By Emily Ward:
Competition season is right around the corner, and many athletes are wondering what they can do to help improve their flexibility for their upcoming 2023 show. Here is a list of basic techniques that athletic trainers and medical professionals recommend to help athletes improve their flexibility.
Make sure to warm up your body before beginning stretches. Warming up helps to loosen your muscles and minimize the risk of injury. You can do simple things like taking a nice walk, moving your arms around in a circular motion, or anything that involves exploring more range of motion from all parts of your body.
Lunges are an excellent option to help you achieve your splits. Put your hands on your front leg, close to your knee, and push your hips forward until you feel a stretch. Repeat this on the other leg and gradually increase how deep you go into your lunge over time.
A simple butterfly stretch will also help to improve your hip flexibility. Put your feet together in front of you and pull them as close to yourself as comfortable. Place your hands on your ankles and use your elbows to gently push down on your legs and deepen the stretch. When you're ready, lean forward with a straight back and try to touch your nose to your toes.
Pyramid poses will help you to stretch your legs before attempting your splits. Put one leg in front of the other, keeping a good amount of distance between them. Your toes and hips should all be facing forward. Next, reach your arms up and lean forward, keeping your back straight. Once you reach a flat back, stop and hold the pose. If you feel ready, reach down to your front foot while getting your chest as close as possible to your front leg.
Stretching can help performers with their flexibility, dancing, and tricks, whether in a movement phrase or the incorporation of body and equipment. When stretching, ensure you never push yourself until you are in pain. Instead, you should only stretch until you feel a slight difference in the length or position of your muscle. Another tip is to make sure you breathe while stretching. It's very easy to get caught up in a stretch and not realize that you are holding your breath and your muscles need oxygen to perform, so watch out for that.
Obtaining flexibility takes time and practice, so it is entirely normal not to be able to do your splits on the first try or even within the first few weeks of stretching. No matter what technique you decide to use, be sure only to do as much as you feel comfortable with and never overwork yourself since that will likely lead to pain and injury.
About the Author:
Emily Ward is a junior at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, and is studying to receive her bachelor's degree in mass communications with a concentration in broadcast news. She is also a psychology minor. She began colorguard her junior year of high school and was a captain of Sunlake High School's Scholastic Open Class winterguard team. Since then, she has spun for the University of South Florida.