In class day after day I watch my young co-worker Professional Dancers forcing turn-out and rolling in on their ankles. I have watched ankle sprains put dancers out for entire seasons. How many times have you had a teacher try to force your body to do something that you know is just not genetically possible?
The most common types of injuries in Ballet Dancers are in the ankle area. Almost all of these injuries are caused by weaknesses or faulty technique. Forcing turn-out is just one example of poor technique that is sometimes encouraged by Russian ballet instructors. The fact is that most ballet instructors have not studied the human anatomy and biomechanics enough, and simply teach based on what worked for them. The truth is that we’re not all the same and it is not possible to clone dancers.
Without proper form and core strength, it is easy to sit into the calves and ankles to take on the whole weight of the body en pointe. Weak glutes or over-flexible hamstrings can sometimes lead to unstable ankles due to gripping of the calves. What happens when the calves are overused? They tighten up, they feel like rocks, they won’t stretch out. And when the calves lock up, you lose mobility in your foot and ankle.
When calves get tight or tired out after a long variation or pas de deux, some dancers think it is weak calves that are causing the problem. They proceed to do more releves, but never address the real problem. Are you pulling up in your legs when you do releves? Do you feel the releve in the upper hamstring, or are you sitting into the calves?
This is where I have my Professional Dancer clients try a few simple exercises on the Smith Machine to test their hamstring/glute strength. If they are feeling the exercises mostly in their quadriceps, which you don’t want, I know that there is a lot of work to be done. I will then test the dancers balance on the Bosu Ball or Balance Board standing on one leg.
Whether you are an injured dancer or a healthy one looking to test your strengths and weaknesses, contact a personal trainer exerpienced in working with dancers. Give yourself the confidence you need to maintain a healthy and long career!
-Nikol Klein, CPT, Professional Ballet Dancer
What are you doing to ensure that your body is in top form every morning when you step into the studio?
There are many factors that contribute to injuries in dancers that could have easily been prevented. Muscle fatigue, lack of proper rest and recovery are essential to keep your body in top form. Here are a few simple maintenance routines to get you on the right track.
Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Without proper rest your body will not have proper time to recover from the day before. Plus you won’t be alert in class and rehearsal making it hard not only on yourself, but also your co-workers!
Don’t forget to stretch. It seems like something so simple, but it is also something that is easily forgotten. Tight muscles are more suseptible to injury.
Supplement. No, don’t take Advil. Try a natural approach. Did you know that Bromelain is a natural anti-inflammatory? Also, try a Calcium/Magnesium complex to relax the muscles while supporting healthy bones.
Drink Water. Enough said.
Soak in the tub. Soaking sore muscles in a few cups of Epsom Salt and hot water can make a world of a difference. Try stretching after the hot bath too!
Seek massage and chiropractic work. Let’s face it, we’d like to have all the answers ourselves, but sometimes we must rely on the help of others. A weekly visit to the chiroprator or masseuse will fine tune you…at least until you have to rehearse some overhead lifts in a pas de deux.
Practice these simple techniques to help promote an injury free career. Your body will thank you for it!
As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
-Nikol Klein, Certified Personal Trainer/ Professional Ballet Dancer