Irish Dancers Exercises for Flexibility
Flexibility is a key factor for Irish dancers; however, very young children (ages 3 to 4) should not do any
stretching exercises because they need to first develop their strength before stretching any specific muscle
groups. But for older dancers, flexibility exercises will lead to better turnout and extensions,
which will in turn make them better dancers. Make sure to perform these exercises after
you've already warmed up.
One goal of all dancers is a 180-degree turnout of the hips while executing steps. This is naturally easier for some to achieve than others; however, with the correct stretching and strengthening exercises anyone can increase their turnout. The turnout refers to the hips rotating out or opening up to 180 degrees, where the toes are pointed right and left, knees directly over the toes and hips directly lined up with the knees. It is necessary for dancers to gradually and naturally increase their turnout, since forced hip turnout can lead to alignment problems, back problems and knee and ankle injuries. When training as a dancer, many hours are spent in the studio working on set exercises, steps and choreography. While training may offer a type of fitness regime, dancers should try other types of conditioning or cross-training exercises to complement their dance training and to help prevent injuries.
Warming up and stretching should be the first thing a dancers does when entering a studio, whether it's for a one-hour class or five hour rehearsal. A thorough warm-up will not only help to prevent injuries, but will also help to prevent long-term wear and tear on the joints and muscles.
Dancers should warm up before class even starts. Arrive at least 15 minutes before class starts to give yourself enough time to be properly warmed up.
Before any stretching can occur, the body temperature needs to be raised which increases blood flow, making muscles, tendons and ligaments more elastic and less likely to be damaged.
Lightly jog around the studio or using a skipping rope for five minutes will get your heart rate up and increase body temperature. This quick cardio warm-up should get you sweating, but shouldn't be so intense that you
are too tired for class.