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What are some strengthining exercises and stretches to help me hold my leg up higher in ballet?

by admin on September 8, 2010

Flexibility is the one area that is really holding me back. I’ve been trying to find the strength and flexibility to hold my leg up. Any ideas?

For holding your leg up without hands:

When most people try to do it, they will just lift their leg a bunch of times. Then they wonder why their quads are getting bulky and their leg isn’t going much higher.

The quads should not be involved at all. You should use your hip for the turnout and your core (abs) for the actual lifting. Don’t know how to do it standing?

To learn to use the correct muscles, lay down on your back with your legs flat. Now, developpe one leg up as far as it will go without your butt lifting or the other leg bending. You can do this to the front or to the side. The dancer in the video did it to the side. Do this as often as you would like, probably for a few minutes everyday. After that, your muscles will have memorized the movement and the CORRECT way to do it, and you will be able to do it standing up much easier and your leg will go much higher.

As for flexibility to be able to do that high, here are some effective stretches:

A straddle is the best stretch for splits in second. Sit up with your feet straight in front of you. Now, push your legs as far out to the side as you can. Then, stretch over to your right and try to touch your ear to your knee. Make sure to keep both your butt cheeks firmly on the ground (or else you won’t get the full benefit on the stretch). Go to your left and do the same thing. Now, go forward and try to touch your belly button to the ground. Try to keep your legs turned out.

After you do this, use your hands to push yourself up and over the splits so your legs are behind you and your chest is on the floor. Go against a wall and do this. While pushing your legs against the wall, try to get your legs as close to the splits as possible.

You can do a straddle stretch against a wall and have a friend push your butt so you will get closer to the wall.

Lay down, but bring your legs out to second (basically a laying down straddle). Now, push your legs down as far as they will go, the goal being completely straight.

A resistance stretch is great for front splits. First, lay down. Keep one leg straight. Bring the other up and grab with both hands. Try to get the leg you are grabbing as close to your face as possible WITHOUT bending your leg on the ground (keep it fully on the ground) and keep your back and butt firmly on the ground.

If you want, do the resistance stretch, only have a friend push down your leg rather than you grab it.

Sit in a jazz split position (a split but with the back leg bent and turned out). Lean towards the inside of the split, trying to get your head to touch the ground. Then, lean forward. Try to get your nose to touch your knee.

Do a lunge stretch. Just stand straight up, then slide one foot out in front of you with the knee at a 90 degree angle.

Go into the splits, only bend your front leg at a 90 degree angle, turned out. Your front leg should be completely on the ground. Now, lay down over your front leg, trying to get your face to touch the ground.

Lastly, do an arabesque penchee. Now, pulse your leg up 8 times, trying to get it as high as you can.

Then, slide into the splits. When in the splits, try to get your face to touch your leg, then go inside the splits and try to get your face to touch the ground.

Hold all of these for 30 seconds. Try to do these everyday or as often as possible. Don’t push anything too hard ever! Time spent healing an injury is time spent losing flexibility. Use it or lose it!

Leg Stretches

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