Exercises for the Hip Flexor for Ballet
According to the Tsawwassen Sports & Orthopaedic Physiotherapist Corporation, 65 to 80 percent of all ballet dance injuries occur in the legs. They include snapping hip syndrome, which is caused by weak hip flexors. Strong hip flexors--a group of muscles that includes rectus femoris, psoas major and illiacus--are important for ballet dancers, since many movements require you to flex your hip and hold it in that position, sometimes above a 90 degree angle. Strengthening and stretching your hip flexor muscles is an important way to preventing injuries that can sideline your ballet training.
In the article "Health and Fitness for Life" in the December 2003 issue of Dance Magazine, author Suzanne Martin, the lead physiotherapist for Smuin Ballet, describes an exercise called "toe touching." This exercise specifically strengthens the psoas muscles.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Press your lower back into the floor. As you exhale, lift your shoulder off the ground as if you're doing an abdominal crunch. Reach your arms out to the side, parallel with the floor. Hold this position and inhale. On your next exhale, lift one leg at a time off the floor with your knees bend at 90 degrees. Pointing your toes, inhale and lower one leg down until your toes lightly touch the floor. On the exhale, bring it back up to match the other. Repeat with the other leg. Do 16 sets.
Full Boat Pose
"Yoga Journal" states that the benefits of full boat pose include strengthening the hip flexors. This is an especially good pose for ballet dancers because it requires you to hold the flexed position of the hips, which mimics the hold required in ballet training.
Start in a seated position with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your hands are placed on the floor behind your hips. Shift your weight back on your hands, contracting your abdominal muscles. Lift one leg off the floor so your knee is at a 90 degree angle. Lift the other leg off the floor to match. While maintaining a straight back, stretch your legs and point your toes. Remove your hands from the floor and place them at your sides, parallel with the floor. You should be balancing on your sit bones with your body in a 'V' position. Hold this position for 20 to 60 seconds.
The Tsawwassen Sports & Orthopaedic Physiotherapist Corporation lists several exercises to help properly stretch out your hip flexors to help to prevent injuries to the muscle group.
Using the barre for balance, step forward with your right leg into a lunge position, lightly resting you left knee and the top of your left foot on the floor. Press your hips forward to exaggerate the stretch you feel in the front of your hip. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Lying on your back with your legs stretched out, draw your right knee into your body and grab onto your shin. Pull the leg across your body towards your left shoulder. This position will stretch out your buttock muscles. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Lying on your right side, bend your left knee and reach back with your left hand, grabbing the top of your foot. Pull your heel towards your buttocks. Press the side of your right foot into your left quad to help press the leg backwards. This "pretzel" position will stretch the outer quads and hip muscles associated with your iliotibial band.
Elaine Wiltshire has been working as a journalist since 2006 and is now a freelance writer and editor. She trained in Cecchetti ballet for 20 years and is now a certified yoga instructor specializing in yoga for athletes. Wiltshire is also the publisher of Scrum, Ontario's rugby magazine.