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Ballet - Achievements
high legs: how to achieve?
By Redutsmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 151, member since Mon Jan 05, 2004
On Thu Mar 30, 2017 03:07 AM
Edited by Reduts (81231) on 2017-03-30 03:09:08

Hello everybody,

I just have some beginner questions:

- I've always wondered how long it would take (and whether it is possible at all) to get a leg clearly higher than 90 degrees (like 130 degrees) to the side, if I practise every day? Can everyone achieve this? (I've already passed my 30s)

- Which angles are the most difficult ones? I guess it gets less difficult if you have passed the 90 degrees?

- What exercises would you recommend me in order to achieve this goal?

Thank you very much!

1 Replies to high legs: how to achieve?

re: high legs: how to achieve?
By Aurelia123 Comments: 17, member since Wed Mar 21, 2012
On Thu Mar 30, 2017 08:17 PM
Hey! I've recently gotten my leg above 90 degrees in devant so I thought I'd tell you what I did to get it there!

I'm 21 now (kinda a late beginner and only a tad younger than you!) and I totally get that it feels much scarier to stretch once you're no longer in your teens. I feel like it's either not budging at all or it's gonna tear. I've always had trouble with getting my legs above 90 degrees while extending to the front and back, side extensions aren't that bad for me.

Anyway, practicing every day, I took about 3 months to get it over 90 degrees from about 80 degrees. For extending my legs to the back, I took a month.

I think the hardest part for me is to get it from 80 to 90 degrees with front extensions. This is because part of my hamstrings are really tight, like the area just behind the knee. I could do my splits but I can't do a good tabletop stretch. When I sit down with my legs straight in front of me, in a L sit, I also had trouble getting my back straight due to the tightness at my hamstrings. So when I did my sit and reach forward stretches, I tried to really focus on getting my back straight and pressed to my thighs. Still working on really getting my back flat even now! Once pass the 90 degrees, I feel it does become easier! For one thing, you're used to the stretching feeling and you know how far you can push yourself better by then.

For leg height to the side, I've reached more than 90 degrees quite a few years back. For side extensions, the important thing is to have strength on top of flexibility. Flexibility is definitely necessary. If you can't get your leg to 90 degrees while lying on your side, it's not gonna get there when you're standing up. The next thing is strength of your leg muscles. You need hip abductor muscles (gluteus muscles and tensor fascia lata muscle) to hold your leg up against gravity. You'll need strength in your piriformis muscle, your deepest turn out muscle, in order to hold your leg up turned out. The last bit of strength comes from core strength to pull your opposite side up, keeping your body centered so you're balanced. So don't forget to train your abdominal and back muscles too!

Here are the exercises I did for leg height in each direction:

(Note: Having a flexi stretcher, the strap contraption thingy, really helps!)

For leg height in front extensions:
1. L sit and stretch forward, focusing on stretching forwards and flattening back.
2. Hip flexor, iliopsoas muscle, strengthening. I like to just press a finger to the muscle belly at the hip and try to consciously activate it.

For leg height in back extensions:
1. Use a barre! Put your leg up and bend your standing leg to get more of a stretch. It's best if you have a flexi stretcher which helps with alignment and stops you from un-squaring your hips to compensate! Make sure your hip is square when you do the stretch
2. Back strengthening! Lie on your tummy and do reverse sit ups.
3. Do splits! Start with kneeling with front leg extended if you can't do a full split yet. Slowly straighten back leg over a few days.

For leg height in side extensions:
1. Get your middle split! There's no way to do it but slowly increase the split bit by bit every day! Once you're flat 180 degrees on the ground, try lowering your body and push your pelvis forwards.
2. Strengthen hip abductor muscles. You can also tie a resistance band to a study piece of furniture and try to extend your leg against the resistance. This works for all stretches, strengthening and stretching should go hand in hand!
3. Work on core and turn out muscles for good alignment! Try to keep your pelvis squared and down while doing side extensions. We all know those ballet dancers with gorgeous side extensions like svetlana zakharova tilt their pelvis to get their leg pressed to their ear but traditionally, side extensions shouldn't involve tilting of the pelvis.

Another tip is to use PNF stretching. (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching). You can google it!

Always stretch after warming up~

Hope all this helps! You'll definitely get there!

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