Health & Body
How do you warmup? Photo by Jim Lafferty

For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.

Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.

According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."

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Health & Body
Jim Lafferty

Dancers looking to increase their flexibility rarely think about their upper backs. But this common place of tension could limit your neural mobility.

"The mobility of your back, especially your upper back, is very important when thinking about the mobility of the nervous system, fascial system and flexibility in general," says leading dance physiotherapist Lisa Howell in her Front Splits Fast Program. "If your upper back is very tight, then the nerves and fascia that lie along the spine can get restricted."

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Health & Body
Jim Lafferty

When a muscle is tight, most dancers' natural response is to stretch it. But when it comes to your hip flexors, stretching won't provide a long-term cure, and it could even make the problem worse if the muscle is inflamed.

Often, a more effective fix is building strength in the stabilizing muscles. As a Pilates instructor who specializes in working with dancers, here are five of my favorite exercises to relieve hip tightness—and increase mobility.

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