Ballet class is a precious time. To get the most out of each class, you want to be ready to work at your full potential from the very first combination. Pliés are not a warm up, the whole barre is not a warm-up. Going through a long and painful series of stretches and over-stretches or tiring yourself with a never-ending series of exercises is not a warm-up either. What makes a warm up efficient? Let’s find out together!
What is the purpose of a warm-up?
As we said above, the main purpose of a warm-up before ballet class is to access your body’s full potential so that you can dedicate yourself to your art from the very first movement in class.
Many dancers use their warm-up time to check how their body feels and identify areas of stiffness or soreness. A warm-up is also a time for introspection to be mentally prepared for the work ahead: dancing is not just physical, but mental as well!
A great ballet warm-up is a warm-up with a purpose. It’s not just about moving around and getting your heart to pump. Warming up aims at:
hydrating and activating your soft tissues
finding your center of gravity
perfecting body expansion
preparing for ground impact
As such, an efficient warm-up includes activities that:
gradually increase intensity
use a mix of push & pull forces
use a mix of mobility and stability work
Now, how do we use all this information and put it into practice? Let’s check out 5 efficient exercises to warm-up for your ballet class.
How to warm-up efficiently?
Rope skipping to get your heart pumping and rejuvenate your fascia
It might feel strange to bring a rope to a ballet studio, yet rope skipping remains one of the best warmups you could think of. Rope skipping ticks all the boxes mentioned above for a great warm-up. Jumping is one of the most underrated activities by young adults. However, a variety of researches shows the benefits of jumping around to keep the fascia healthy and flexible. It will also get your core muscles engaged which is key to your hip stability.
You can try any variation that feels good for you: single leg, both legs, staggered legs, knees high.
Ladies, if you had kids, make sure you have completed your pelvic floor rehabilitation prior to skipping. If it is a challenging exercise, or if you experience any leaking issues, don’t ignore it and consult a physician to complete your rehab. A healthy and functional pelvic floor is essential to your dance practice. Despite being the most natural thing in the world, pregnancy related issues are still slightly taboo and too many female dancers suffer in silence (Olivia, thank you for making me aware of this matter).
Battements cloches to loosen up your joints
Battements cloches front/back and sideways are an excellent choice to help the ligaments in your joints activate. In ballet, you want your ligaments and stabiliser muscles to do their job of keeping your joints stable but at the same time be elastic enough to keep you flexible. Your hip joint will be put to extreme contribution by your ballet practice; so let’s treat it with due care.
You want to start with small range battements: do 8 counts of battement cloches front and back, then 8 counts of sideways. Then repeat but allowing your leg to go slightly higher this time. Always increase your range of motion gradually during your warm up.
Yawning followed by single leg balance to find your center of gravity
Yawning provides a deep massage and stretch of your diaphragm, so let’s make use of it (unless you prefer to stick your fingers deep under your ribs to try to reach it for a massage – which does not work by the way).
Yawn very naturally as you would do in the morning, stretching your arms to any direction you like, experience moving your back around in extension, flexion to the side and forward to really get a deep stretch.
Then stand on one leg and find your center of gravity, notice how easy it is after yawning deeply. Experiment with some relevés before repeating the sequence for the other leg.
Plyometric exercises to prepare for ballet jumps
Now we get into how Core de Ballet specifically approaches a warm-up. We strongly believe that an essential element of your warm-up is to prepare your joints for load (impact from jumps, or the weight of lifting your partner), and get your muscles ready to contract very quickly. This type of warm-up is extremely beneficial to dancers who feel naturally more inclined toward adagio and do not see themselves as fast and quick jumpers, with practice you can turn this around to your advantage. It is obviously beneficial to swift dancers who want to gain velocity.
Plyometrics, also called jumping training, have three requirements: muscle movement from full flexion to extension, quick and explosive and a jumping element. In simpler terms, you’ll go through the full range of motion as fast as possible and jump.
Plyometric push-ups: Before getting into it, make sure you’ve practiced very fast push-ups going through the full range of motion: from the bottom of the flexion when your chest is aligned horizontally with your elbows, to the top of the extension when your arms are fully extended. Once you’ve mastered the full range push-up, add a little jump of your hands off the floor. The trick is not to wait until your arms are extended to push off the floor. Apply the same principles you’ve learned in an allegro.
Jumping squats (our favorite): Same principle, practice your squats until you can perform them quite fast and quickly. Once you’ve mastered the squats, add a jump. Make sure to still get through the full range of the squat: sit back very deeply and fully straighten your legs in the jump. You can use your arms to help you in the movement. Enjoy!
Flowing stretches to check in with your body
It is important for a dancer to check how the body feels on a given day and at a given time. Replace your 5 minute long splits or frogs by a routine flowing from one position to another.
To make your life a lot easier, we designed and filmed a follow-along flow warm-up routine that you can do with us whenever and wherever you want! What makes this routine efficient? We love it because:
it wakes us up,
it engages the entire body as one piece,
it makes us move,
It includes gentle stretches.
We hope that this post helped you gain clarity on how to make your warm-up efficient. We want to hear from you! How long do you warm up before class? What exercises do you include in your routine?