We all have that one friend who is uber flexible and as dancers we are all always working on flexibility. But sometimes our stretching practices can end up being more harmful than helpful in the long run. One stretch that has dancers obsessed due to its WOW factor is oversplits. But, what do you need to know about oversplits? MTD looked to the experts to find out more.
Are oversplits something all dancers can do?
Would you ask a five year old to do 32-fouettes en pointe? No. The same goes for oversplits and all kinds of stretching. Certain movements require time and a foundation before trying. Shift Movement Science, says that things such as enough muscle, stability of the joints, the correct mentality, and understanding of the body all go into correct execution. They also remind teachers that the majority of students are still growing, which means that growth plates are still open. So, even if a young student is super flexible pushing this flexibility may not be healthy for them in the long term.
It is a static stretch, so what does that mean?
Marika Molnar, the director of NYCB physical therapy program and founder of Westside Dance Physical Therapy, stated that static stretching is anytime you are holding a position for over 30 seconds. In extreme positions, such as oversplits, this becomes extremely dangerous as it loosens the ligaments around the hips and knees. When those ligaments are loosened, they do not have the elasticity to go back into their protective position. Thus, your muscles and ligaments can not react quick enough to movements; leading to injury. This is also a danger of over-stretching.
So, what are the risks?
Like all aspects of dance, there is risk and the potential of injury involved. Molnar states that in oversplits, the femur is pushing on the hip at such an angle that the cartilage within the hip can tear. This can lead to surgery and potentially a career ending injury. Shift Movement Science stated, that after research it was determined that oversplits can cause micro-subluxation in the hip as well which means instability within the joint.
Can I do them?
After learning all about oversplits, your real question is still: can I do them? While most instructors and researchers would agree that we would prefer not to see oversplits happening, many dancers will continue to do them. If you do choose to attempt oversplits, assure your muscles are properly warmed up. Also, check with an instructor who knows you well if they think you are physically prepared to stretch in such an extreme way. After stretching your oversplits, allow time for the muscles and joints to recover. In other terms, don’t go and dance right away as this is when injury occurs.
What are alternatives?
Dynamic stretching is really the future of stretching. Giving movements that promote mobility while not compromising the body is the ultimate goal. MTD suggest you check out the Ballet Blog produced by physical therapist, Lisa Howell. She provides many amazing videos on how to work on stretching properly. Another option would be visiting with a physical therapist who can give you exercises that work with your body specifically.