Forum: Irish / Irish - Technique & Training

Straight legs!
By legalirishdancer
On Wed Nov 07, 2012 04:23 PM

Hi there! I have a major problem with straightening my legs, particularly in the knee area. Part of the problem is that my kneecaps naturally protrude quite a bit. The bigger issue is that I actively try to straighten my legs while I am dancing and I think that I'm straightening them, but they are not actually straight. Has anyone else had this problem? It's primarily an issue during drags, popouts, and leaps. My dance teacher thinks it's a strength issue, and I'm not sure what to strengthen to help with the overall straightness. Any advice would be much appreciated!

5 Replies to Straight legs!

re: Straight legs!
By Macomurphy
On Wed Nov 07, 2012 06:22 PM
I just posted this above. It might be because of weak hamstrings. Sometimes the hamstring is underdeveloped compared to the quad. The hamstring weakness can cause the leg to bend. Look into hamstring strength and stretching.
re: Straight legs!
By SparrowCatPremium member
On Wed Nov 07, 2012 06:29 PM
and turnout :) your legs should also be turned out in kicks, jumps, leaps... all the time - and from the hip, down through the knees and follow through to the foot.

I've seen lots of dancers (with nobbly knees too :D) who turn out in jumps only at the feet, and the knees are still pointing towards the ceiling. All leading to needing to work on that turnout, both in exercises and drilling parts of your dances.

You could practice, take some photos or video, then in a few weeks do it again. See if you can notice the difference all your hard work is paying off (and videoing yourself might give you a better idea of what you TCs are seeing and the areas you need to fix :) )

Good luck!
re: Straight legs!
By monkeybiz329member has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Nov 08, 2012 01:28 AM
Whenever my TC tells us to straighten our knees, she tells us to "pull up" on our thighs. To see what I mean, stand and point your toe, and then tense your thigh muscles so that you can actually see your kneecap moving upward. When you're dancing, try to feel that "pull up" feeling when you're extending your leg out in front. It may be tougher on jumps when you've got a lot of other stuff to focus on, but over time your knees will straighten more.
re: Straight legs! (karma: 1)
By eimearnor
On Wed Nov 07, 2012 09:04 PM
Edited by eimearnor (247346) on 2012-11-07 22:30:09 wanted to clarify an idea
So,this is mainly in response to other comments. I'll try not to get too technical- I'm in an exercise/sports science anatomy class that focuses a LOT on muscles and functions, and I've spent a lot of time recently studying these particular muscles so forgive me if I get excited and forget my audience! First, Macomurphy, maybe I am misunderstanding your comment but it seems to me like you are saying that strengthening the hamstrings so they function better and more effectively will help straighten out the leg. If so, my issue with this is that the hamstrings function to *flex* the knee and extend the hip. The muscles that extend the knee are the quadriceps on the front portion of the thigh. These all insert onto the knee, which is why when monkeybiz329 was talking about pulling up on the thigh muscles, you can see the knee cap move up.
These thigh muscles are your quads- read on if you want a little reference, note, skip to the next paragraph if you want me to get to my point ;) [ you can also feel them if you lift up your leg (flex your hip) and straighten out (extend) your knee. There should be one bulging out a little on top- that's your rectus femoris, and it's a little more prominent in this action because of the hip flexion, but all of the quads function to extend the knee, and they all insert onto the patella (knee cap).]

I understand that people often have imbalances between strength of quads and strength of hamstrings, but unless there is some relationship between the two that I have not learned, I don't think hamstring weakness would cause the knee to flex.

EDIT: I have been doing some thinking and research into possible hamstring involvement, and I suspect what may be going on is actually the opposite of hamstring weakness. Many people have weak glutes, or glutes that are not firing properly (myself included). The glutes function primarily as hip extensors, but if they're not firing, they can't do their job. This forces the hamstrings to become the primary hip extensors and causes them to contract and activate much more than normal. As I mentioned, hamstring contraction not only results in hip extension, but knee flexion! What I'm trying to say is, one of the reasons your knees tend to bend while you dance even if you're trying to straighten them is that your glutes might be weak. They're forcing the work onto the hamstrings and your body is kind of fighting itself. You're extending your hip a lot (any time you bring your leg back behind you), and every time the hamstrings contract to extend the hip, they're also going to flex the knee- hence bent knees.
I am NOT a doctor nor am I any kind of licensed medical professional. This is just a possibility, but you could try doing some exercise to strengthen the glutes, such as going up into a bridge and alternating kicking out from the knee, doing one legged squats, stuff like that. I have personal experience with weak glutes so I am just passing on what I got from my PT. If you want to read more about this, see www.sbcoachescollege.com . . .

Hope that helps clarify those muscles! Let me know if anyone has questions about these- I'm more than happy to discuss/explain anatomy- in particular dance anatomy ;)
re: Straight legs!
By legalirishdancer
On Fri Nov 09, 2012 11:47 AM
Edited by legalirishdancer (249228) on 2012-11-09 11:48:00
Great ideas! Thank you all so much! It looks like I have a lot of strength training to do after Oireachtas.

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