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Flexibility tips and Tricks

Welcome to flexibility tips and tricks with Rochelle! This is where I write about flexibility drills, exercises, and general stretching thoughts. I hope you enjoy! Sign up here to get these posts via email!

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The upper back/shoulders can be a very hard area to feel deep stretching, making it become extremely tight. The best way I get into my upper back/shoulders is by using a wall to stretch!

 

~V Intense~

Stretching the upper back on the wall can be very intense...these are not chill stretches that one can just "jump" into doing. The back, shoulders, and neck all should be warm before starting any of these drills. Because the upper back/shoulders are not stretched as often as the low back, this can be a bit of a shock to the body. Make sure you go slow while doing upper back stretches and try to remain calm! I know all of this sounds v obvious, but once you start doing these exercises, the simple things are easily forgotten!

 

~Breathing~

While this might seem like the silliest thing to focus on, it is so important! I find so often, people are holding their breath while they are stretching their upper back, and that is not ideal. We want to make sure we are breathing evenly the entire time we are stretching the upper back. What might be tempting is to take a big exhale as you are getting into the stretch, and then hold your breath for about 10 seconds, and then restart the breathing...already the breathing has been compromised and not even. For me, I have to constantly be reminding myself to breath evenly...what helps me do this is to remain calm. If at any point I start freaking out because the stretch is really intense or too deep, my breathing is effected. So my main tip for breathing is to remain calm at all times! I know the stretches can be intense, but remain calm, breathe, and stretch on!

 

~Form plz~

Again, I totally get that upper back/shoulder stretches are insanely hard and can be super deep! However, as a coach, I see all too often technique and form go out the window when it comes to upper back stretching. I think it is because of two things: 1. it takes a lot of effort to hold yourself correctly and have the correct technique, and 2. we want to focus so much on "getting low" (thank you Lil Jon) or being super deep in the stretch, that form and technique are compromised. It is much better to have perfect form/technique and be a little higher up, than be lower down in the stretch with compromised form. It takes effort to hold your body in the correct position (straight arms, shoulders internally rotated, holding neck, legs straight, etc.), so only drop as low as you can, while still being able to hold technique. Stretching with improper form is completely pointless and can lead to injury very easily.

 

~"To the windowwwwwww, to the wall"~

Lil Jon, thank you again for that intro, yas! I find the wall to be such a useful tool for stretching the upper back/shoulders! There are so many drills you can do with it for upper back and shoulders. You can also do these wall drills standing or kneeling. If you want to see these wall drills, head over to my Vimeo page https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility and subscribe!

 

~How often to stretch on the wall?~

I think it is best to ease into these...we do not want to shock our body with these super intense stretches. Start with once a week. Once they are feeling good, and you feel like you have a grasp of the technique, you can start doing these twice a week. I wouldn't do these more than 4 times a week though. Give your body a little break. Still do maintenance stretching (stretching for mobility upkeep) and conditioning as often as you want, but keep these super intense stretches limited to every other day. I have found from coaching and personal experience, that doing these stretches everyday makes the body actually reject the stretch: it becomes too much for it...so as tempting as it might be to do these everyday, ease into it and LISTEN to your body! If you feel like you need to come out of a stretch because something is getting injured, come out of the stretch! Do not sit there in excruciating pain! Stretching should not be painful. Dr. Elson from Harvard Health Publishing said it flawlessly: "You should not feel pain when stretching, rather it should feel like lengthening of the muscle"

 

~"But Rochelle, I have no idea what any of these upper back stretches on a wall are!"~

No fear, I gotchu!!!! Head over to my Vimeo page and subscribe! I go over my routine of wall stretches! And I also have other videos of shoulder stretches on the wall that are so yum!





I hope this information on upper back/shoulder stretches is useful to you! Let me know if you have any questions! Remember to check out my subscription page on Vimeo for more flexibility videos!



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Side balance, y scale, whatever you call it! I love this skill so much! I just love any sort of leg pose/exercise. Not only can this skill be done standing, but it transfers frequently to aerial, pole, dance, and other disciplines.

 

~Balance~

Even though it is in the name, balance is such an important part of this skill. I have seen so many people who totally have the flexibility and strength to do this skill, but their stabilization and balance in the standing foot is rough. And the foot is the base of this move...if the base is wobbly and weak, the rest of the body will have no support. Therefore, practicing balance exercises are super beneficial for side balance. The leg off the floor doesn't have to be high up either...the leg can be low and the emphasis should be placed on keeping the weight in the ball of the standing foot.

 

~Glutes, yas~

I feel like I am glutes' number one fan...I think they are so incredibly important for side balance! The glutes help make sure the leg actually stays side, and doesn't start to creep forward. A very common thing that happens with side balance is we lift our leg up and instead of the leg being truly side, we start to rotate the hips diagonal, making the leg actually be forward. This is deceiving though, because the torso is still facing the front...so we are just super twisted in the hips and spine and we are not able to activate the correct muscles. So the glutes are very important in making the hips stay facing front, helping the leg to actually be to the side of us, versus being too forward.

 

~"Rochelle, I am not a ground performer, I do not need this skill!"~

Chill, chill, chill, yes I see that point...however, I would like to counter with this: in many disciplines, there is some sort of variation of a side balance. Aerial, pole, acrobatics, and many other disciplines have side balance in them. And yes, maybe you are not standing on the ground doing the skill, but you are doing a variation of it in the air. In aerial, you are constantly grabbing a leg and extending it side. So being able to do this skill on the ground will transfer so nicely to the air. I think that doing this skill on the ground is more challenging than how it is in the air, and this is because of the balance aspect: so many more of the stabilization muscles are working on the ground to help with balance. Then, when it transfers to off the ground, it will be a breeze!

 

~5 essential exercises to help you achieve your side balance~

There are lots of different stretches/exercises you can do for your side balance. These are 5

exercises that I find essential in making your side balance feel phenomenal! For these drills, make sure the legs, hips, and hamstrings are super warm! If you need any stretches to help you warm up, I have so many videos to help with that on my Vimeo page: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility

 
  1. Balancing on one leg opposite leg side, low: stand on one leg, and lift the other leg up to the side low. Allow that standing foot to be alive while keeping the rest of the body completely still. Practice holding this position for 10-20 seconds.

  2. Leg lifts, leg bent: lifting the leg to the side, bent. I like doing this with bent leg, so you can focus on glute and hip engagement. Once the leg is straight, sometimes the quad will overcompensate and do all of the work.

  3. Side balance on wall: this is great for understanding the correct body position for side balance. Important to not sit in the standing hip while doing this!

  4. Standing side kicks: we all know, I love kicks! These are so great to do to help build the strength needed for side balance. Make sure both hips stay facing the front while doing the side kicks.

  5. Attitude swings: right from ballet class, attitude swings are great for really getting the hip warm for side balance. Practice doing 16 attitude swings on each side.

 

~"But Rochelle, I need to see you do these drills"~

And you can! Head over to my Vimeo page (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility )

and subscribe! I have a video of me showing and explaining all 5 of these drills!

 

I hope these 5 drills help you with achieving your side balance/y scale! Let me know if you have any questions! Remember to check out my subscription page on Vimeo for more flexibility videos!


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The most asked for skill! Whether it be in split, lunge, or pigeon, I get this skill request all the time! Here are 5 exercises to help you achieve hand to foot!

 

~What is this "hand to foot" you speak of?~

Hand to foot is the skill of grabbing your leg behind you in one go...but why is this so important? Whether you dance, do aerial, pole, contortion, hand balancing, or anything else, hand to foot is a way to make transitions look seamless. Have you ever watched a performance, and everything about it looked fluid and effortless? You felt so comfortable and at ease watching...those are the best acts ever! A huge part as to how those acts look so effortless is the fluidity of transitions and movements/skills. And that is exactly what hand to foot is...when we can reach back and grab the leg in one movement, we eliminate the clunky/awkwardness that this movement could be, and instead make it look seamless and effortless. Therefore, I find this hand to foot skill super valuable for performers of all kinds!

 

~"lol Rochelle, I am nowhere near getting this skill"

Chill, super okay! I know this might be a skill that you are not even remotely thinking about trying! And that is totally okay! What I love about this skill, is that it is such a test of your true active flexibility in so many different body parts...shoulders, back, glutes, and hip flexors. I know it is defeating sometimes to practice things we are not good at...I am super guilty of that! I love practicing skills I am great at! And this is a super challenging skill that is sometimes hard to feel "good" at...but, like I said above, it is a super beneficial skill to have for performing and also a great active flexibility skill to practice!

~5 essential exercises for the hand to foot~

Hand to foot requires flexibility and strength in many different parts of the body: shoulders, back, hips, and hamstrings...with that being said, I think there are so many stretches that can benefit the hand to foot skill...however these 5 that I have listed below, are what I have found to be most beneficial to my students. If you need help warming up before you try these five exercises, check out my flexibility videos on my website: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility


**Side note: I find that this skill is very beneficial to have a coach for...there is so much happening/going on with the body that it can be frustrating and the smallest adjustment can make a big difference. I am always available for privates if you need coaching through this skill!**

 
  1. Arm circles: using a theraband, keep arms straight and rotate them forward and back. I see this skill used as a warm up for so many disciplines. Make sure you are doing these with correct technique and they can be so beneficial!

  2. Bending of the arms, behind the head: The actual bending of the arm behind the head is where many people run into trouble with hand to foot. Practice doing this with both arms at the same time, that way they can push against each other a bit for support.

  3. Straightening arm with straightening of the leg (band): wrap a theraband around the foot (can be in pigeon, lunge, or split). Holding the band with opposite arm, straighten the leg back and pull the arm with you. So yummy!

  4. Keeping arm straight with bent leg: same exercise as above, but once the leg and arm are straight back, try to keep the arm where it is and only bend the leg. Great glute and lat strength exercise!

  5. Wall split (pigeon/lunge/split), arching back: because the back leg is already bent, this exercise places more emphasis on the back and shoulder. Practice arching back and trying to grab the leg here.

 

~"But Rochelle, I need to see you do these drills"~

And you can! Head over to my Vimeo page (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility )

and subscribe! I have a video of me showing and explaining all 5 of these drills!

I hope these 5 drills help you with achieving your hand to foot! Let me know if you have any questions! Remember to check out my subscription page on Vimeo for more flexibility videos!




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