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Here’s what you need to know to warm up safely and cool down effectively.

If you’re a seasoned dancer who has incorporated stretching into your daily routine for years, a question like “should you stretch before a dance lesson” may sound silly. However, the concerns surrounding this practice are legitimate:

  • Stretching cold muscles can cause you to push too far and injure yourself.
  • Pre-stretching before physical activity could cause a small decrease in muscular strength and power.

The trick to avoiding these problems is to stretch the right way before each dance lesson, and then stretch after class, too. Here’s what you need to know to warm up safely and cool down effectively.

Warm Up Before Dancing

Have you ever snapped a rubber band immediately after taking it out of the freezer? Cold conditions make rubber bands more rigid and susceptible to breaking. The same goes for your ligaments, tendons and muscles. These structures are considered “cold” when you’ve been inactive for a while. Even on a 90-degree summer day, your muscles can still be cold.

The purpose of stretching before dancing is to loosen up your body and prevent pulling a muscle during your lesson. We suggest dynamic stretching before the start of each dance class. This involves stretching through movement, such as swinging your arms, rolling your joints around in circles, and twisting your torso from left to right. A few jumping jacks, jogging in place, and walking briskly are also good warm-ups to prepare your body for a dance lesson.

If you feel tightness or pinching anywhere as you perform your dynamic stretches and warm-ups, dig a little deeper with static stretching. This is when you extend to the edge of your range of motion (ROM) and hold that position for several seconds. Be sure not to push yourself too far while your muscles are cold. Remember, you’re less flexible until your body warms up.

Stretch After Dancing, Too!

If you have a goal to increase your overall flexibility, take advantage of your body being warm after a tiring dance class to push the boundaries of how far your muscles can already go. This is the time to work on your splits or hamstring flexibility with static stretching.

Approach the edge of your natural ROM and breathe deeply as you hold the stretch. When your muscles start to feel comfortable in this position, stretch ever-so-slightly further. Make sure you never feel pain when stretching because this could lead to muscle, ligament or tendon injury.

If you find that static stretching is very uncomfortable for you, don’t force your body to do it. Instead, cool down with some dynamic stretches. The most important thing is to listen to your body and do what feels comfortable for you.

Are looking for dance classes for your child or beginning classes for adults? At Dance Academy USA, we offer ballet, jazz, tap and many other dance forms at all skill levels. To learn more, please call us today at (408) 257-3211 or email us at officeteam@danceacademyusa.com.

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