Photo by Cooper Bilington

Bend, Don't Snap: The Right (And Wrong) Ways to Do Three Key Stretches

For dancers, stretching is one of those things that fall into the "second-nature" category—at some point each day, you'll likely be found in a split, a straddle, or with your leg up on the barre. But stretching incorrectly can cause some serious problems. Dance Spirit turned to athletic trainer and acupuncturist Megan Richardson, who's on staff at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, for advice on how to safely execute three common dancer stretches.

The Toes-to-Head: Stretches abdominals, back muscles

Photo by Cooper Bilington


Lie on your stomach and do a cobra pose, which only minimally stretches your muscles and can potentially harm your back

Force your back past its natural point of flexibility

Stretch until you feel a crunch in your back

Try to touch your head with your feet

The Lunge: Stretches hip flexors, psoas muscle, rectus femoris muscle

Photo by Cooper Bilington


Lean over your supporting foot.

Sink into your hips, which can overstretch and aggravate your hip joints.

Release and/or arch your back.

The Wall Straddle: Stretches inner thigh muscles

Photo by Cooper Bilington


Use a TheraBand or ankle weights to pull your legs down, which actually tightens the muscles you're trying to stretch, since they're actively working against the tension of the band.

Stay in the straddle for more than three minutes.

Use this stretch as part of your warm-up.

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