Forum: Advice / Strengthening

What muscles are used for holding extensions to second?
By kinsidhe Comments: 253, member since Fri May 14, 2010
On Wed Jul 26, 2017 09:59 AM


I am having difficulty holding my extensions out to second position. Not high, for highland I really only need to have my foot level with my knee at the highest. I can hold extensions out to 4th intermediate (45 degrees from front for non-highland people)with no difficulty, but when I take them out to second (90 degrees from front) my leg feels like it weighs a ton and it drops. Holding my turnout in that position is also more difficult, maybe that is where the problem lies?

Anyway, I was wondering what muscles are actual supposed to be used in this position and what is the best way to strengthen them aside from the obvious (just stick your leg out there and hold it!)


4 Replies to What muscles are used for holding extensions to second?

re: What muscles are used for holding extensions to second? (karma: 1)
By hummingbird Comments: 10441, member since Mon Apr 18, 2005
On Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:55 AM

Your leg isn't really going to be at 90 degrees to the side of you, if it is you're going to be using your lower back to hold it there which isn't safe or you have no hip which will create it's own set of problems. When you take your leg to second it should stay slightly in front of your torso and if you're using your turnout evenly your big toes will be opposite each other as will your heels be but the big toes are a very good visual for the dancer.

The main muscles your using, amongst many others are the glutes, Hip flexors, deep internal rotators as well as abs and pelvic floor but if you can't feel your glutes your leg isn't in a true second and you're cheating on your turnout.

If you look at the girl in the picture you'll see she's standing on a flat line but her heels are behind the line and her toes are in front of it. Both legs are equally turned out, for her age she has good turnout control on both legs as they're being used evenly.
re: What muscles are used for holding extensions to second?
By kinsidhe Comments: 253, member since Fri May 14, 2010
On Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:09 PM
Thank you!

This visual is really helpful. I am not sure what to do about the 'too far back' though, when I stand like this girl ( which feels strong and controlled, centered and comfortable) every Highland teacher I have had in workshop or in class tells me I am too far forward and to pull my extended foot back an inch or so. I do as they ask and I know I end up cheating my hips or my turnout to do it. (no wonder I constantly have low back issues!).

Can you help-how are the internal rotators being used, what are they doing? I am naturally turned in, so I think these muscles tend to be tight and over used with me.

I know my pelvic floor is weak, I can work on that too!
re: What muscles are used for holding extensions to second? (karma: 1)
By Bril Comments: 166, member since Thu Mar 07, 2013
On Wed Jul 26, 2017 02:21 PM
You are right that highland second is further back than ballet second (which allows for the structure of the hip).
The toe and heel of the working foot have to be in line with the heel of the supporting foot. If you use ballet second in Highland you'll get dinged as being out of position every time you use it.

Now that's zero help if you are an actual human being (like myself lol...)
My work around is to very slightly steal some turn out from my supporting leg since it only needs to be turned out 45° and I have a little more than that available. It means my hips are very slightly turned towards that side when I need to hold a proper second aerial position (like 2nd step of the ST). It's a very minimal shift that usually isn't visible with a kilt on, and I make sure my upper body is still square to the front.

If it's an extension prior to travel, it can be slightly forward since you'll be stepping onto it slightly forward to make room for your back foot on your line of travel. (Ex hop and travel to the side)

If it's an extension on the ground, I put it in the proper position and just accept that it won't be turned out 90°.(ex shedding).

I know that's kind of a segway.

The way I think about holding to second without gripping my quads and ending up with a leg that feels like a turned in bag of cement:

If you are good in 4th intermediate, try to visualize the back side of your hip/outer thigh sliding down to the floor while the inside of your thigh slides up (towards the ceiling). Feel the inside of your knee and heel facing the ceiling. Then hold on to that feeling and slowly rotate your leg to second. Stop when you lose that feeling.
Then try again. (And if you are like me, again and again until it sticks).
There will have to be a rotation of course, but try to hold onto that feeling.
re: What muscles are used for holding extensions to second?
By kinsidhe Comments: 253, member since Fri May 14, 2010
On Wed Jul 26, 2017 07:13 PM
Hi Bril,

Thank you for you for your reply. I can relate to everything you said here. Highland second are crazy in my opinion! But then, I love the dance form and want to do well and abide by my teacher etc etc so I keep trying anyway. I think it is few and far between to see a Highland dancer who can actually offer that 'perfect' second. There is only one in my dance school who probably could as she has this crazy natural turnout-the kind people like me only dream about. She has a host of other issues though so I wouldn't trade! I appreciate your segway!

Your tips o working on getting that second to 'hold' are really helpful and I will give them a go. I -am- finding that I am 'gripping' with my quads which just leaves everything feeling unstable and 'heavy'. I think if I can work the right way I can develop the strength I need to get that nice hold-so even if I am not perfectly second at least I will look stronger and more controlled. That has to count for something!