I’ve worked with dancers during boot camps and at conventions. It seems like many young dancers suffer an injury before they even turn eighteen.
The most common injuries with dancers I’ve coached have been… you guessed it – ankle injuries. (Yikes!)
So that means, as a dance coach, you need to give your dancers’ ankles and feet a little love.
But why is ankle strength such a big deal?
Well, there are a few reasons.
- Injury Prevention – when the muscles around the ankle are stronger, there is less pressure on the ankle joint. This can decrease the risk of injury.
- Balance – when the ankles are not wobbly, your dancers’ balance will improve as a result. Your dancers’ skills will be more consistent and powerful.
- Mobility – tight or weak ankles can make it more difficult for your dancers’ to improve mobility. Mobility issues increase the risk of injury for the bones, tendons, and ligaments in your dancers’ ankles.
Think about this for a second.
Can you dance competitively doing tricks, jumps, or leaps without your feet or ankles?
It would be nearly impossible.
The feet and ankles do a huge amount of the work for a dancer. They not only help the body with mobility and balance but also work with the knees and hips to give your dancers better overall alignment.
Move beyond relevés at the barre and start really working on improving the strength of the feet and ankles. By doing this, you help them improve their strength and technique. This will make them better dancers and give them a longer career.
Here are a few areas that are affected by weak feet and ankles:
- Better balance
- More stable turns
- Explosive jumps
- Powerful leaps
Plus they’ll have a safer landing coming out of those jumps and leaps.
Many times, dancers complain of hip or knee pain. Often where your dancers feel pain isn’t really where the issue is. I’ve found that weak ankles can cause discomfort and pain in other areas of the body.
So it’s crucial to help all of your dancers (especially the younger ones) to develop strong ankles and feet.
Let’s get this figured out.
3 Foot And Ankle Strengthening Exercises For Your Next Warm-Up
NOTE: Your dancers’ will need a yoga block for two of these exercises. Ask your dancers’ to bring their own to practice so everyone has a block to work with.
- Place your yoga block on the floor so it’s parallel to your foot. Put one foot on the yoga block, so you’re standing on top of it. This will be your supporting leg.
- The other leg (your working leg) should be out to the side with a flexed foot. It shouldn’t be touching the floor.
- Plié while you hold your working leg out to the side, keeping your foot flexed.
- When you tap the floor with your heel, straighten your working leg.
- Do 20 on each side.
Try putting the hands on the hips or hold them in second position to help your dancers balance. The working leg looks like a tendu with a flexed foot. Be sure that your dancers are doing a plié, not just moving the working leg up and down. Sometimes the body likes to cheat when you feel the burn.
Balance Challenge 2
- Start with a yoga block a few inches in front of your feet. Lift one leg 45° to the back. Straighten both arms so there is a straight line from your shoulders to your fingertips. Your fingertips should point to the floor.
- Plié so you can touch your knees.
- Repeat 3 times.
- Plié so you can touch the middle of your chin.
- Repeat 3 times.
- Plié so your fingertips touch the top of the yoga block.
- Repeat 3 times.
- Repeat the whole circuit 20 times.
Remember to hold the working leg at 45° for the entire exercise. Although you may naturally want to lean forward with your upper body, be sure you keep the upper body as upright as possible.
If you don’t have a yoga block, try using a water bottle. Something you can tap during the plié, without going all the way to the floor.
- Start by standing with the feet together, in parallel. Hold the hands together in front of your chest to help with balance.
- Put one leg back, into a lunge.
- Go back to the start position, with parallel feet.
- Alternate between legs.
- Do 20 on each leg.
When your dancers are in their reverse lunge, both legs should look like a 90° angle. The knee should be aligned, over the ankle. Never let the knee move forward, over the toes.
I’m sure you agree that ankle and foot strength is super important in injury prevention and improving your dancers’ skills.
The feet are supporting everything that your dancer’s bodies are doing – jumping, leaping, balance, and mobility.
I know it can be easy to push strength training onto the back burner. But you can help prevent injury for your dancers with just a few minutes of focus on the feet and ankles.
Give these exercises a try.