6 Home-Based Exercises Dancers And Floor Gymnasts Can Perform To Correct Muscle Imbalance And Prevent Injuries
Floor gymnasts and dancers often overwork lower body muscles such as the quadriceps, gastrocnemius (larger calf muscle in back of leg) and hip flexors (Iliopsoas—the iliacus and psoas major) in their respective athletic disciplines. It’s clearly obvious to most onlookers as these muscles protrude in plain sight, especially the quadriceps and gastrocnemius, in these special breed of athletes.
Unfortunately for the athletes, this may cause the overburdened muscles to become stronger than the opposing muscles (hamstrings, the gluteus maximus and tibialis anterior and extensor digitorum longus–shin muscles), causing an imbalance overtime, which may lead to injury.
Luckily for them, the dilemma can be rectified by performing strength training and flexibility exercises to the opposite (antagonist) and effected muscles, respectively. This should help provide strength-balance and lengthen of the problematic muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the intended areas.
Therefore, you should be able to perform better, and prevent injuries that would otherwise keep you away from your favorite athletic pursuits.
Here is a list of strength training and flexibility exercises designed for floor gymnasts and dancers, which can be performed from the comfort of your home.
Note: The below exercise should be carried out at least three times a week.
Classic Deadlifts (Hamstrings, Gluteus Maximus and Lower back – Erector Spinae)
All you need for this exercise is a pair of dumbbells (appropriate weight, of course). If you don’t have weights, cartons of milk or heavy soup cans will do the trick.
Technique: Bend over (with your knees softly locked, but not fully) and use your lower back to gradually lift the weight. You will surely feel the contractions in your hamstrings, along in your buttocks and lower back.
Sets and Reps: Perform 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.
Standing Leg Curls (Hamstrings)
Since you probably don’t own a leg curl machine, I’m guessing, you can substitute it with ankle weights or exercise bands.
Technique: Wrap the weights or bands around your ankle. Keep the upper part of your leg immobile while bending your knee as you attempt to touch your butt with your heel. Repeat with opposite leg.
Set and Reps: 3-4 sets 10-12 reps
Note: If you’re using an exercise band, affix it to the back part of the ankle/Achilles areas while securely attached to a ground-level stationary object in front of you.
Often in gymnast and dancers, the overworked gastrocnemius muscles are casing an imbalance in the shin muscles (tibialis anterior and extensor digitorum longus). How do you solve the problem? Dorsiflexion exercises (hinging the foot upward at the ankle or talocrural joint) such as heel walking should help correct the dilemma.
Technique: Simply walk on your heels, as the name implies, for a measure of time, as it will help strengthen the muscle region. You may add dumbbells as you progress.
Duration: 30-60 seconds, or for as long as you can stand.
Standing Calf Raises (Gastrocnemius)
While the gastrocnemius is already effectively worked in floor gymnasts and dancers, strengthen these muscles further may help you avoid injury by improving ankle stability.
Technique: With dumbbells at your side, raise up on the balls of your feet, with your knees locked, to work the gastrocnemius.
Sets and Reps: Perform 10-12 reps, 2-3 sets, as to not overwork the muscles too much.
The Standing Wall Calf Stretch – watch video.
All sorts of injuries may arise because of inflexible calves, including plantar fasciitis and knee bursitis– an inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that reduces friction between the tissues surrounding the knee joints.
Technique: Place your hands, with your arms locked, on a wall or fence, with your legs as far back as possible. Lean into the wall as you unlock your arms while keeping your feet and legs in place. The further your legs are back, the more you’ll feel the stretch in the intended area. Please do not bounce.
Frequency: Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch (Iliopsoas—the iliacus and psoas major)
This is a great flexibility exercise to loosen and stretch this muscle region, which often becomes tight in gymnasts and dancers because of the repetitive movements.
Technique: Place one leg in front of you, with one leg in back of you a decent distance apart from the front leg. Lean your trunk back while pulling your hip flexor area forward without moving your back leg. You should feel the stretch in the hip flexor area of the back leg.
Frequency: Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times, then stretch the opposite leg
Written by Jerry Del Priore for Bodono.
Jerry Del Priore has worked as a certified personal trainer, and received his degree in Physical Education from Brooklyn College in 1991. Jerry is also a veteran print and digital Sports Writer-Reporter-Author experienced in writing in-depth profile stories on a variety of high school, college and professional athletes and teams.
Additionally, Jerry has developed a presentation based on his book, Running Through Roadblocks, which encourages children to overcome obstacles and never give up…no matter what!
Specialties: Baseball, football, hockey and basketball writing. Jerry also has covered lacrosse, soccer, golf and track and field, with ample experience cover women’s sports. Jerry is also a Food Writer/Blogger experienced in venue write-ups and reviews.
In addition, Jerry has ample experience working with medically fragile children, children with behavioral challenges and children with cognitively impairments.