Many of you are now working on your dance classes via platforms such as Zoom and pre-recorded videos from your teachers and dance schools. This is obviously very different to attending classes face to face and does come with its challenges, like finding a suitable space at home to practice!

I want to talk ‘warm-ups’ today as a lot of you may be doing your own warm-ups at home or before you practice online. A lot of dancers don’t focus or think much about their warm-up (when compared to corner work or learning a routine) but it is a very important part of your dance class. Warm-ups are designed to activate and mobilise the muscles that you will then be using in that class.

Your focus should be on warming up into the range that you have and not on increasing flexibility that you don’t have. Flexibility is a focus for another time and should be ideally done as a separate session altogether later in the day. You may have seen an article circulating from the Australian Ballet which reported that their dancers are no longer ‘stretching’ as much as part of their warm up, instead focusing on mobilising tissues and strengthening tissues. I will link this article below for you if you haven’t had a read! Things in the stretch world are changing in a lot of sports!

We know that static stretching (stretching a muscle for 30 seconds +) will inhibit the muscle firing to its full potential for up to 30 minutes after stretching!! You do not want this to happen before class (unless you have a specific instruction from your Dance Physio relating to an injury or something you are specifically focusing on such as reducing your quads activation when at the barre). As an example, sitting in your middle splits before class will reduced the activity of your adductor muscles in your inner thigh which will then reduce your stability when standing on one leg. So static stretches, if you are going to perform them, should be reserved for AFTER class rather than before.

The aim of your warm up should be:

  • Increasing blood flow to muscles
  • Improving the extensibility of muscles
  • Improving the mobility of your fascia (the tissue that attaches to, supports and stabilises our muscles and other body structures)
  • Increase the neural firing of muscles
  • Improve the co-ordination of muscle groups
  • Lubricate and prepare the joints
  • Mental preparation for class and focus

So what should a dancers warm up consist of??

  • Short cardio training (enough to get your cheeks a little flushed and your breathing a bit deeper) i.e. start jumps, jogging, stationary bike, skipping.
  • Mobilisers or dynamic stretches of the spine (thoracic/cervical and lumbar), hips, hamstrings, inner thighs and calf
  • Specific core activation exercises to help prepare for turnout, back extensions, pulling up through the knee, calf muscles and the small muscles of your foot (especially for ballet!)
  • Functional patterns that you will be using in class
  • Balance and awareness exercises

Warm-ups should start to become more tailored to you as different dancers may need to work on different areas.

There are so many different types of dynamic stretches out there – variations on yoga patterns such as Sun Salutation (see image below) through downward dog, spinal rotations and twists, pelvic tucks and tilts, cloches/leg swings on the barre and spinal roll downs are all excellent additions to the dynamic mobilisation part of a warm-up.

Find what works well for you and pay attention to the areas you feel you need to warm up more such as hips or feet. If you need ideas on some good dynamic/core or balance warm ups for dance just contact us here at SSPC Physiotherapy for an appointment to help you out – both myself at East Bentleigh and Anthony Selby at Parkdale work very closely with dancers of all levels.

Kirsty Nisbet

SSPC Physiotherapist

Senior Musculoskeletal/Paediatric Physio