Do we really need to warm up?

Martyna Wacławik is a physiotherapist with 10 years of experience and a graduate of Academy of Physical Education. She has been dancing since 2007 and her dance floor life began with Rock’n’Roll and acrobatics. However, when she got involved with Lindy Hop it became her main style. She is a dance teacher and organizer in her hometown – Zawiercie. In Poland she is known for her aerials and well organized, interesting and safe classes.

This is the second part of my conversation with Martyna. In the first part we focused on lindyhoppers’ injuries. Today we will talk about warming up and stretching. Do we really need that? If so, why?

Read the interview and take a look at the wonderful photos of Martyna taken by Margografia!

How does the warm-up work?

First of all, it prepares muscles for effort, speeds up the circulation and makes muscles more flexible and ready to take up an activity. When we sit our muscles are not flexible enough and aren’t ready to perform fast movements – that can cause overloads, strains or even injuries.

Should we vary warm-ups depending on material we’ve planned for training or classes?

Yes, we should adapt it to the activity we have planned. The most demanding classes, i.e. kick steps, dancing to fast music or acrobatics require more intensive warm-up. We not only need to warm up the muscles but also stretch them and make more flexible. Joints and muscles must be prepared for a bigger effort. At the end of the warm-up we should add jumps, so that our joints can get used to much larger loads that we will be subjecting them to afterwards.

For triple steps and groove walks the warm-up can be shorter and prepare us for movements that will be performed during the classes.

How much time should the warm-up for triple steps take and how long should it last for kick steps or more intensive trainings?

Before regular classes or trainings it should take 5-7 minutes which usually equals to dancing through basic moves. Using 2-3 songs will work very well. When it comes to kick steps or fast tempo it should take 15-20 minutes to warm-up. In case of aerials it should take half an hour to properly warm-up the body. It’s also important to plan ahead – if we have something to talk through, we should do the warm-up afterwards so we don’t cool off in the meantime. It’s crucial to start dancing shortly after warming up.

Where to get knowledge on how to prepare a good warm-up?

It’s best to think about the material we have planned, analyze which joints we will use the most and then focus on warming them up. We should plan 2-3 exercises for each joint.

There are many sources on the internet. You need to search among professionals who can advise how to stretch or warm up the body before the activity. It’s good to use the knowledge of fitness instructors, physiotherapists or personal trainers – they are people with the necessary training and often show their warm-ups online.

Before the intensive training or class search a term “acrobatic warm-up”. It will be similar to what we need before kick steps as acrobatics focuses on cushioning jumps. Such a warm-up takes much longer than we need for fast tempo swing dancing so it’s a great idea to condense acrobatic warm-up to 15 minutes.

Does it mean that we should warm-up before dancing and stretch afterwards?

Exactly. Stretching is often a forgotten part. After training our muscles are tensed and it’s crucial to relax them. Legs and hands are very important but we should also stretch our chest and back. An additional advantage is that thanks to stretching we will avoid muscle soreness.

How does it work?

Every exercise is a muscle spasm that shortens it. After training our muscles are more stiff, they lose elasticity. Stretching muscles makes them go back to the starting point. Then we also avoid sore muscles the next day.

But it’s not only about avoiding the soreness, right?

Not at all, the main reason for stretching is preventing injuries. The more elasticity our muscles have, the more resistant they are to big efforts and sudden movement. You can compare muscles to an elastic band. If we use it only one way it will start to use up. We want to balance it and make our muscles work by both ways: tensioning and stretching. It will make them elastic and ready to protect joints.

We take care of our teeth brushing them every day, so it’s worth to take care of our muscles the same way.

Exactly. Sometimes we treat our bodies poorly, thinking that dance is almost like walking. However, taking walks or cleaning a house is not a big physical effort for the body – it’s just a regular activity. Dancing is way more intensive though. Going outside in the middle of winter with warmed up but not stretched muscles is a great way to get injured.

What should we do during a party? It’s challenging to stretch when you’re leaving.

There are a few basic exercises that you can do even while talking to others, getting ready to leave. It’s good to stretch Achilles tendons as they work very hard while swing dancing. You just need to put your knees together with one heel on the floor in front of you, stretching your toes upwards. 

Another option is putting a straightened leg back and bending the second one in the knee  (remember not to let your knee getting further than your toes). Then try to put the whole back foot on the floor, up to your heel. Count to 10. Do not pulse, do not press – just try to slowly touch your straight back foot to the ground. You should feel a characteristic pull then. It is enough to count up to 10 for each leg, and then make 4 rolls downwards. To do a good roll set your feet to the width of the hips and slowly “roll” your body down from the head, shoulders and each section of the spine until we stay in this position for a moment and slowly stand up in the reverse order of straightening our body. It is important for the body to be relaxed. Your head should begin and end the movement. 

This will provide our muscles with relaxation, which will pay off in the future. If this becomes a habit, then the body itself tells what it needs – it’s worth just listening to it, and sometimes we forget about it.

Should we “pulse” while stretching?

When we stretch the body should gently let go and increase the range of movement in particular joint. When we pulse we make our muscle stretch – shrink – stretch – shrink – stretch – shrink. Body doesn’t  relax and stretch, instead it tenses up and defends the body against these movements. 

I recommend slow stretching with breathing. When we focus on relaxing, it turns out that we are able to stretch a given muscle part much further and it is more pleasant for us. The body “does not fight”. Someone may disagree with me, but that’s how we were taught at the University of Physical Education and it is knowledge that appeals to me and I always stretch myself this way.

What about stretching as a warm-up?

It depends on what we are planning to do. If it’s a regular class, the casual warm-up with dancing through basic moves that could appear later will be enough. If it’s a warm-up before a more exhausting class or training it’s worth to add stretching achilles and quadriceps of the legs. We can also add a few rolls.

What is your dream for the Lindy Hop community?

Paying attention to safety. Catching the moments when we see that someone is going to injure himself or does something that threatens someone else’s health. Catching those moments and letting people know what the consequences may be. Sometimes telling someone “you are dancing too close to the benches, it would be great if you could move a little closer to the center of dance floor” can protect someone’s Achilles tendons.

Related Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *