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12/22/15 10:38 AM

What is the best way to warm up before dance class, a practice or activity?


I have been dancing for over 20 years and during that time I have modified and adjusted my warm up routine many times. As I have grown up, gone through school and have done more training I have learned a lot about how to get the most from my warm up.




First of all, what is the purpose of a warm up? There are many reasons to warm up before any activity whether it is running, dancing or playing basketball...

  • Increases body temperature which reduces the likelihood of injury
  • Increases blood flow to the muscles which helps deliver more nutrients to the muscles
  • Increases blood flow to the heart reducing likelihood of cardiac events
  • Preps the muscles to get them ready for the exercise ahead, which helps with soreness even after the activity
  • Helps increase the speed of nerve impulses which tell your muscles what to do


Before any stretching occurs in a warm-up it is important to increase your heart heart rate and body temperature. Here are a few examples of good warm up activities to try. Each of them should be done for between 5-10 minutes.



  • Jogging in place
  • Jumping jacks
  • Jumping/hopping in place


Once you and your muscles are warm, it is time to start stretching. You will get a better stretch and are less likely to hurt yourself if you stretch when you are warm. There are a few different kinds of stretching: static stretching and dynamic stretching. For a long time early in my dancing career, I only did static stretching and had no idea what dynamic stretching even was. Now, as a seasoned dancer and a Physical Therapist, I realize and teach the importance of understanding the difference between the two and performing them at the appropriate times.


Static Stretching... this type of stretching is used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest. This stretch is held for a certain amount of time, generally thirty seconds. This type of stretching can relax the muscle and has been shown that it may decrease the muscle’s ability to fire when completed as a warm up.


Dynamic Stretching... this type of stretching is designed to move a joint/muscle through a repetitive motion and each time moving it further. This type of stretch is not held like a static stretch. Many studies have shown that dynamic stretching can help increase power, flexibility and range of motion. 


As a Highland Dancer myself, I need a lot of power and strength to perform. Each form of dancing and even activity varies in their needs. Because of this, for me personally dynamic stretches are more beneficial. If your activity of choice requires power and strength especially, below are few dynamic stretches to perform...


  • Knee to Chest
  • Quad Stretch grabbing ankle and pulling away from butt
  • Butt kickers
  • Jumping on two feet
  • Toe touch while walking
  • Side lunge
  • Forward Lunge


After I am done dancing, this is when I do my Static Stretching, it is time to relax! Now that you don’t need your muscles to be powerful and strong any longer for the activity, Static Stretching is a great idea. Static stretching helps to decrease muscle soreness, increase range of motion and flexibility. This is best done as a Cool Down activity versus a Warm-up.



Written by Laura Donlan.

Laura Donlan, PT is contributing author to our blog. She has been a Highland Dancer for over 20 years and specializes in treating dancers - getting them back to their sport!

Topics: sport specific, dance