Stretching rules for dancers factsheet #15

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Any ballistic (i.e. bobbing, lunging, bouncing) types of stretching should be avoided. It is a sure-fire way to damage muscles or tendons. Safe stretching is when muscles are slowly placed in a stretch and then held in that position for 10–15 seconds.

Rules for stretching

  • do not stretch cold muscles
  • do stretch before and after exercise (active stretching during the warm up, static stretching during the cool down)
  • do stretch all muscle groups
  • to increase flexibility do stretch when your body is thoroughly prepared (in contrast to stretching whilst relaxed to increase range and mobility as you might do in a warm-up)
  • do stretch gently and slowly; do not bounce
  • do stretch gently to the point of mild discomfort, never pain
  • do not hold your breath; breathing should be slow and easy
  • do not make stretches competitive
  • avoid partner stretching as your partner cannot judge your pain

Remember: pain is not progress but a signal that you have gone too for.

Types of stretching


—consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you (gently!) to the limits of your range of motion, with no bouncing or jerking. This type of stretching improves dynamic flexibility and is useful as part of your warm-up.


—involves the resistance of muscle groups through (isometric contractions) tensing stretched muscles. Isometric stretching is one of the fastest ways to increase flexibility and is much more effective than either passive stretching or active stretching alone.


—is one where you hold a position using the strength of your agonist muscles.


—is one where you hold a position with part of your body, or with help from a partner or equipment.


—(proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation). A muscle group is passively stretched, then contracts against a resistance while in the stretched position, and then is passively stretched again through the resulting increased range of motion.


—(active isolated stretching) uses reciprocal inhibition to stretch muscles when they are relaxed. For  example, if your goal is to stretch your left hamstring muscle, you begin by contracting your left quadriceps muscle for a few seconds, which causes your left hamstring muscle to relax.

Further reading

  • Stretching for Dancers IADMS factsheet
  • The Stretching Handbook by Francine St George, Pub. Simon and Schuster
  • Stretching by Bob Anderson, Pub. Shelter Publications
  • Facilitated Stretching by R.E.McAtee & J.Charland, Pub. Human Kinetics
  • Active Isolated Stretching: The Mattes Method by Aaron L. Mattes