You can improve your flexibility through proper stretching and strengthening, but there's no quick fix. A slow and steady method is safest and most effective. Photo by Hudson Hintze/Unsplash

Ask Amy: How Can I Increase My Flexibility?

I can barely get my leg up to 90 degrees in grand battement, and I still don't have my splits. How do I become more flexible? —Kassidy


I can relate. I struggled with tight hamstrings and hip flexors and had to work hard to get my extensions to an acceptable height. Sometimes anatomical factors—such as how the hip socket or sacroiliac joint is structured—can limit your range of motion. But you can improve muscular flexibility through proper stretching and strengthening. Just remember that there's no quick fix. A slow and steady method is safest and most effective.

First, don't attempt the splits or any static stretches before class when you're stone cold. "Research tells us that stretching is only beneficial once the body warms up and the heart rate is raised," says Bené Barrera, head athletic trainer for Houston Ballet. Carve out 15 minutes a day to stretch after class or rehearsal, when you're warm.

For better extensions, stretch a range of muscles, not just your hamstrings.

How you stretch also matters. While hanging out in extreme positions is all the rage, avoid attempting it. "You should not hold a stretch for any longer than 30 seconds," says Barerra. Doing so can lead to injuries and decreased power in jumps. According to the International Association of Dance Medicine & Science, it's more beneficial to work on flexibility for shorter intervals—aim for three to five repetitions, once a day. Mild discomfort is normal, but back off if you feel sharp pain or tingling.

And focus on more than your hamstrings or practicing your splits. You should be stretching a range of muscles: "Dancers also need to focus on their hip rotators, quadriceps, glutes and obliques," says Barrera, who adds that the psoas must also be lengthened and strengthened.

Lastly, adding strengthening exercises to your regimen will complement your stretching routine and allow you to better hold your extensions.

For specific exercises designed to help you achieve a safer, stronger split, check out this conditioning video from our friends at Dance Spirit.


Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor and former dancer Amy Brandt at askamy@dancemedia.com.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

Class of 2020, These Ballet Stars Have a Heartfelt Video Message Just for You

Congratulations to this year's graduating seniors!

You might not have had the chance to take that long planned-for final bow, but we're here to cheer you on and celebrate all that you've accomplished. And we've brought together stars from across the ballet world to help us; check out the video to hear their best wishes for your futures.

To further fête all of the ballet grads out there, we're also giving away 100 free subscriptions to Pointe... plus, one lucky bunhead will receive a personalized message from one of ballet's biggest stars. Click here to enter!


Courtesy Boylston

Is the #EsmeraldaChallenge Quarantine's Next Big Thing?

By this point in the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, people are completely burned out on dancing at home. So it's no surprise that last week, all-around dance superstar Alex Wong posted a video on Instagram performing the famous La Esmeralda variation... but in his living room. And with a frying pan instead of a tambourine.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Tulsa Ballet in Ma Cong's Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music. Kate Luber Photography, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Updated: Mark Your Calendars for These Online Ballet Performances

Updated on 5/27/2020

Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks