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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Proper barre stretch


Guest Meadows

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Guest Meadows

Within the forum, I read that one should not slide one's foot along the barre when stretching. Is there a reason why? Would this damage the muscles in the leg? :nixweiss:

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It puts tremendouns pressure on the achilles tendon which is typically resting on the barre and dragged along as you stretch

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Victoria Leigh

It also can easily overstretch your legs and cause a lot of pressure on the knee of the supporting leg because of the off-balance position. It is not a good stretch and not one that does anything that cannot be accomplished much more safely with splits. When you are fully warmed up, splits are a much better flexibility stretch.

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Guest Meadows

I cannot do splits at this time, and we have not learned how to do them in class yet. I assumed that my class was doing this type of barre stretch to prepare for them. However, since this stretch could be damaging to my knees and achilles tendon, do you think I should mention this in class to my instructor?

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Victoria Leigh

Probably not a great idea. Old ideas die hard, and many teachers do this because it was done when they were young and they just teach what they learned, without questioning. We have a lot more knowledge now, and many of us do not feel that some of the things that were done many years ago are the best way to accomplish the goal. I would just fake it, like put leg up but don't slide and if she asks, just say it bothers your knees. Adult students should always be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things that they find they cannot do comfortably.

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Interesting. Learned something I didn't know. It's a common stretch at least in the classes I've taken, and these classes are taught by really good teachers. I never objected to it or got injured doing it. If one is pointing one's toes, it doesn't seem like it's putting that much stress on the Achilles. I'm not at all flexible (can't do the splits) so perhaps for people like me it's not so bad, I don't know. I know I would rather slide down the barre a little then try to do the splits, however.

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Victoria Leigh

Watch people do this stretch, looking at their supporting knee and foot, and in most cases you will see twist and roll. And, if they go far enough there is no way to keep pressure off of the Achilles tendon unless you have the rotation to keep only the lateral side of the heel on the barre, and not the tendon at all.

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It puts tremendouns pressure on the achilles tendon which is typically resting on the barre and dragged along as you stretch

 

This is what I always experienced when doing this stretch. I can slide far along the barre - but I don't get anything out of it because I'm usually fidgeting and trying to relieve the pressure on my achilles somehow. I don't do it anymore.

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Thank you moderators! As an adult student it is so important not to get hurt. It takes forever to heal from injuries! I so much appreciate when these common but not so good for you practices in ballet classes are discussed. I am going to add this to my current ban on grande plies (except in second position) during class.

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Re: being unable to do the splits--actually, you can. :) Or at least a modified version of them. I recommend putting a folded sweatshirt or something under your knee for this, and as always, making sure you are well warmed up. Start by kneeling on the floor. Move your front leg forward and press your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh, about where the leg meets the hip. Stretch this way for a while, then straighten your front leg, move your hips back, and bend forward over your front leg to stretch the hamstrings. Once you have done this (you may want to repeat it 2 or 3 times) slide the front leg forward into a split as far as you can go, supporting yourself with your hands.

 

This is a pretty rudimentary description, and there are certainly other stretches one can do to approximate splits that do not involve sliding down the barre, so please feel free to ask if you have questions.

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That's a nice stretch Hans. Excellent for those of us who are "made of steel." Thanks for offering it, I'm still not going to ever be able to do the real splits.

 

Anyway, while waiting for class this morning, I did the dreaded slide stretch several times on each side. Remember now, I'm not flexible at all. In my case, I always begin pretty well aligned and turned out. My ankle rests on the barre in notch just below the protruding ankle. My big huge slide is all of about 5 inches on the barre. I checked the stress on the Achilles and there is virtually none. I checked my supporting leg and there was no twisting or instabilities of any kind. Consequently I conclude that at least for guys like me (basically inflexible) it's not a dangerous stretch. Whether or not it is an effective stretch is another matter. If one slides a good deal down the barre or even when one tries to look flexible, then I I can see the potential for some kind of problem.

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Victoria Leigh

Yes, I don't think a few inches is going to be dangerous, but that is not what I see most people, especially children, doing. :( And even worse, I see children with their legs on a barre that is way too high for them to even have a chance to be properly aligned and rotated. It is quite scary to watch, and I cannot, and will not, look at it! In my classes it is forbidden!!!

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Guest Meadows

Hans, I do that stretch often. However, you mentioned that one should try to "slide the front leg forward into a split ..., supporting ..with [the] hands." When I do this, I experience pain in the knee that I extend in front of me. It feels like something is pulling. I also hear my knees making a "pop" sound when I extend either leg in front of me. Is this normal?

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Victoria Leigh

ANY pain in the knee is a very strong signal to STOP doing whatever is causing it. Does this pain occur with any other exercises?

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