Ballet barre exercises are designed to help you prevent knee injuries, by strengthening the muscles around the joints that are involved in turnout, and the changing of levels that range from the depth of your demi plie to your full pointe releve, or highest jump.
It would be correct to say these movements involve almost every joint and muscle in the body, but to keep it simple, I will focus on the core muscles holding the pelvis in alignment, the rotator muscles holding turnout, and the thigh muscle groups supporting the turnout.
(A sub-group would be the foot muscles, which will most likely function well if the knee joint is supported and aligned safely.)
Pelvic Stability First
Correct ballet posture is normal posture - the pelvis being in a neutral, neither tipping to the front or back. Tipping backwards is a "sway back", or more than a natural curve at the back of your waist. Everyone has some natural curve, and it will look like a deeper curve if they have rounded butt muscles, or gluteal muscles.
Tipping the pelvis forward will straighten out the lower back, and will also leave that area of the spine at greater risk of injury.
As your core muscles strengthen, you will be more stable in ballet positions, especially while standing on one leg.
Holding Your Ballet Turnout
This is a detailed topic. The muscles holding the turnout are your rotator muscles, not the gluteal muscles as many dancers think. In fact, clenching the gluteal muscles will prevent you from getting the maximum rotation of your thighs.
Preventing Knee Injury With Correct Alignment And Muscle Tone
If your posture and turnout are strong, your knees are protected to a large degree, from dance injuries. However, muscle tone must also be understood.
Relaxing and stretching the muscles increases their functionality, and therefore their strength. Tense muscles pull on joints, and one common strain on the knee joint is a constantly tense thigh muscle.
At the outside of the thigh, you can often feel a line of tension, right down to the knee joint. If chronic or severe, this tension can pull on the tendon (tendons are rope-like and not very stretchy) and result in the knee cap, or patella, sliding sideways, and outwards.
Learning To Release Muscle Tension
Especially if you are a recreational dancer, or adult ballet beginner, knowing how to release muscle tension with proper stretching is crucial.
You want to get more flexible anyway. On the days when you do not have a dance class, (or a workout, if you are a non-dancer,but are a sports/fitness buff reading this), the ideal activity would be a stretching routine that starts with a thorough warm up, and includes some strengthening of the thighs and core muscles.
You would want to end this workout with some relaxing, deep stretches.
(Need More On Ballet Turnout?
Here is a detailed article on ballet turnout.)
I'd like to recommend to you a variety of workouts incorporating the best ballet stretches, which are also used by hockey players, circus artists and Olympic champions. Visit us and choose your own Muscle Stretching Exercises.
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