Originally Researched and Written by Khara Hanlon of Dance Magazine Summarized here by Richelle Stevenson, LAT Read the full article here!
What is a Warm-Up?
Just as the name implies, a "warm-up" involves increasing your core body temperature. However, this increase in temperature does more than make you feel "warm." The process of raising core temperature prepares the muscles and joints to function optimally, enabling you to dance to your fullest ability and reduces your risk of injury. As the author explains, "During the warm-up there is an increase in the amount of energy required by your working muscles. This means your body needs to consume more oxygen and fuel (glucose) to generate energy to power your muscles. A byproduct of all this extra energy production is the increase in body temperature that gives the warm-up its name, so the cardiovascular section of a warm up is vital in ensuring your body is ready to go." A complete and proper warm-up:
Increases synovial fluid in your joints which protects them during high intensity movements (like a cushion in your knees for jumps)
Increases muscle elasticity which improves flexibility (think higher grand battements)
Increases neurological speed which aids in balance, coordination, proprioception and power output (for a faster petit allégro)
What should be in my Warm-up?
The IADMS applies research and strategies from sports medicine to denote these 4 sections necessary for a full and proper warm-up.
A gentle pulse-raising routine. The aim here is to increase your cardiorespiratory and metabolic rates; as your heart rate increases the ability for your body to circulate oxygen and energy also increases. This is an essential first step for all the reasons listed above!
Joint Mobilization. Joints involve a variety of structures to remain stable during movement. See the Clinician's Corner below for some ideas on how to specifically prepare your joint capsules for movement.
Muscle Lengthening. This section should focus on preparing the muscles for movement, not flexibility. Refer to our October Dance Medicine Journal for more details on static v dynamic stretching.
Second pulse raising section. Use this final section as a targeted approach to increasing blood flow to dance specific areas. This is a great time for injury prevention exercises!
This IADMS blog post also includes these final suggestions to design "Your Perfect Dance Warm-up!" See the official IADMS resource paper and the references below for more!
Involve your mind and take a moment to center yourself. Check in with how you are feeling; notice any areas where you need to give special attention.
Make your warm-up dance (and type of dance) specific.
Introduce an activity to gradually increase your heart rate.
Keep the movement simple to begin then progress to more complex and challenging movement patterns.
Mobilize all the joints in your body and don’t forget about your spine and upper body, especially if your dance style includes upper-body weight bearing or/and partnering work.
Give yourself a goal or try some positive self-talk.
Use dynamic stretching and take your body carefully through full ranges of motion saving the static stretching for the cool-down or the end of the day.
Wake up your nervous system by incorporating quick changes in direction and stopping to balance on one leg – this will engage your proprioceptors.
Once you are feeling warm and just a little bit sweaty, introduce some power movements like small jumps followed by some bigger ones.
Towards the end of the warm-up, pick up the pace and progress your movement to speeds nearer the pace of the following dance activity
After raising your pulse rate, try these exercises to mobilize your joints. I recommend this before dynamic stretching, just as stated in the Featured Article! I also highly recommend these suggestions from the Radio City Rockettes!
Mobilizing the joints 1. Ankle CirclesSitting with your legs extended in front of you, circle your ankles through their full range of motion, making your circles bigger each time. Repeat 10 times in both directions.
2. Hip CirclesLying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, open one knee to the side as far as you can while keeping a neutral pelvis. Slide your foot along the floor until your knee is extended and your leg returns to parallel. Repeat 5-8 times on each leg.
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