Ear-grazing développés, 180-degree turnout and a back that folds in half are items on every ballerina's wish list. But hyper-mobile dancers know extreme flexibility comes at a cost: It takes an incredible amount of strength to keep their joints within a safe range of motion. “You see a lot more hyper-mobile dancers at the student level than at the professional level," says Brynn Jinnett, founder of NYC boutique fitness studio Refine Method. “So many of them get career-ending injuries at a young age."
(All photos by Erin Baiano)
Beyond the risk of injury, there's an aesthetic downside to hyper-mobility. Without proper stabilization, bendy ballerinas can appear weak or flimsy, particularly when partnering. Don't be a limp noodle! Jinnett has four exercises to help balance and support your flexibility.
Purpose: Builds stability in your hips and knees by strengthening your glutes, quads and abdominals
1 ) Begin standing, with your feet parallel and slightly wider than your hips, a Thera-Band tied around your thighs and your arms behind your head.
2 ) Press your legs outward against the band and squat as low as you can while still maintaining a neutral spine. To keep from falling backward, think of reaching the top of your head on an upward diagonal while sitting your hips back.
3 ) Return to the starting position. Do 12 squats, rest and repeat.
Note: At the base of your squat, your weight should be so far back you could lift your toes off the floor.
Purpose: Promotes total body stability by strengthening your hip, abdominal and back muscles
1 ) Begin standing, with your feet parallel and your arms by your sides.
2 ) Tilt your torso forward as you lift your right leg to the back, keeping your right foot flexed (with your toes pointing toward the ground), until your torso and leg form
a straight line, parallel to the floor. Reach your arms forward on a long diagonal.
3 ) Bend your left leg, keeping your torso and right leg lifted.
4 ) Straighten your left leg. Repeat steps 3 and 4 10 to 12 times, then switch legs.
Jinnett says: “If you have a flexible lower back, concentrate on keeping it neutral by squeezing your abdominals and lengthening from the top of your head to the heel of your working leg."
Purpose: Builds stability in your torso by strengthening your abdominals, back and shoulders
1 ) Begin on all fours, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Tuck your toes and lift your knees one inch off the ground.
2 ) Slowly crawl your right hand and left leg forward, maintaining a neutral spine.
3 ) Crawl your left hand and right leg forward. Continue crawling forward for 30 seconds. Repeat two more times, with 15 seconds of rest between each crawl.
Jinnett says: “This exercise is great for preventing shoulder strains from partnering, and for developing the coordination necessary for solid pirouettes."
Purpose: Builds stability in your hips and knees by strengthening your glutes and hamstrings
1 ) Lie on your back, with your feet planted beneath your hips, your arms by your sides and a Thera-Band tied around your thighs.
2 ) Squeeze your glutes and push your feet into the floor to lift your hips. Lift as high as you can while maintaining a neutral spine and tension in the Thera-Band. Hold for 5 counts.
3 ) Lower your hips to the starting position. Do 12 hip lifts.
Jinnett says: “Dancers with hyper-mobile hips often struggle when working in parallel, because their legs have a natural inclination to turn out. Strengthening the leg muscles in parallel helps balance that inclination."