As dancers, leg extension is something we all strive for. And for many of us we ask "I can bring my leg up high to my shoulder, but once I let go it just falls back to the floor." Sound familiar?
Achieving a higher leg extension requires two things: strength and flexibility. A dancer needs to have very flexible hips and legs as well as strong hip and leg muscles.
As every dancer knows, flexibility is extremely important for all types of dance. Every dance move can be improved by increasing your body's overall flexibility. Stretching is the only way to improve this, however, so you meed to be doing it every day. You need long and flexible hamstrings in order to straighten your leg when lifted to the front or side. You also need flexible abductors, or upper thighs, in order to lift your leg high to the side. Slow and easy stretching is usually most effective, and remember your breathing tk sink even lower into these stretches.
Strong quadriceps, the muscles of the front of the highs, are needed to be able to get your leg up to about 90 degrees. The muscles of your back are used to get your leg even higher. In particular. you need to have a strong iliopsoas, a muscle that connects the spine to the thigh. The iliopsoas is licated behind your abdominal muscles and controls the movements of the hip joint.
- If you can't seem to get your extension above 90 degrees, you mist likely need to strengthen your iliopsoas. When performing an extension, pay attention to the muscles of your leg as it begins to go above 90 degrees. Instead of using your quadriceps to continue lifting, try to focus on using the muscles underneath. Your hip flexors will be responsible for any higher movement.
What You Can Do
A good exercise to help improve your leg extensions is to place your foot onto a high barre. Using the muscles underneath your leg, or your hip flexor, raise your leg off the barre. Make sure you keep your leg turned out and your supporting leg straight. Visualize the muscles under your hip and spine engaging to lift your leg even higher. Hold your leg for a few seconds, then relax.
Increasing the hight of your leg extensions takes time and hard work. Try to push yourself beyond your normal comfort zone to strengthen the muscles that will help you achieve your goals.