Stretches for Dancers

Totally confused about stretching..!

After recently joining a bunch of dance classes at my college, I realized I wanted to be more flexible. Imagine average flexibility for a non dancing male.

Hours of research later, I am totally confused. Hopefully someone here has some practical experience.

The goal is to gain as much flexibility as possible in my hips and legs, and lower back, in the shortest possible time. (Of course.) Splits, high leg raises, etc. I want em.

So the big question is, How??

What is the fastest (in number of days) way to develop these skills.

Stuff I kind of know:
PNF stretching is the most effective and safest. About 20 seconds of isometric contraction per rep? But how many reps before detrimental effects set in? An online book said 1 rep per day.. Which seems ridiculous.

Static stretching is the absolute safest, with stretches held for 20-30 seconds per rep. But how many reps before detrimental effects, before the muscle begins to tear past the useful point?

Yogi's sometimes hold their stretches for very long periods of time, wouldn't this be the most effective way to gain flexibility?

I'm really confused about what to do. My instinct is to hold the stretch for a very long time.. (I was in a Yoga club a few years ago)

Also, if my legs are sore the next day, it's important to stretch them out, right? To prevent the muscle from healing up shorter?

Any insight is -extremely- appreciated!!

After all this, I thought it was time for a picture.
Thanks Samina, I checked out the thread.

It looks like you are using PNF stretching, which I agree felt very natural when I was younger. I recently rediscovered it as well.

How long do your sessions with your trainer last? How long do you spend on your own, per muscle group?

Spring break just started and my free time is overwhelming..
That's weird, I guess my post didn't go through.

Thanks for posting Samina, I checked that thread out.

It looks like you are doing PNF stretching, which I agree felt natural when I was younger.

How long do you and your trainer work together? How long do you work on your stretches alone?

Spring break just started, and I've got boatloads of free time for this stuff.
If you want splits and high leg raises or kicks, Thomas Kurz's Stretching Scientifically ( or Pavel Tsatsoulines Relax into Stretch ( are good resources. Their routines are very similar and do not require a trainer or other person for assistance.


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let me just add that static stretches are only safe AFTER you have warmed up...they are not safe prior to that and they can cause serious tearing otherwise...each strectch should be held for about 20 seconds
Thanks for the input everyone!

I'm just really curious what 'over doing' it, is. Holding a stretch for 20 seconds sounds about right, but how many reps should I do for maximal gain? A hundred sets of 20 seconds? Five?


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i go by what feels good... there is no better cue, IME... if you start to give yourself fixed rules you're going to diminish your ability to tune into what you really need. trust what feels right is my recommendation.
Thanks for the input everyone!

I'm just really curious what 'over doing' it, is. Holding a stretch for 20 seconds sounds about right, but how many reps should I do for maximal gain? A hundred sets of 20 seconds? Five?
I've never heard of doing reps for stretches and I don't think it's needed. Once or twice is enough for each stretch if you hold 20 seconds or so, and if you do them every day. I started ballet at age 8, and much later, I am still doing the stretches I learned there, and I am very flexible.

For splits and high leg raises, what you mainly need is looser hamstring muscles. Here are some of the ones I do for good leg flexibility:

With legs together or slightly apart, bend down from the hip joints (like one of those perpetual drinking bird gadgets). Don't bend from the waist, you'll strain your back. Try to touch your toes. If you can't do that, put your hands on your knees and work them down. Eventually, if you keep at it over time, you want to be able to put your hands flat on the floor and touch your head to your knees.

If you have access to a ballet barre (or some other sturdy surface at waist level), put one leg up there and try to reach for your toes. Again, move from the hip joints, not the waist. Hold the stretch. Switch legs.

On the floor:

Sit with legs together in front of you. Reach from the hips and try to grab your feet or ankles; hold the stretch.

Now bring the soles of your feet together with your hands holding your ankles down, and your knees are out to the side. Pull your torso tall, don't hunch your back over. This will stretch out your inner thighs and hip joints.

Now put your legs apart in a straddle. Try to get your legs as far to the side as you can. At first, this won't be very far, if you're not flexible. Gradually this will improve. Reach from the hips, over your right leg, and grab your foot or ankle; try to put your head on your knee. Repeat for the left leg.

Return your body to the center, leaving your legs apart.
Then place your elbows and forearms on the floor in front of you, and press your torso forward to stretch, once again moving from the hip joint. When you're more flexible, you can reach your hands forward and walk them out in front of you, so your body goes lower and lower. Eventually, you can put your chest on the floor.

I'm sure some of these exercises will be familiar to those who do yoga. And there are many more. I would suggest a good video; I like the Rodney Yee yoga videos from Gaiam. To see some ballet stretches, I found this on YouTube. But definitely always warm up first. :)
Thanks for the input everyone!

I'm just really curious what 'over doing' it, is. Holding a stretch for 20 seconds sounds about right, but how many reps should I do for maximal gain? A hundred sets of 20 seconds? Five?

A good rule of thumb is to do as many reps as it takes to achieve your maximal range of motion for the day in that particular drill.


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I've never heard of doing reps for stretches and I don't think it's needed.
i am personally a big repetition stretcher... i pulse, i alternate sides, and i can repeat for a long time, often going in loops as i address various muscle groups again & again, until it goes from feeling tight to that blissful "aaaaaaaahhhh" feeling! :)

(that's in the context of my non-meridian stretching habits)


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be careful with the pulse not to bounce or tear...for me, I warm up with some sort of cardio then I stretch for about a half an hour twice a day...longer holds of the stretch but fewer reps...again, one needs to listen to their own body


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never bought the "don't bounce" warnings and still don't. the key is contraction & activation of your muscles while you're doing it... seems to build safety right in, then. been doin' this since i was a little weenie... feels awesome... would never stop.

have felt so "locked" along my sides until recently, and then yesterday before my meridian stretching session i was warming up on the floor with deep straddles and discovered my sides had finally released and i could stretch so wide like i used to... probly spent half an hour pulsing & bouncing with gentle control... omg, awesome.


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well, I suppose you know your own body....and the term bounce is relative, but I have pulled/torn a hammie but good bouncing...and that ain't happening again, but i think most of it comes down to being warm enough first...


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the bouncing warms you up... lol.

but again, the diff is the tone & activation/contraction in your muscles while you do... without it, they're not protected and yah, probly could easily tear.


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they won't even let us take our class through static stetches without 5 minutes of cardio anymore...not everyone is as in tune as you probably are sam


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yah, i know... just pointing out another view... that works very, very well if one uses a high degree of personal responsibility. :)

fitness studios understandably don't want any liability for renegades like myself, lol.


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I had a physical therapist that advised me all stretches should be held for 30 seconds, and ideally done 3 times. She said that if you don't have time for all of that, it's better to hold them for 30 seconds once than to shorten each time and do more reps. She mentioned some study that had been done saying that you get much less benefit from a stretch if you hold it for less than 30 seconds.

I've heard from different personal trainers things like a minimum of 12 seconds, but I tend to go with what the physical therapist said since I'm really concerned with preventing injury.


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agree skwig...I definately don't see the merit in anything less than 20 seconds...and it drives me batty when they are led for less....and I really can't see myself stretching the same muscle group mor than 3-6 times...

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