Dancing is a beautiful and unique art form, immediate, sometimes spontaneous, and always demanding on the body. Serious dancers learn early on about the need to adequately stretch before and after a dance workout. Cooldown stretching in particular is essential for avoiding injury and stiffness. The idea is to cool down your body gradually, holding stretches for 20 seconds in sets of four, thereby eliminating lactic acid buildup which reduces pain and increases flexibility. Let's look at the best cool-down stretches for dancers.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
This is the first cool-down stretch many dancers use, both because it immediately engages the cool down process and because hamstrings are a dancer's bread and butter and require special attention. To properly perform this stretch sit on the floor with your back straight and one leg extended, then bend your other leg so that the sole of your foot is touching the inner thigh. Slowly bend toward your ankle while keeping the knee of your extended leg straight, as well as your back and neck. You will feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold, switch legs and repeat.
Calf injuries are common for all athletes and when they occur recovery can be lengthy. Calf cool-down stretches do much to reduce calf injuries when properly performed. Begin by staggering your feet, right foot forward. Keep both feet straight and then slowly and gently bend your right knee and lean your upper body forward, keeping your neck and back straight. Hold the stretch, then reverse your leg stagger and repeat. Back off if you feel any discomfort, over time you will become more flexible and will be able to hold longer.
It goes without saying that for dancers everything begins and ends with the back. As cool-down stretches go this is one of the most popular. Lie face down on your stomach with the palms of your hands flat on the ground, tucked underneath your shoulders and with elbows bent. With legs together, tops of your feet touching the floor, and toes pointed. Push up from the floor lifting your chest with full arm extension, at all times keeping your head and neck aligned. Perform this stretch slowly. Hold it and repeat.
Standing Quad Stretch
And finally, no cool-down stretch routine is complete without addressing the quads. To perform this stretch stand with your left leg firmly on the ground and slowly lift your right leg behind you. Bend the right knee and grab your ankle with your right hand, moving your foot toward your body. Hold, switch legs and repeat.
Cool-down stretches for dancers are a must at the conclusion of any workout. Use them to help your body recover, prevent injury, and to keep dancing.