I am taking on a new client who is a 16 year old ballerina. I am looking for specific exercises and flexibility programs to use with her. Can you please help?
Thanks for the question. When working with a teenage ballet dancer, you have to first consider what type of training her dance instructor has her do on a daily basis. She is constantly being put into positions that increase her strength and flexibility for ballet. The role of the strength and conditioning professional should be to find the areas of physical weakness created by daily ballet instruction and turn them into strengths. This type of training will create a more "whole" athlete, not just a ballet dancer. Without this type of strength and conditioning, there is an increased risk of injury. Having any physical weakness can also limit your client’s ballet performance.
Certain areas of the ballet dancer are going to be extremely overactive, specifically the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, spinal erectors, hip flexors, quadriceps, biceps brachii, latissimus dorsi, IT bands, piriformis, popliteus, peroneus longus, posterior tibialis, anterior deltoids, gastrocnemius and soleus. Teenage ballet dancers are using these muscles everyday during dance class and performances. Most have an upwardly rotated scapula and anterior pelvic tilt. Use myofascial release and various types of flexibility for correction.
Underactive areas are going to be the anterior tibialis, triceps brachii, hamstrings, gluteus medius, tensor fasciae latae, mid/lower trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, rhomboids, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis (specifically the lower fibers), adductors, rotator cuff and medial/posterior deltoids. These muscles are used less and should be strengthened by the strength and conditioning specialist. Focus on core compression with the deep abdominals as well as creating a posterior pelvic tilt. We also want a depressed and retracted scapula. Create an increase in internal leg rotation, dorsiflexion at the ankles and external arm rotation. It will take barely any resistance to fatigue these muscles, so start your program with manual resistance, isometrics or simple bodyweight exercises. Everyone has a different body, so be sure to put your dancer through a movement screen and kinetic chain assessment to find the weaknesses. Don't forget that at 16 years old, your ballerina is in school all day, probably sitting at her desk with posture that only makes your job harder. Good luck!