Social dance instructors tend to leave an impression that if you learn the correct technique to a movement and practice a lot, you will be able to execute it well. Reality check – it’s not actually true. Social dance has gotten more and more complicated, which means that in order to carry out the more difficult (and often famous) moves, you will now need to have a flexible strong trained dancer body. For achieving that you would need to do body conditioning along with dance classes.
One part of conditioning is improving your flexibility and mobility. This helps you do the more complex moves with ease and gives an impression of effortlessness to your dance.
I started stretching every day at the beginning of December 2020 and in this article I’m going to share my favourite stretching videos from YouTube that have actually given me results. To encourage you, I am NOT a flexible person by nature, so I believe these routines have potential to help you out as well.
Morning Warmup and Stretch Routine (10-minutes)
This is a short morning stretching and warmup routine by a young Russian rhythmic gymnast Elvira Belyanova, who is trained by her mother Yulia Khalkova. While this video might not have the best production quality, the exercises feel really good for my body and they are wonderful to do in the morning. This is a great routine to start with if you haven’t been stretching regularly before, as it’s not too complicated.
Rhythmic Gymnast Warmup and Stretch (10-minutes)
Another great stretching and warmup routine from the level 10 elite rhythmic gymnast miss Belyanova. I used this routine for many consecutive months, as it’s nice and short for everyday use but challenging enough to improve my range of motion. (The video is a little confusing, so just FYI the routine starts from 00:35 and ends at 7:44)
Obviously I am not as flexible as her, so I only did as much as I could – either easier modified versions of the stretches or skipped the ones that I couldn’t do at all (like backbends). Nevertheless, my back strength and flexibility improved tenfold, as well as feet and hip mobility.
Gymnast Warmup and Stretch Routine (20-minutes)
Next up, a very nice longer stretch and warmup routine from Whitney Bjerken, a young gymnast living in the US. I used this for months and it’s now the base of the stretching routine I have developed for myself. Again here I skipped the “impossible” stretches and did an easier version if I had to, but it’s generally pretty doable. I like that this video has a voiceover, so after a while you can follow along without looking at the screen.
Bonus: Split Stretches
If you are like me and front splits are among your flexibility goals, then I have a great recommendation for that. Alessia Lugoboni, a professional ballet dancer has made multiple videos on how to achieve front splits, the beginner level, beginner 2 , intermediate and more. No other routine has given me any success, except for these. In summer of 2019 I was able to get to about 10 cm from the ground! (The reason I didn’t achieve splits fully was that I was too impatient and stopped stretching.)
Remember that every person is different and YOU are ultimately the expert on your body. Always check in with yourself if the new exercises you try feel good for you or not. Having said that, whatever routine works for you, here are some general tips on stretching:
- Stretch when you’re warm. This would be either right after a workout or a dance class. Alternatively, do a warm-up routine right before stretching or look for combined warmup + stretch routines like I have provided above.
- Stretching doesn’t have much effect if you don’t breathe. So relax and breathe normally at least 4 times in and out when holding a stretch.
- You should never feel pain when stretching. As soon as you feel a stretch, it is enough – don’t push yourself further. This prevents injuries, which would otherwise set your progress back to zero (story of my life).
- It’s possible to get faster results when stretching in repetitions, eg you do a stretch 2 or 3 times with 15 second breaks in between.
- It’s possible to get faster and better results by combining active stretching with passive stretches.
- However don’t expect to get results fast, this will only set you up for disappointment. Instead, look at stretching as a habit, a normal part of your dance life. Don’t believe any videos or programs that claim to bring insane results in 2 weeks or 2 months.
This was a collection of my favourite YouTube stretching routines from 2021. As you can see, what have worked wonders for me the past year are routines from gymnasts. And no wonder, since they have insane results to show! The second part of body conditioning is strengthening your muscles, but this will hopefully be a separate article in the future.
Do you stretch? How often? Do you have any goals? Let me know in the comments!