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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Straightening the knees


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DS has very tight hamstrings and has a problem straightening his knees. He is getting better at it, but not as fast as his ballet teacher would like it to be. Are there any special stretch exercises you would recommend?


Also, he is just starting to hit his puberty and his muscles are very lean and not strong enough for the average of his age. Should I be concerned or this will even out once he starts to grow and develop?

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Victoria Leigh

There are a lot of things that could be going on here, from hypoextension to just growth and the muscles haven't caught up to the bones yet. How old is he, and how long has he studied ballet?


Hamstring stretches are important for him, since they are tight, and those are generally included in ballet classes. (Think forward bending.) He can also stretch them just sitting on the floor with legs out straight in front and bending forward. My guess is that the quads are not strong enough, or being used well enough, to get the knees straight. If he is not hypoextended, meaning that the knees won't look totally straight even if they are as straight as he can get them, then it is a matter of training and developing the muscle strength. A simple exercise is to sit on on floor, legs straight in front with a used tennis ball under the knee, flexed foot, and try to squash the tennis ball. It makes the quads work and straightens the knee. I would suggest doing one leg at a time.

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Thank you Victoria! No, he can straighten his knees completely when he is on the floor or when his leg is on the barre. He has a hard time to hold his knee straight when his leg is risen in the air. He is doing better, but not quite there yet. He is 12, this is his second year of ballet school, he is level 4. His muscles are generally undeveloped, but this is how it was with me and his dad - we started to grow and mature late, around 15-16. So, I am not worrying too much, I am just trying to see if I can help him somehow without pushing him too hard.

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