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Beginner Flexibility for Dance

As dancers, flexibility allows us to move effortlessly through an unrestricted range of motion. To keep our bodies safe and avoid injury, stretching is essential. 

Unless you nerd out about performing the perfect warm-up and cool-down routines, the type of stretches you do might include a hodgepodge of random movements, both before and after dance which is probably not helping you achieve your desired results and could be doing you more harm than good. 

When I first started dancing, I was definitely not intentional about stretching; I often found myself wondering, "Why am I not getting more flexible?" In fact, I'm sure this is a question every dancer has pondered during their career. The biggest realization for me was that warm-up, cool-down, and recovery are just as crucial to being a successful dancer, as nailing your routine. 

Over the years, I've learned a few helpful things which I am excited to share with you. Stay tuned, I promise it'll help!

Dynamic Vs. Static Stretching

The main difference between dynamic vs. static stretching is the amount of movement involved. A dynamic stretch means moving a limb through its full range of motion, while static stretching strives to hold a certain position, creating tension in the muscle and a lengthening sensation.

Let's break it down a little more.

Dynamic stretching:
The main goal of dynamic stretching is to get the blood flowing and oxygen circling around the body (to increase mobility). A lack of mobility can cause pain or compensation by using the wrong muscles to perform a certain movement. 

Typically dynamic stretches are done for 30-45 seconds per movement. 

Static stretching:
Static stretching helps to relax and elongate the muscle. It is a slow, very controlled movement with a high emphasis on postural awareness and body alignment. 

Static stretches should be held from 20-45 seconds.

Before Dancing

It is important to remember that your muscles are not warm before dancing. Holding static stretches can increase the risk of injury and may actually decrease your muscle strength and performance. If that's news to you, you are not alone! 

Before a dance session, warm up gradually to increase your heart rate. This can be done with some light cardio and dynamic stretching. Essentially try to gently mimic the movements you'll be performing during dance class.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Heel walks: stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart, lifting your toes as high as possible so that only your heels remain on the ground. Walk forward while flexing your toes towards the sky.
  • Toe walks: stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart, lifting your heels as high as possible so that only your toes remain on the ground. Walk forward while flexing your foot.
  • Inchworm: start standing and walk your hands out into a high plank position. Repeat several times.
  • Leg swings: stand with one foot on the ground and move the other leg out to the front, back, and side. Repeat on the other side.
  • Hamstring kick out with flexed foot: stand with both knees slightly flexed at full extension. Use momentum to swing one leg up and come up onto the toe of the supporting leg. Bring your lifted leg straight out and use your hand to support it.
  • Bottom kicks: stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your side. Slowly bring your right heel to your butt by contracting your hamstring muscle. Switch legs and repeat several times.

After Dancing

The goal of cooling down is to restore your heart rate to a resting level. If your blood is flowing during a workout and you abruptly stop, it can cause your blood pressure to drop too quickly, resulting in lightheadedness, cramping or fainting. 

It is recommended to spend at least six minutes cooling down after a workout. Here are some of the methods I use to cool down after a dance session:

Slow down your routine: Gradually decrease the speed of a dance routine. This helps to slowly bring your heart rate back down.

Foam rolling: Relieve muscle tightness and increase your joint range of motion.

Stretching: To prevent injury and increase mobility and flexibility after a workout, it is advisable to lengthen your muscle fibers that have been under tension during your dance workout. Here are my favorite stretches for a cool-down session:

  • Kneeling reach: kneel down on the floor, bring your chest to your knees, and stretch your arms out in front of you.
  • Runner's luge: kneel with your right knee on the ground and your right glute engaged. Lunge forward with your left leg, with your knee over the ankle. Switch sides.
  • Standing quad stretch: hold one ankle behind you with your glutes engaged to stabilize. Ensure knees are parrallel. 
  • Figure 4 stretch: lying on your back, bend your right leg and cross it over your body. Hold it gently with your left hand, and stretch your right arm out in line with your shoulder. Try to have your right shoulder level with the ground before your right leg.

Recovery Days

If you think that you need to train hard seven days a week to be a successful dancer, try to switch things up and see what happens. It is healthy to let "your body recover from a jam-packed dance schedule so you can give your best possible performance."

When we talk about rest, we're not necessarily referring to laying on the couch, binging Netflix, and eating sweets. Active rest and recovery are crucial for injury prevention. Here are some methods I've found to be helpful for active recovery. 

Recovery Stretching
Long static stretching sessions should be saved for recovery days rather than during your cool-down session. A study found that "Static stretching post-exercise doesn't enhance recovery when compared to rest." When your body is in a resting state, you'll really benefit from those deep, static holds. 

Spend some time stretching out those muscles which feel tight. I like to think of length first and then depth. Breathwork can be a great tool too. Use your inhale to help expand and a powerful exhale to let go of tension and surrender to the stretch. 


As well as taking rest days, it's super important to take at least one day each week to cross-train and prevent muscle overuse from dancing. While consistent flexibility helps to lengthen your muscles, weight training can help you build up strong muscles, which can help you hold your dance positions for longer.

Remember to follow the things you've learned about dynamic stretching before your strength-training workout!  


Active rest in our minds can also aid with helping our bodies to hit that reset switch. We won't go into too much detail, but can you read more here if you're interested. 

Listen Inwards

I've met many people during my dance career who have helped me to find a good balance when it comes to dynamic and static stretching. Remember that you are your own best teacher. You must listen to your body, and do what feels good for you.

Love, Andrea xoxo
May 18, 2023

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