Dance is a great combination of athleticism and art. It demands power, strength, agility, yet also flexibility and control no matter what style you are doing. For an aspiring professional dancer, it can be tempting to focus heavily on gaining flexibility to be able to have higher extensions and bigger leaps. Dancers know movements for dance are unique but it’s worth highlighting a few key points. This may allow you to fully appreciate how working on a squat can be helpful. One foundational movement in many dance styles is a plié. This involves keeping your “tail” underneath you. This is very different from squatting which involves hinging at the hips and letting the “tail” move backward as if you are sitting down in a chair. Although squatting type movements may be involved in some contemporary or modern choreography, it’s not a plié which is part of the repertoire of movement for every ballet and oftentimes modern class, and is important for the landing of jumps and turns. It’s done over and over and over again. When someone squats and properly performs what we call a “hip hinge”, the hip flexors in the front of the hip, are able to relax and “crease” while the ball of the hip joint rolls to the back side of the socket. This is key. Check out this video here to get a visual.
Ballet, jazz, contemporary, and modern can be very demanding on the hip flexor muscles located in the front of the hip joint. It’s no secret that dancers can often develop hip flexor irritation from the repetitive motions that use the hip flexors--developpé, grand battement, passé...the list goes on. So why should dancers care about their squat? Knowing how to properly hip hinge allows the hip to maintain movement inside the joint that is often under-utilized with certain dance styles. A healthy hip needs to maintain this movement. A hip hinge also allows your hip flexors to “fold” which can be challenging for a dancer from all the movements that repetitively lift the leg. By training your squat, you can help maintain this joint motion and may find that you can even access better turnout when needed. A squat is one way to maintain this motion...there are many!
Dancers can sometimes be in “dance mode” even when they are done dancing for the day--for instance when a dancer reaches down to pick something up off the floor, perhaps they do so without bending the knees and instead just curve their back and bend forward because their hamstrings have the flexibility to do this. This doesn’t allow the hip to properly hinge and does not use the full “crease” at the hips. Instead, when picking something up from the floor, it can be better to do a squat for the health of your hip joint over time AND to protect your low back from strain. To take it a step further, performing variations of squats in your dance conditioning program will also strengthen your big leg muscles which can influence jump height and power...BUT you have to be properly hip hinging.
Do you know how to properly hip hinge? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.