Jim Lafferty

Got Tight Hips? 5 Exercises to Find Relief

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.


Toe Taps on a Foam Roller

1. Lie on a foam roller in the center of your head and spine. Start with your legs in tabletop position, your pelvis neutral and your fingertips resting on the floor.

2. Keeping your torso still and abdominals flat, lower one leg toward the floor. Go only as far as torso position can be maintained.

3. Return to tabletop, then repeat with opposite leg. Aim for 6–8 taps on each leg, alternating each time.

Single Leg Extension

1. Lie face down with your fingertips resting on your forehead. Your leg are turned out, but can be together or hip distance apart.

2. Maintaining a stable pelvis, reach one leg long and off the mat. Be careful to only extend the leg as far as a neutral pelvis can be maintained. Your low back should remain relaxed.

3. Return to start, then repeat with opposite leg. Aim for 6–8 reps with each leg, alternating each time.

Shoulder Bridge Prep

1. Stabilize your pelvis and spine in a neutral position, then extend your hips to lift the pelvis off the mat, creating a diagonal line from shoulders to knees. Be careful to not extend the spine.

2. Lift one foot off mat, making sure that there is no dropping or movement of the pelvis.

3. Return to start, then repeat with opposite leg. Aim for 3–6 reps with each leg, alternating each time.

Heel Squeeze Prone

1. Lie on your stomach with spine and pelvis in neutral, fingertips resting on forehead. With your knees slightly wider than hip-distance, bend them at a 90-degree angle.

2. Squeeze heels together and lightly lift your thighs off the mat as far as a neutral pelvis and spine can be maintained.

3. Hold for a second, then return to starting position and repeat for 8–10 repetitions.

Clam

1. Lie on your side with spine and pelvis in neutral, knees bent and together and your bottom heel lifted slightly.

2. Keeping your pelvis neutral and your heels together, lift the top knee.

3. Hold for a second, then return to start. Aim for 8–10 repetitions.

4. Repeat on opposite side.

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In Memoriam: Joffrey Dancer Charlene Gehm MacDougal, 69

Former lead dancer with The Joffrey Ballet, Charlene Gehm MacDougal died of ovarian cancer on January 10 at her home in New York City, age 69.

Gehm illuminated the inner life of each of the varied characters in her extensive repertoire. Whether she was the gracious hostess in George Balanchine's Cotillon, the riveting Lady Capulet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, or in the tumult of William Forsythe's Love Songs, she drew the viewer's eye and heart to the essence of the role.

As Forsythe puts it: "Charlene was certainly one of the most elegant dancers I have had the privilege to work with. Her striking countenance flowed into her work and, joined with her wicked sense of humor and intelligence, created thoughtful, mesmerizing and memorable art."

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February 2021