Ballroom Dance > Proper way to stretch your way into a split?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by chocobebe, Apr 10, 2011.

  1. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    haven't been really keeping up with this thread as thoroughly as I should, but if you're injured make sure you take care of the injury and let it heal. but also remember, that at a point in the recovery gentle stretching (and I emphasize GENTLE) will help keep scar tissue from forming and the muscle becoming LESS flexible than before the injury.

    I am not a professional in this field, but that is what I've been told and have experienced through my own injuries. make sure you seek professional advice on your injuries!!
  2. TinyDancer109

    TinyDancer109 Well-Known Member

    To answer OP..

    during the one time of my life when i came closest to being able to do a full split, i was regularly doing a certain stretch in my dance class that i believe really helped. you lie on your back and leave one knee bent with foot on the floor and stretch your other leg. straighten and bend the leg you are stretching a few times and then stretch the leg toward your body (toward your head). try to keep both hips down on the floor when you do this. Then let the leg you are not stretching straighten on the floor (instead of bent with the knee up and foot on the floor). And repeat the exercise with a deeper stretch. Then do these with the other leg. I will try to post pics if you cant visualize my description.
  3. Active Member

    Thank you for all your replies. I guess I can't do anything much now with my legs and all. While waiting for it to heal(hopefully soon!) though, I now focus on working my endurance and technique. Oh well, guess I only have myself to blame for going over the border. :(
  4. This is a question for anyone who is, or has previously, working on stretches to increase flexibility with the aim of achieving their splits -

    Has anyone else experienced a problem where it becomes uncomfortable standing still, weight equal on both feet, for more than a minute or so? I feel like my quads on my right leg have possibly become overdeveloped, and are now making it uncomfortable to fully straighten my leg at the knee, if that is possible?

    I went through a couple of months of doing high kicks, which I felt were a less forceful hamstring stretch than stretches I had tried before that. However in hindsight I suspect I was using my quads to try and lift the leg, which I gather is the wrong technique. Not that I can figure out how to use the part of the hamstrings near my bum to lift the leg instead, so I have stopped doing these altogether.

    Any advice/insights welcome!
  5. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    TwT...using your quads to "grip tightly like a fist" while stretching your leg pin-straight and doing tiny movements to draw your straight leg closer to your body will help get deeper into your hamstrings to develop more flexibility. do the exercise while sitting down against a wall.

    there are many variations on this, as long as you incorporate those three elements:
    - activate the quad tightly like a fist
    - get (and keep) the leg pin-straight, whether with pointed or flexed toes
    - draw the leg in very small (1-inch) movements toward your body (the closer without compromising your straight leg, the more your hamstrings will become flexible & work cooperatively with your quads)

    you can intensify the exercises by keeping your non-working leg out pin-straight in front of you, slightly off the floor.

    this family of exercises *will* improve one's ability to move into a splits, if done regulalry.
  6. nikkitta

    nikkitta Well-Known Member

    Hello Samina. Can you elaborate on this some more? It sounds as if you are sitting on the floor with legs extended directly in front of you, and you are then squeezing your upper thigh while attempting to "pull" the leg into the hip socket. Is this accurate? I am not familiar with this flexibility exercise.
  7. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    yes, sit on the floor with a wall behind you. curve your back slightly and rest the mid-portion of your back on the wall -- don't sit ram-rod straight. this isn't a pelvic floor exercise but for the quads & hamstrings.

    your legs can be both bent, with feet on the floor, in front of you. stretch one leg straight, pointing your toe, and use your quad muscle "like a fist" to stretch the leg pin-straight.

    using your quad muscle in the same way, bring the leg up in the air as far as is comfortable without compromising its straightness -- that is key. then, in small 1-inch pulses, move the leg towards your torso. the object is to get to the point where you can start with your leg vertical (or nearly so), and then pulse toward your torso. you are not pulling it into your hip joint, but the length of the leg toward your upper body/head/chest. it may at first be an effort that feels more like "up", to even get to the vertical point; then it will be "toward".

    if you can start with your leg nearly vertical, then do the exercise with your non-working leg pin-straight in front of you, slightly off the floor.

    does that clarify your questions, nikitta?
  8. nikkitta

    nikkitta Well-Known Member

    uhhh wow, not even close to what I was picturing, so thank you for rewording it. I think if I could immediately lift a straight leg to vertical position while sitting, I wouldn't consider myself to have many flexibility issues :cool:. When I was a wee lass, I could do all kinds of splits with ease. While I am still able to press my head/chest into straight knees, if I attempt to move a leg into the split position -- for example, if I am lying on my back, straightened knees to chest, and move one of them in the opposite direction -- forget it. Oh to be a rubber child again.
  9. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    i hear ya, nikkita. :)

    i lost a lot of my own flexibility. this type of exercise ( there's a whole family of exercises in the same vein) did help me recover a bunch of it. worth trying, no? :)
  10. BenjaminT

    BenjaminT Member

    Still working on the splits.

    I can do a forward lunge with my shoulders on the floor and forward knee over top of my shoulder. There's just not enough stretch between the hamstrings and quads to push it all the way forward, yet.

    Personally, I'm not a fan of static stretches. After warming up to a light sweat, I use ballistics. If I am doing a static stretch, I'll work my way into it by bouncing to test the elasticity at every step. To improve the splits, and keep in line with ballistics, I've been mostly doing leg swings: leg straight, working the swing progressively higher on both the front and back swings, working the point where the knee breaks a little more each time.
  11. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    me neither. i've used "controlled pulsing" my whole life, with good results, with repeating rounds of the stretches rather than staying with one group and then moving onto the next & not going back.

    whatever one's approach, what makes a big difference is to stretch an active muscle, not a relaxed one.
  12. Thanks for the suggestions guys.

    However my problem at the moment is, that the almost unavoidable quad contraction that comes with all hamstring stretches has given me some kind of problem - either overdevelopment of, or muscle knots in, my right quads - which is giving me discomfort in my knee when standing.

    It is like my quad is trying to go into cramp, or is pushing against/under my knee cap? At the moment it is only a problem when standing still, but I'm worried it will develop to swelling and restriction generally. It is really uncomfortable if I try to lock my knee, and there is a restriction compared to my left leg.

    Anyone experienced this?
  13. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    Not that precisely, but I've been told over-working the quads is very bad for your knees, and a huge no-no if you already have a bad knee. (Which I do.) Over-developed quads put stress on it and make you more likely to injure/reinjure it. If it's unilateral it sounds like you strained or tore something on that side, meaning stop doing whatever you're doing that causes that feeling.
  14. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    do you regularly stretch your quads after use? it sounds like they are overcontracting & in need of stretching. this would help your hamstrings: tight quads, tight hamstrings; strong & flexible quads, strong & flexible hamstrings. they work as a set.

    PM if you want quad stretching exercises.
  15. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    i agree, being knee-challenged myself.

    it's helpful to define what one means by "over-working" the quads, though...the knees will be very challenged by working the quads while bending the knees & lowering the body; the knees will eventually be relieved by working the quads to straighten the legs and strengthen the quads/hams in their ability to stabilize the knees.
  16. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    Just a point for what it is worth; I am an AFAA and SCW certified fitness instructor and I will tell you that the current wisdom on injury prevention includes never bouncing while trying to stretch...and waiting until thoroughly warmed before doing static stretches....
  17. Yes, regularly - normally just the 'bend your knee and hold your heel to your butt' stretch.

    Danceronice - I now avoid the stretches I was doing which I thought were engaging the quads (the high kicks). But the pain now is when I stand still for any length of time, e.g. in the shower.

    The only ham stretch I'm still doing is the 'put your foot on a step in front of you and touch your toe' - I think I am able to disengage the quads by by pushing down, fairly gently, on my knee cap.

    It does seem strange to think my quads might be overdeveloped - I am not remotely a muscle-bound person and they really don't look that big! But maybe it is just out of balance with the other muscles, or got a bit knotted...

    I am using my foam roller to try and roll out any knots, but I'm not getting much discomfort when I do that - when I've used that on tight muscles before it was agony!

    Thanks for all the suggestions:D
  18. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    never place the hand on the knee cap for that should be above the knee cap...another quad stretch is to be on floor with the front leg bent in and tucked into your crotch area and the back leg bent behind you....gently lean back to the degree that your quad wil tolerate without bouncing...another ham stretch would be to get the foot on a ballet bar and go for the toe...or lay on your back and bring the leg straight up....
  19. dancerdol

    dancerdol Member

  20. Ah, ok! I shall try it that way... I only started holding the knee cap this week to disengage the quads, but above the knee should do the same I think.

    I wish I had room for a ballet bar at home, it would be way better than the stairs!

    Dancerdol - I wish!

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