you, that's great, but my physio has essentially forbidden me from using them. He says that they were never designed with female physiology in mind, and that you're much less likely to injure yourself if you do exercises which use your own body weight (i.e. barre work! :innocent:)

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"When I first started dancing I was attracted to the idea of dance conditioning. ...... But I’ve pretty much done a 180 on the notion."

 

I wonder if the attitude to conditioning depends on where you are in the learning process. As an adult beginner, you become very aware of certain specific weaknesses. As you get more experienced, the body gets more balanced and more integrated, and then you appreciate the need to work - and strengthen - the body in an integrated manner.

 

Its interesting that discussion on cross-training and conditioning has been going on for years in the adult forum, with opposing views not reconciled - and I wonder if that is because different people have different needs at different stages in their development.

 

The needs of young people are different, again.

 

Jim.

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Hi Serendipity!

 

I'm no expert by any means, but I HIGHLY recommend using the adductor machine or even just resistabands to my students and friends for exactly this purpose. The reason being, it worked wonders for me. It was recommended to me by a personal trainer a few years ago following an injury to my hip that was interfering with my strength and full degree of rotation. I saw immediate results. Within a week it had alleviated some of the pain I was experiencing and also increased my strength to hold my rotation. (I was getting 5 classes a week at the time, and class alone was definitely not going to get me what I achieved working this muscle separately.) I've continued to use it since and the only problem I've encountered is a tightening of the piriformis which I must be diligent in stretching or it becomes painful. Again, all that could be related to the first injury.

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The piriformis is a tiny tendon-muscle, about 3/4 of an inch by 3-4 inches in length. It is one of the "short external rotators", and it is identified anatomically because it crosses over the sciatic nerve behind the hip. There are several short external rotators, and together these are the turnout muscles. Because the muscles are so small, there isn't a need for resistance any greater than the weight of your leg to strengthen them. It is also important to stretch those muscles, especially in adults, to prevent "piriformis syndrome", or local compression of the sciatic nerve under a tight piriformis tendon. One of the strongest opponents to turnout is a tight iliopsoas tendon. You would gain a lot more turnout stretching the psoas and iliopsoas tendon, followed by "clam" exercises. A good stretch is a lunge-type exercise. Just Google "psoas stretches".

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Hi Serendipity!

 

I'm no expert by any means, but I HIGHLY recommend using the adductor machine or even just resistabands to my students and friends for exactly this purpose. The reason being, it worked wonders for me. It was recommended to me by a personal trainer a few years ago following an injury to my hip that was interfering with my strength and full degree of rotation. I saw immediate results. Within a week it had alleviated some of the pain I was experiencing and also increased my strength to hold my rotation. (I was getting 5 classes a week at the time, and class alone was definitely not going to get me what I achieved working this muscle separately.) I've continued to use it since and the only problem I've encountered is a tightening of the piriformis which I must be diligent in stretching or it becomes painful. Again, all that could be related to the first injury.

 

You've described exactly what I was looking for - a way to strengthen the muscle to hold the rotation. I have the same issues with my piriformis in terms of pain and stretching - due to a back break many moons ago (leftover injuries).

 

North - thanks for that advice. I'll google and see what I can find. I do have one great piriformis stretch I use that really helps on both sides. I almost can't do a ballet class unless I've done that stretch beforehand, now. It also helps with a rather tight, glute hamstring I have on the other side.

 

*sigh* Having the will of a 20 year old and the body of one many MANY years older is just so frustrating!!!

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I have Franklin's book too and I love it. I did not have time to do all the exercises in the book yet but the ones for the turnout I did and he says that the piriformis holds the leg turned out when you stand but turns the leg in when you lift it to a certain height.

 

If you can get the book, do so. It has many lovely things in there and (at least for me) some eye-opener about a dancer's body. :huh:

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Is that the book called "Conditioning for Ballet"? If so, I bought it but haven't really got into it yet. I also have "Tune Up Your Turnout" which I've been reading voraciously over and over (and applying some of the strategies) and have also used Mr. Mel's suggestions - those I do while at the gym. Makes for interesting looks but, hey, some folks seem to do odder things there. ;-)

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Nearly :grinning: Mine is called Conditioning for dance (maybe there's another one that exist ??) It has got a black woman doing a pose on the floor on the cover. The subtitle is "Training for peak performance in all dance forms". If you got it already, I think it would be worth to take a little time and go through the turnout-chapters. I don't know the other book, maybe there are some similiar things in it...

 

The Chapter about the piriformis is 9.18 (on page 208). :) There are also many nice things out can do to loosen, stretch and strenghten the psoas. I have the book now since three weeks and it's the second week now I try the exercises in the book. I really like them. I have not seen any progress yet but I am sure it will come with time.

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I think it's the same book. I'm not at home so may have got the title wrong.

 

I'll dig into that chapter. Thanks! :-)

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