Health & Body

Our Best Tips: Dealing with Hyperextended Knees

Miami City Ballet soloist Lauren Fadeley (dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet, photo by Alexander Iziliaev)

Hyperextended knees are a blessing and a curse. Sure, they can help achieve a beautiful classical line, but they signify naturally loose joints, putting hypermobile dancers at greater risk of injury. And, especially when it comes to knees, hyperextended dancers can develop a tendency to "sit" into their mobility instead of learning to turn out properly.

Take charge of your joint health with our top three tips for safely using your lovely legs.

1. Strength comes first. The most beautiful line in the world won't get you anywhere if you're constantly injured. Take a cue from Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio, who has a specific workout for her vastus medialis oblique muscle—the teardrop-shaped muscle above the kneecap. Better yet, integrate stability training into your cross-training routine by working out on a BOSU ball or other unstable surface.

2. Find what "straight" means on your body. Try this exercise to undo the habit of relying on your hyperextension to bring your knees together in first position: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in parallel, in front of you. Straighten your knees without allowing your heels to come off the floor. Then, try it with pointed feet. This will help teach your glutes and quads to fire in a way that creates a true vertical line.

3. Not every professional dancer is hyperextended. Repeat after us: "My knees do not define my destiny." No matter how your body is shaped, it's essential that you avoid slamming your knees back in an effort to achieve hyperextension. You could do serious damage to your joints! Instead, use the same trick as former Houston Ballet principal Amy Fote. "Act as if your leg ends at the knee and 'point' your knees," she says. "It activates your leg to create the straightest line possible."

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