Why should you warm up and cool down?
It is important for dancers to warm up before any dance activity in order to prepare the body for longer and global movements and help to decrease tension in the muscles and joints. Through this preparation you can ensure you are able to move without stress and strain during activity. A safe warm up gradually increases the body temperature to a optimal working level and helps to avoid injuries.
The cool down is just as important after dancing as this can help to reduce muscle soreness and speed up the recovery process after the activity.
An effective warm up should:
- Prepare dancers both mentally and physically
- Improve performance and reduce prevalence of injuries
- Increase coordination and proprioception
- Increase heart rate and blood circulation gradually
- Increase body temperature
- Permits freer movement of the joints
- Improves the effective muscles actions
- Reduce the risk of injury
- Improves the transmission of nerve impulses
- Should mobilise all the joints that are to be used during the dance class/performance.
You should never feel tired after the warm up, it should always contain simple or low impact movements with no fast changes of direction. The movements should be controlled, continuous with the correct alignment to reduce the risk of injury. A warm up should include exercises for ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, elbows and wrists with 6-8 repetitions of each exercise. By the end of the warm up you should feel warm, relaxed and ready to start dancing Professional Performers should conduct a warm which lasts for a minimum of 30-40 minutes each time.
The cool down is just as important as the warm up
- If the activity stops suddenly the blood will pool within the muscles rather than return the blood to the brain, this will cause dizziness.
- Dancing increases adrenaline and endorphins (hormones) in circulations which can lead to restlessness and sleep.
- Increase in waste products such as Lactic Acid can cause stiffness and soreness as well as cramps and muscle spasms.
By gradually slowing your movements the breathing rate will decrease and reverse the warm up process. Extra soreness may occur due to the intensity of the exercise or unfamiliar movements performed. Stretching should also be part of the cool down process. If you are still sore the following day, doing some light/ gentle exercise and stretching may help.
Tips for dancers:
- Make sure you move into the stretch slowly, hold it still, and move out of the stretch slowly.
- Breathe normally and emphasise the stretch when exhaling.