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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine.

May 1999

More Active Isolated Stretches - Gluteal and Hip Region

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

Active Isolated Stretching Technique

Last month's topic was of such interest that I am going to give you a bit more on Active Isolated Stretching (AIS). I'm going to give you just a taste of what's available. For further information, contact Jim and Phil Wharton at Maximum Performance International (1-800-240-9805 or www.aistretch.com). If you are interested in using their technique, I suggest you purchase The Wharton's Stretch Book and the associated video Breakthrough Stretching.

Last month, I gave an overview of AIS and specific instructions for stretching the hamstrings and psoas muscles. This month lets add four stretches for muscles of the low back and pelvis that are also keys to good dancing. Dancers need to have freedom in this region to achieve proper Latin motion.

Many people, especially runners and bicyclists, do not develop flexibility in this region because they move primarily just forward and back. We all need to stretch the muscles in the gluteal and hip region that limit sideward and rotational movements.

Hip stretch 1

Warm up with Single Leg Pelvic Tilt (Figure 1) Ten repetitions of each side will warm you up and increase your flexibility in the lower back and buttocks. The Whartons give the following instructions:

"Lie on your back. Bend your nonexercising knee so that you release pressure on your back. Flex (bend) your exercising knee and place your hands behind your knee/thigh to prevent pressure on your knee and provide a little assistance toward the end of the free movement. Using your abdominals and hip flexors, lift your exercising leg toward your chest until you can go no farther. Aim your knee toward your armpit. Gently assist your leg at the end of the stretch with your hands, but do not pull."

Hip stretch 2 Active Isolated Stretching of the Adductors (Figure 2) The adductors pull the legs together. As explained in the Wharton's book, to stretch them:

"Lie on your back with both legs extended straight out. Take your rope and hold the ends together so that it forms a loop. Place the foot of the leg you're exercising into the loop and wrap the rope around the inside of the ankle so that the ends of the rope are on the outside. Lock that knee. Rotate your nonexercising leg inward slightly....From your hip and using your abductors, extend your exercising leg out from the side of your body, leading with your heel. Keep slight tension on the rope. Use the rope for gentle assistance at the end of the stretch. Do not pull the leg into position and irritate your groin. Complete one set and then repeat, leading each stretch with the toe."

Hip stretch 3

Active Isolated Stretching of the Abductors (Figure 3) The abductors spread the legs apart. The stretch is essentially the opposite of that for the adductors. The rope is wrapped around the outside of the ankle. The nonexercising leg is rotated inward slightly and the exercising leg is rotated outward slightly, so they end up both pointing in the same direction.

The Whartons explain, "From your groin and using your adductors, extend your exercising leg across the midline of your body, leading with your heel just above the nonexercising leg. Keep slight tension on the rope. Use the rope for gentle assistance at the end of the stretch. Do not pull the leg into position or you will irritate your hip. Remember to keep your knee locked."

Hip stretch 4

Active Isolated Stretching of the Gluteal Region (Figure 4) This is an excellent stretch for the lower back rotators, lateral hips, piriformis and buttocks (gluteus maximus). The Wharton's instructions are:

"Lie flat on your back with both legs extended straight out. Rotate your nonexercising leg toward the midline of your body by pointing your toes inward. This stabilizes your hips. Using your abdominal muscles and hip flexors, lift your bent knee toward the opposite shoulder, keeping your pelvis flat on the surface. As you knee comes into range for easy reach, place your hand on the outside of your knee and gently guide the stretch. If you want a deeper stretch of the gluteus medius and piriformis, you can give your leg extra assistance by grasping the outside of your shin with the opposite hand and pressing your heel toward the floor as your knee nears your shoulder. Be careful that you do not irritate your knee."

Wrapping up

Again, the Wharton's video and book give full sequences that warm up and stretch practically the whole body, so I suggest you look at them rather than just stretching one muscle. They show both stretching by yourself and with an assistant. Take care in doing the assisted stretches. An inexperienced assistant could use too much force and strain the muscle.

Take care of your hip rotators. Keep flexible. Enjoy your dancing!

Next article: Let's again pick an idea from readers. Send me an e-mail with your suggestions.

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