Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thera-bands for Dancers, Part 3: Foot & Ankle Exercises

Exercise bands, Thera-bands or similar resistance training are often suggested for dancers to increase the strength with at-home practice.  What exercises should dancers do and what can be done safely at home, without a teacher to observe incorrect habits being formed?

We will be exploring these questions and more during our series:  Thera-bands for Dancers

Today's post is about foot exercises you can do in class or at home to improve your muscle strength.  Before you begin, remember to review our exercise tips.

Benefit to dancers: Improved foot articulation, strengthened point during all exercises, extra push during jumps, higher foot arch (posterior tibial muscle), toe flexors and extensors along with your ankle and calf muscles.

Toe Crawls**
Lay the band (you can also use a towel or piece of fabric) out away from your foot.  While standing or sitting, use your toes to "grab" and pull the fabric / band towards you.  Repeat for the full-length of the band.  You can also strengthen your toes by "grab" marbles or other small objects.

Toe Flexion**
Sit with your foot flexed.  Loop the band around your foot with one end under your heel and the other over your toes, pulling the ends towards you, creating resistance.  Slowly push with just your toes to a crunched position.  Repeat

Toe Waves
Sit on floor in pike position with one foot pointed.  Loop the band around your foot with one end under your heel and the other over your toes, pulling the ends towards you, creating resistance.  Try to lift the big toe, then the second toe, down to the pinkie toe while maintaining the pointed foot position.  Reverse.  Can also be done with flexed foot.

Notes for teachers:  Watch for sickled feet.  If a student has trouble with sickling, have them perform the exercise with a flexed foot.

Sit on the floor in pike position with feet flexed. Wrap the theraband around the balls of your feet and pull tight. Slowly bend one knee while you stretch through all the points of the other foot until it is fully pointed, then switch, bend the other knee and stretch the other foot.

Flex and Point #1
Sitting in a pike position, wrap the theraband around the ball(s) of one or both feet. Put the ends together and pull to create tension. Now point and flex the foot/feet slowly, going through every position of the foot. This creates a stronger, more controlled foot and helps with exercises such as tendus, degages, etc. It also helps build strength for pointework.

Variation:  Try this exercise laying on your back with your legs at 90 degree angle for an added hamstring stretch.

** - Exercises that can be safely done at home.

See illustrations for "toe crawl" and "flex/point":

Remember:  While TheraBands are endorsed by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and are versatile, portable and easy-to-use, you should consult with your doctor or health care provider before beginning a resistance program or any exercise program. While using the band, stay attuned to your body.  If any exercise hurts... stop!  Don't over-do.

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