Blog Archives

Improve Your Extensions for Ballet

develope
So you want to improve your extension – your developes front, side and back – who doesnt!? In this blog I am going to go over the exercises that you should be doing to help your develope height tremendously.

Extension and flexibility are two words that are pretty much synonymous in the ballet world but each has it’s own place in your ballet technique. The two compliment each other, however flexibility is not the sole reason that you cannot get your leg up…and hold it there. Strength (yes, there’s that word again) is usually the limiting factor.

As dancers our hips take a real beating. From doing daily ballerina things like standing turned out, gripping in the thighs and quite frankly, not knowing how to properly engage our core muscles, we are already at a disadvantage. Gripping in the hips is the #1 reason why I see dancers struggle with their extension (also in turns and jumps too). So how can you undo years of damage and unlock your potential to a freely moving hip?

#1 Breathe – Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Chances are, you don’t even realize that you are holding your breath. When we tense our muscles we are usually holding our breath at the same time creating even more tension to the muscles. Instead, try visualizing your hip as a sponge. Take your leg up to passe (think of a sponge full of water). Right before you develope the leg think of the hip relaxing and breathe. Then as you extend the leg, think of the sponge “wringing out” as you develope. Practice this and eventually you will be able to visualize this way in class.

#2 Strengthen & Release – Strengthening various muscles such as the glutes, inner thighs, and core can help release a lot of unnecessary tension from the hips, resulting in better extensions. Try the following exercises taken right from my YouTube Channel:

#3 Rebuild – Rather than showing you a bunch of ballet stretches and exercises that you already know and have tried (like the hike your hip up and hold exercise) I am going to give you an exercise that you can do to strengthen the gluteus medius muscle. First I will show you where the glute medius is located followed two exercises. “Monster Walks” and “Hip Abduction” which can help retrain the muscles around the hip pain and tightness that you feel from gripping.

hipPainDiag

Monster Walks – Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions each leg with a resistance band.

monsterwalk

Hip Abduction – Perform 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions being sure to keep the leg parallel.

hipabduction

I am looking forward to hearing how your extension improves just from these 3 quick tips. As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions and don’t forget to check out my great products that you can find exclusively at www.balletstrength.com.

 

Committed to Your Dancing,

Nikol Klein

 

 

Improve Your Penché for Ballet

Today’s video is to help you improve your penché for ballet. The penché is one of the exercises in ballet class that dancers struggle with – it requires balance, proper alignment, flexibility, and a strong standing leg. In fact, directors often give penché in auditions to see who can handle it and who topples over.

So what can you do to improve your penché? This video demonstrates a Ballet Strength exercise that addresses all of the key factors that go into executing the perfect penché such as balance, flexibility, strength, and alignment. Give it a try!

Common Ballet Injuries – Prevention Tips

When it comes to ballet there aren’t a whole lot of dancers out there who can honestly say that they have never had an injury. Whether it’s an injury as major or career ending as an Achilles tendon rupture or an injury as minor as a shin splint, it is imperative that the root of the problem be discovered.

Luckily today there are preventative measures being taken by ballet companies and schools lead by younger artistic staffs to keep dancers fine tuned. In the past there were ballet teachers and company artistic directors who were not educated on injury prevention for dancers, thus indirectly encouraging dancers to continue through injuries shortening the life of their career.

Common injuries for dancing include (but are not limited to);
Achilles Tendonitis
Ankle Sprains
Patellar Tendonitis
Piriformis Syndrome
Lower back pain
Rotator Cuff
Broken Toes/Feet
Check out a complete list on the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries website. It’s very helpful.

Of course there are ways to prevent some of these injuries through core conditioning, pilates, strength training, and ballet cross training. Most ballet companies have on site physical therapists who work with dancers daily aches and pains and can prescribe a correct physical therapy routine. There is also the Ballet Strength DVD which has a library of exercises that you can do to prevent injury and improve strength.

As dancers today, there is no excuse to allow the body to be plagued by injury and pain. With all of the helpful resources available dancers are extending their careers well into their 30’s. Don’t wait to address your injury prone areas…you don’t want to wait until it’s too late!

Ballet Strength DVD Secrets

I am pleased to announce the launch of my new Ballet Strength DVD. I have been working hard over the past few months to carefully choose and design exercises that will help dancers improve their jumps, turns, core stability, and most importantly help with injury prevention.

You can learn more and get your very own copy by clicking here >> I want a copy of the Ballet Strength DVD

Here is a video preview of some of what the Ballet Strength DVD has to offer!

Cross Training for Ballet Strength

Improve your technique by cross training.

As Summer approaches, many Dancers will embrace a much needed three or four month layoff. Some will vacation, some will continue to obsessively take class day after day. The smart Dancer Cross Trains. To continue Dancing with the intensity you had during the season is like beating a dead horse. Our bodies need time off in order to make important gains and improvements. Yes, you can actually improve by taking some time off!

Here is the Cross Training Plan that I recommend;

Right after the Performance Season is over, take at least 2 weeks off! Upon returning to class, this will give you a clear signal as to what “pains” are actual injuries and which were just symptoms of overuse. During that first class back (typically after a 2 to 6 week break) take note of certain areas and muscle groups in the body that feel weak. If you feel that you have a serious injury this is a great time to see a Doctor, get an MRI, and get it fixed in time for the season to start.

After taking note of those weak areas, consult a Ballet Strength Expert such as myself for Dance Specific exercises that you can do in the gym.  On Ballet Dancers, for example, the “turn-in” or legs in a parallel stance is usually weak. I would then recommend some basic strength training techniques involving one-leg squats and exercises on the Bosu. Dancers also tend to favor one side of the body. This is a great time to strengthen your weak side!

As far as taking class goes, I recommend no more than 3 days per week during your time off.  The other 2 days should be dedicated to your Cross Training program!

Feeling out of breath during that variation? Don’t forget about cardio. What better time than Summer to go for a run, hike, or bike ride in your favorite park. You may be surprised at how much better you feel and how much more you are able to do pain free!

How do I Cross Train? To ensure that my trouble areas stay injury free, I take class only twice per week during the off season and weight train three times per week. I also focus on keeping my core strong with lots of unique abdominal exercises. For Cardio, I do chasse’s on the treadmill, front and side!

Still confused? I have taken all of the guess work out of it with my new book, Beginning Ballet Strength©. You can get your own copy at www.balletstrength.com!

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer/ Certified Personal Trainer/ Author/ Certified Nutritionist

Ballet Strength-Part 1

Over the past few weeks, I have been working diligently on my new book and website for you all based on strength training for Dancers. This is uncharted territory when it comes to ballet, so I have to be sure that the timing of my launch is right. To get started, here are a few basic things that you need to know about strength training for Dancers and how it can improve your performance and extend your career.

Lets debunk the common strength training and cross training myths that you have heard from your Ballet teachers.

Myth #1: You will get bulky muscles- This statement is totally untrue. In fact, if you are doing the correct exercises, your muscles should form a more elongated look! Strength training increases lean muscle mass. If you are working with a certified professional who understands a Dancers body, you should have any problems with bulky muscles. Now not all of you can have access to trainers like myself or the New York City Ballet’s strength and conditioning team, so stay posted to my blog for valuable tips for exercises that you can do on your own!

Myth #2: Taking extra Ballet classes is the only way to improve- Now most of you know that this is not true, but there are some Ballet teachers out there who are still preaching this. Cross-training is a great way to work on your weaknesses as a dancer through strength training, Pilates, yoga, or even taking a few jazz classes!

Myth #3: Strength training causes loss of flexibility- Untrue. It actually improves range of motion of muscles and joints. It also enhances dance proprioception. This creates improved awareness of your center of gravity (think balance and turns). Any good strength training or cross-training program will also incorporate stretching towards the end of the workout.

Myth #4: Strength training is for Men- True, but it is also beneficial for Women.There are many wonderful benefits to strength training including increased range of motion, injury prevention, increased lean muscle mass, improves balance, increases and restores bone density, and enhances sports performance. Now just think of how much that can improve your dancing!

I hope that through this post, you have a better understanding of the real benefits of strength training for Ballet Dancers. Remember, your strength training program needs to be tailored towards dancers, not just any program will do. If you have any questions please contact me.

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my NEW Ballet Strength Book, Beginning Ballet Strength HERE!

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein Professional Ballet Dancer / Certified Personal Trainer