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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Flexibility as an adult


moreilly

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I am currently 24, and I picked up ballet again about a year and a half ago. I'm wondering if it is possible to significantly improve my flexibility. I was never as flexible as a lot of the girls I dance with when I was younger, and I'm curious if my extensions could make a vast improvement at this point.

 

Right now, I get a good stretch a few times a week, but my hips and back are very stiff and often limit how much I can stretch the muscles themselves. I am also quite injury-prone and I'm sure this contributes to my problem.

 

Are the tendons and fascia more unyielding as an adult so much so that significant improvement on flexibility is not realistic? Or do I just need to work harder and more consistently?

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You might be more flexible than you think. Sometime, if your ligaments are very flexible, your muscles and tendons can get very overworked and stiff because they have to do double-duty supporting your joints.

 

Have you asked your teacher about your construction and flexibility? Ballet teachers seem to have terminator-esque laser vision and can tell how bendy you are just by looking at you! I always thought I was very non-flexible, until my ballet teacher decided to show me just how high my developpe a la seconde could go :green: It was a pretty freaky moment. :yes:

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The stretches you probably do in ballet class are not sufficient to greatly improve your flexibility. Ideally, it is something you need to work on at home for at least 30 minutes a day. You can do it while you watch TV at night. Your tight muscles could definitely be a contributing factor in your problem with injuries, more so than the other way around. Your extensions could also be a strength issue, just as much or more than a flexibility issue. Have you ever taken a Pilates class? You'd be amazed at the difference a few 30 minute sessions per week can make!

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Hi Moreilly - I'm 31 and I started back up about 2 and a half years ago. I too have also never been super flexible compared to other girls. I'd say I'm flexible enough, I mean, I can rest my head on my knees or on the floor in a straddle stretch, but for example, I can't quite get a perfect split and never could, even when I was a cheerleader in high school.

 

That being said, I would say my flexibility has definitely improved in a significant manner. I could never do pied a la main in my life, and now I can, on both legs. Initially I had a very hard time with the left but now it's just as good as the right. My extensions have also improved more than I could have imagined, although honestly I think that has to do more with strength and technique as well. It's hard to find the muscles that will take your leg above 90 degrees, but keep trying, and you will. In my opinion, it is all about careful, daily repetition.

 

I think the one thing that can't really improve drastically is turnout, because of something about the bones fusing once you're an adult. Mine has improved but obviously it will never be 180 degrees. Right now I'm working on improving flexibility and strength in my back to help my arabesques. :yes:

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I am 46 and took up ballet again a little over a year ago. As a child I did ballet from around 6-16 years and also did modern through to when I was around 30. I have never been naturally flexible and was always only 'just good enough'.

 

Since I've resumed exercising (ballet, pilates, callanetics, cycling etc) I've tried to follow a daily stretching routine. Some things are still the same as before, not much is worse, but some stretches are much improved. Probably my most problematic stretch in the past was trying to touch my toes/the floor with my hands and not cheating by a little knee bending. :yes: From memory, I could only ever just touch and 'nose on the knee' didn't ever happen! Now I can get my whole hands on the floor and bend my elbows a little, so unless my legs have shortened or my arms lengthened, I must have got more flexible in this stretch. If my nose was just a fraction bigger (I'm definitely not wishing!) it would be on my knees!!

 

So, if I can do it, I'm sure you can! Just remember to warm up properly first. I think as a teen I was always too eager to stretch without warming up which is why I spent most of the time with strained muscles.

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I'll just have to keep working at it! I get frustrated with myself when my body won't do what I want it to because of old injuries, and I'll just have to get over those frustrations! It's good to know others have been able to gain flexibility as an adult.

 

I suppose the lesson is to just stay persistent! :yes:

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24 is still very young. I know it doesn't seem that way when you are in your 20s but when you get into your 40s you realize how amazing a 20 something body is. Not that we are washed up in our 40s, but I have to work a lot harder at just getting warmed up now. In my 20s I never bothered to stretch or warm-up and didn't feel tight. I actually think that had I stretched then I would have had pretty good flexibility because the body just bounces back and heals easier.

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No matter your age, you can always become more flexible. The word “significant” is more of a problem. I mean by how much is significant? There is no objective standard. Actually, you don’t want to have your ligaments and tendons to become more flexible. That often leads to injury. You want your muscles to become more flexible.

 

As with just about everything in dance, persistence is really important. Keep stretching and you will wind up happy.

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Extensions depend as much on strength as they do on flexibility. For example, my right leg goes close to my ear when I hold it there, but getting it there in developpe is nigh on impossible right now. I am happy with just over 90 degrees (well, I'm NOT happy but it's better than UNDER 90!!).

 

I'll never have a split due to the badly damaged back, but I'm not THAT far from the floor now compared with just a year ago.

 

Turnout flexibility is something I've worked on daily and now I'm in a pretty good position BUT holding it there in exercises still requires strength.

 

Flexibility is actually quite overrated. Great that you can get the leg to the ear in a kick, but what about holding it there and keeping the body in proper position?

 

Yes, you can improve. I'm well past 40 and improved immensely just in the past year. At 24, you can do it if you wish. But be sensible about it. No sense tearing something up and then not being able to do much afterward.

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You're still young, although it might seem that way to you now. I recommend taking a yoga class, or if you can't get a yoga class a pilates class. You'll gain flexibility and strength at the same time. It won't happen overnight, but it will come do you eventually. Enjoy the process.

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Flexibility definitely can be improved, but I do think that there is a good balance between flexibility and strength! Although I am not as flexible as some of my classmates my extensions are better than some of theirs due to strength, but when it comes to penche's I just dont have the range that some of my classmates have. I do need to work on my flexibility and I know that I SHOULD make the most of the December break to do exactly that.

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I agree that strength is very important. I'm pretty strong within the range that I do have; I'd just like to have more range! I'm sure it will come in time, and I'll just have to not get frustrated with myself when I watch the 13 year olds I dance with surpass me! :]

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