Many of my Bulletproof Ballerinas ask for recommendations for stretches and exercises to do before class that will get them warmed up but not worn out. So, I thought I'd share with you my two favorite pre-rehearsal/class exercises that get me ready to dance...or at least warmed up enough to move into a deeper stretch where I can actually work with my full facility and the intricacies of my technique.
A lot of times, especially as freelance dancers, we don't have the luxury of taking a full class or even a barre to get warmed up before rehearsals since we are often running from one rehearsal to another or from other jobs straight to the studio. These tricks serve as an effective express warm-up when you are in a pinch. A few rounds of these will get your muscles and joints moving...and then you can count on the strength of your Bulletproof body to carry you through the rest of rehearsal;)
These two exercises also work great as a pre-class warm-up because they increase the mobility in your joints enough to move freely through barre without that initial grinding phase where your body feels "thick" and "stuck." If you're young, this may not be such of an issue for you...but if you're thirty and older...you know what I'm talking about! Sometimes, you can go through a full barre before your joints get loose enough to feel like you can even start working your technique. These little tricks allow you to bypass that sticky, congested feeling you used to have to endure while you waited for your body to warm up and gives you access to your full range of motion almost right away.
Along with enhancing mobility, these serve as muscle activation exercises to get your body ready to work. By waking up your core and hip rotators in particular, they allow you to feel "up on your legs" before you even do your first plié. And, by activating the full-body coordination needed to do these exercises, you gain that connection to your body right away - that internal sense of how to use your body as efficiently as possible to get the job done. This awareness in your body transfers directly over to your dance technique and choreography.
The best part is that these exercises won't tire you out for the rest of class or rehearsal. Rather than warming up with an hour of cardio or other time-consuming exercises (you know, that interminable routine of pre-stretches before your stretches and pre-warm-ups before your warm-ups) where you risk taking valuable energy away from your actual dancing...these tricks take less than 5 minutes of your time and won't leave you exhausted. It's just enough quality work to make you feel free and alive in your body. Think of these 2 tricks as your primer for class or rehearsal - a way for you to get in your peak performance state right from the start ;)
Try It for Yourself!
In the video above, I'm not moving quite as slow and focused as usual, since I'm talking to the camera at the same time (and I'm terrible at multi-tasking! Really terrible! LOL). Ideally when you do these exercises, think of it as a form of body meditation. Really try to focus on feeling your body and muscles waking up and your joints gradually loosening and opening. The slower you move and the more quality intent you put into your movements, the more benefits you will get out of this warm-up.
Sure, this routine is nothing fancy. But, for my body, this works every time. And, it saves you from grinding your way through a class or rehearsal that your body doesn't really feel ready for, risking injury and being disappointed that you're not putting your best foot forward. Try this express routine out for yourself, and leave a comment below or shoot me an email to let me know how it feels on your body.
Disclaimer: As part of your express warm-up, you may need to spend time working through your feet and ankles as well, especially if you are going right into pointe work. Of course, if you have more time, it's always beneficial to do a more thorough warm-up so you can work the intricacies of your technique...but this is a great routine to use in a pinch. Even after this warm-up routine, you still want to ease into things. Know your body's resilience, when to push, and when to back off.