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Another extensions quandry


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Why is it that some people just happen to have extension naturally? What is the cause of this? I swear that some of us work daily on strengthening, flexibility, and alignment, and yet we (me in particular) still struggle with extension. The other day, I met a child who had no previous ballet or gymnastics training and she was able to lift her leg (no joke) so high. Her foot was past her ear anyway, but *zip* there it was. I've encountered 2 other kids like this in the past and wondered whether those Zakharova extensions aren't just inborn and god-given since. My extensions have improved greatly since my first day to ever touch a barre, so of course it's not futile, but what could possibly explain their ability to do that?


The 3 cases I've encountered, 2 of the 3 don't have strength - so why can they just tickle the clouds with their toes like it's nothing? Argh.

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Anatomy, in short. The biomechanics of human beings are extremely variable (just like any other biological trait) in the way that muscles attach to bones, the angles of attachment and insertion, the length of the tendons and ligaments at the joints (tendons attach muscles to bones and joints, ligaments attach bone to bone), the ratios of the lengths of muscles and limbs (e.g., leg length:torso length) all affect the possible range of motion of the limbs at the joints. Some people simply are born with the physical facility of to flexibility but there are also people with less natural flexibility who are able to get the most out of their bodies by sheer hard work to build strength and flexibility. Still, a person who has naturally tight joints is not going to be able to get the ear height extensions no matter how much work they put into it, so it's a blend of natural ability plus effort and how much of each varies quite a bit.


Young children who are assessed for ballet training at very serious ballet schools are picked mainly on potential and body type; i.e., a certain look and flexibility as measured by some simple tests that measure the extent of natural joint range of motion as that is seen as the most preferable "raw material."


The rest of us mere mortals just keep plugging away, stretching and building strength and trying to squeeze every last possible drop out of our pull in the genetic lottery :thumbsup:

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I also think that kids are a lot more bendy than adults, and those kids who worked on their flexibility while young tend to keep it (a least some of it) into adulthood. I don't know if I was a naturally bendy kid or just worked on it a lot... I've retained most of my flexibility but it could improve if I worked harder at it.


I could lift my leg into a high extension, however I don't have the strength to get it up there/keep it at that height without my hand holding it up there.

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I agree with kylara 7 it's all in the anatomy. My daughter is very flexible and strong but extension is the thing she struggles with the most. It's very frustrating for her!

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The part that's the biggest conundrum to me is that these kids could lift it and hold it. What was the reason for that? The teenager that I knew who was trained had strength, so that made sense, but even she said, "As long as I can remember, I've always had extension."

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LaFille....along with the positive of the extension, sometimes comes the other side of the sword....injury...


My DD was one of those rubber band kids that would make the girls in her ballet class crazy with her extension. We found out that she had " loose ligaments" in her body, which accounted for natural extension. The orthopedic specialist told us that many gymnasts and ballet dancers have this issue, which aids them in their craft. Other side of the coin, she has had many many injuries in that the ligaments are looser than normal and therefore ankle sprains etc. Were the norm. DD is now 14 and still flexible, but had to work on the strength to keep her leg high in extensions. She has had to work hard to strengthen the muscles in her ankles , legs, and core...as her ligaments didn't have the stability to protect her body from some of the complicated jumps etc...common in ballet. As you said, flexibility is one thing...control is something else...


The beauty of ballet is .... there is always something to work on...regardless...

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Yep, that's what I was going to say- I am one of those gumby dancers, and when I stopped dancing full time, I literally had bones falling out of joints because my connective tissue doesn't really do what it's supposed to do. I am on an exercise regimen that I must do, no exceptions, or risk joint issues. If I skive off even a day, it hurts. It's also really hard for hypermobile people to build strength. I have tons more I could say but it's really late here.

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I agree with Kylara7; it's mostly to do with anatomy. I had done nothing at all in the way of gymnastics or dance before I started adult ballet, but as soon as I started classes I found my legs could go waaaay up in all directions.


Strength is a different matter, it takes a long time for me to build up strength, and it's the first thing I lose during the summer. I find I'm looser after the holidays, whereas everyone else seems to stiffen up. It's not good, though, I was praised for my extensions in class last week - but I know for a fact my SI joints are loose and inflamed again, I can feel them click when I move & my hip has too much play in the joint.


I second what Marseas Mom says too, injury is really the flip side of the coin for high flexibility.

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I had a similar experience as Mazenderan...I had never done any dance or gymnastics before I started adult ballet either, but found that the first time I tried to do a front split, I sank right down into it without much fuss...apparently I have quite flexible hamstrings so front and side extensions are my forte along with cambre forward. However, I have a very inflexible spine and lower back in flexion which really limits my backwards cambres, arabesques, and any derriere extension and I can't do a straddle split because my lower back is tight...but I'm working these things and I'm gaining more range of motion with time. So I guess everyone's body has it's plusses and minusses of an anatomical nature.

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