How To: Avoid These 8 Common Barre Stretching Mistakes

Reviewed by Elaine Winslow-Redmond, MS, ATC, EMT, Rockettes' Director of Athletic Training and Wellness

March 19, 2015: The Rockettes work out in Under Armour clothing at Radio City Music Hall.

While stretching at the ballet barre is a time-honored practice in dance class, barre stretching is really useful for maintaining or increasing flexibility, that is when it’s done correctly.

From rounding your torso to forgetting to square your hips, here are eight common mistakes even the best dancer may make when stretching your stems on the barre:

  1. Stretching “cold”. Stretching without warming up first is not good for your muscles. Plus, static stretching (stretching in a fixed position) prior to performance has been shown to decrease strength and power. For those two reasons, stretching at the barre to increase flexibility is best done at the end of dance class or rehearsal.
  1. Forgetting to square your hips. In many ballet positions and movements, the hips should be square to the front with the hip bones pointing straight ahead and evenly, like headlights on a car. If you want to dance with proper technique, stretch at the barre with proper technique, too.
  1. Tucking your pelvis. Tucking means rounding your lower back, pointing the tailbone forward instead of down toward the floor. When your leg is raised, it’s especially hard to avoid tucking but, like squaring your hips, it’s part of good dance technique.
  1. Using a barre that’s too high. If you can’t keep your hips square and your pelvis from tucking while stretching, the barre is probably too high for you. Try using a lower barre (if available) and work to increase your flexibility gradually.
  1. Rounding your torso. Bringing your head toward your knee and rounding your back when stretching at the barre may stretch your leg but it doesn’t do a thing for your torso and back flexibility. Reach your arms and keep the spine long when bending toward your leg.
  1. Ignoring the standing leg. With all your focus on stretching the leg and elongating the torso, the leg you are standing on might get left out. Keep it straight and turned out properly.
  1. Holding your breath. Breathing will help reduce any of that unnecessary tension while you stretch so be sure to breathe deeply in and out as you reach toward the leg that you are stretching.
  1. Not holding a stretch long enough. There is ample research that shows stretching for 30 seconds is not sufficient to cause a change in the length of the muscle. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends holding the stretch for approximately 60 seconds per stretch.