Joan Oberndorf | November 4th, 2012 | Posted in How To, News, Wellness

Knowing your body is key in avoiding injury and staying strong and flexible

Do your biceps bulge if you so much as look at a dumbbell?  Does your arabesque go sky high without any effort? Are your knees inclined to bow backwards, or are your calves the last word in definition?  These attributes are clues to your body’s natural inclination towards strength or flexibility, and can be amazingly helpful in avoiding injury and having a happier, more balanced body.  Who doesn’t want that?

Loose vs. tight

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes (you already knew THAT) but most of the population (dancer and non) also falls into what I think of as the “loose vs. tight” category.  There are many points on the loose/tight continuum but bodies tend to trend more strongly one way than the other.  This often leads to developing your “strength” aka doing what comes naturally.  It’s fun to indulge in push ups or splits if that’s what feels easy, and who doesn’t want to getter better at what you have nailed (especially in dance, where SO MUCH of what you do is SO HARD).  Unfortunately, this doesn’t make you stronger or less prone to injury-in fact, it may have the opposite effect.  So how does one deal with this?  The first step is identifying your “type”.

not too flexible

Tight, aka the bodybuilder

Do you build muscle with the greatest of ease?  Are your guns to die for, do your calves bulge out of your tights?  The female dancers in this group may bemoan the fact that they get “bulky” if they do ANYTHING other than stretch.  If this sounds familiar you, my friend, are blessed with the capacity to easily grow strong, and you probably have issues staying flexible-stretching needs to be a daily activity, or your extensions suffer and your backbends go away.  You’re usually more prone to muscular strains-injuries that affect muscles or tendons, the thick bands that attach muscles to bones.

too flexible

Loose, aka the contortionist

Can you stand in 1st position with your heels apart and knees touching?   Take your foot and pretzel yourself so your toe touches the back of your head?  Splits no problem?  Do you do a million calf raises in the hope of actually getting a slight outward bulge on your lower leg?  You’re blessed with endless flexibility but most likely struggle to build muscular strength.  You’re more predisposed to suffer from sprains-injuries that affect ligaments, thick bands of cartilage that attach bone to bone.

Different bodies, different strategies

What to do about this, aside from complaining and being jealous of those with the opposite attributes?  (Complaining is fun but no one likes a whiner, and jealousy is just all around pointless.)  The answer is easy-get familiar with your body.  Think about what you can and can’t do, what comes easily and what doesn’t.  This is invaluable info and it comes free of charge, courtesy of your lovely bod.  Once you’ve indulged in some self observation the solution is obvious.  Tight folks need to spend time outside of class focusing on stretching and flexibility.  Loosey-goosey types need to start strengthening to protect their vulnerable joints.  Doing what doesn’t come easily will reward you with fewer injuries, stronger technique, and a longer dancing life.