Flexible & Hyper-mobile, and More on the Core!
As I have discussed in previous articles, a person’s CORE is all of the parts of the body that does not include the legs or arms or head. This leaves a lot of body to control and strengthen when one refers to “holding your core” or “holding your center.” There are several muscles within the core that aid in maintaining stability, balance, and strength in order to move the body effectively and with accuracy and ease. This means that there is MUCH more to it than abdominal muscles when you are using your core! Think of how your back muscles affect your posture – affect your hip alignment, affect your abdominals, and how you move your torso, and lift your shoulders, and step to walk, etc… This is ALL about CORE!
A person’s flexibility refers to the ability of your joints to move through a full range of motion. A person can control this movement, and how it is utilized. Therefore, when you look at a dancer athlete and say, “Wow, she is SO flexible,” it could be the understatement if she is moving beyond what is typical range of motion in a certain area of her body.
Hyper-mobility is the unusual flexibility of the joints, allowing them to be bent or moved beyond their normal range of motion. It is excessive movement at a joint, which potentially leads to instability. This is in fact the term that should be used when referring to dancers that have extreme lines in their leg extensions, tilts, can execute contortion and perform layouts, catch-pulls, and the like. However, there is a lot of dangers and risks alongside this ability, and many dancers, parents, and even instructors do not understand or recognize the consequences until it is too late.
Instability… found in the medical definition of hyper-mobility…How does one excel in dance with a body that is unstable? For a time, the ability to extend one’s body with extreme lines and arches looks great, but does it feel good in years to come? The answer is definitely not! Just in the last 90 days, I have had 4 dancer friends come to me after years of hyper-mobility and demanding their bodies to do what it is not meant to do, and are facing physical limitations, herniated (bulging) discs, need therapy, and surgery as a result. All this is due to instability in their core and overuse of muscles that wore out over time.
Most people, not just dancers, engage in improper work to strengthen their core. They do not know how, or do not understand the core and what it entails. Again, this includes dancers, their parents, and instructors. It is important to know how to work all of the muscles and strengthen them correctly without furthering injury or compromising other areas of the body in the process.
If your body is unstable, it is prone to injury. If you are sacrificing strength in your body to have hyper-mobility, this too will lead you to potentially severe consequences, critical injury, and in many cases acute pain or surgery.
The ideal circumstance to have as a dancer is controllable flexibility…to have a strong core and strong balance, excellent technique, and natural ability to move well. It is also just as important to have a body that carries you through life after your dance career (and when I say career, I am not limiting to a “professional dance career.” The time you spend dancing – whether a few years or several – should be enjoyable and pain-free).
Now that you understand terms that are often interchanged and improperly used, identify what it is that you can do to make yourself a better dancer athlete! Do you need a stronger core? Are you flexible, or hyper-mobile? Do you have the proper instruction on exercises to do to achieve what your goals are in a safe manner?