(Written by Nefeli Tsiouti)
A good way for me to get an idea of how much knowledge a dancer has is to ask them ‘How do you warm-up?’. When the answer I get is ‘I stretch’ I know there is still a long way to go to educate not only the dancers, but also many educators, who have not had any updates from the latest science.
Stretching has a lot of benefits, but they can be turned into negatives if the ‘when’, ‘how’, ‘for how long’ and ‘what’ are not done under the appropriate circumstances. Some stretching tips below:
Intensity: The intensity of the stretch should be around 60% of your maximum pain threshold. In practice, if your pain cringes while you are in a stretch position, then you might want to release some of the intensity, because you are most likely causing inflammation, rather than developing flexibility. For more information regarding intensity, Prof. Matthew Wyon speaks about his most recent study on this matter: http://www.4dancers.org/2015/01/dancers-and-stretching-how-hard-should-you-push/
When? There are a few different types of stretching (static, dynamic, ballistic, PNF etc). When talking about dance, the most recent studies have shown that a combination of a static and dynamic stretching protocol during the warm-up, are more beneficial for balance, vertical jump height and range of motion (You can download the article by Morrin and Redding for free on the top of this page: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236052767_Acute_Effects_of_Warm-up_Stretch_Protocols_on_Balance_Vertical_Jump_Height_and_Range_of_Motion_in_Dancers ) However, during the cool-down of the body and the end of our dance activity, static stretching is suggested, which also leads to slight motor control loss; what this means in practice is that it makes our muscles a bit ‘wobbly’, and our proprioception is not turned on fully. Therefore, after minutes of static stretching, the body is not recommended to do any strenuous activity, rather it helps it gain muscle recovery for a better rest period.
For how long? Dance medicine and science studies have shown that the most effective way to stretch in order to gain flexibility, is to hold a stretch position between 30-60 seconds, with the ability to repeat the stretch up to 3 times. In the instance that time is limited, or we only want to assist with muscle recovery, without development of flexibility being the goal, then once up to 30 seconds should be effective.
How? However, any sort of stretching to be performed, needs the appropriate circumstances, and these are: (1) the body needs to be very actively warm (warm weather does not replace the activity warmth of the body, in this case), (2) there shouldn’t be any cold breeze or cold temperature in the room during stretching, (3) we should be completely aware of which muscles or what we are stretching, instead of just staying in positions without focus of what is occurring inside the body
What is the Breakalign Method? The Breakalign Method is a conditioning programme, based on the physiological and biomechanical analysis of the demands in the artform of Breaking (or ‘Breakdance’, as known by the media). Project Breakalign received funding to create the Breakalign Method from the Centre National de la Danse (2015-2016), which was researched and put together by a team of specialists that double major between dance (mostly Breaking) and a scientific discipline such as medicine, physiotherapy, sports science, dance science, human performance and more.
How do we stretch during the Breakalign Method? The Breakalign Method has short periods of 10 seconds throughout the class, where the trainees have time to stretch isolated body parts and gain their breath before continuing. At the end of each class, there is a minimum of 10 minutes of stretch (this depends on what type of course it is, i.e. masterclass, weekly, the full course etc). The ‘Ming Method’ is one of the main methods used for the stretching of the methodology, and it consists of a method which has as its main aim pain-cure via conditioning (http://www.mingmethod.com/ by Ming Chew). The stretching regime in the Breakalign Method also consists of more dance science-based exercises, which look at isolations, as well as kinetic chains of the body.
Become a Breakalign Method ambassador: As dancers, you can train with the Breakalign Method, to gain the knowledge for safe dance practice, for yourselves, as well as to train others. In order to teach the Method, as an investment to yourself and your future, you can become a Breakalign Method ambassador, by completing the Breakalign Method training programme, which will give you all the necessary tools to be able to not only help others, but also help yourself stay injury-free with a conditioned body. The programme will be available from September 2019.
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