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SQ Help: Accessing and Developing the iliopsoas


Michelle_Richer
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This is something I find really difficult, especially to create a high developpe static lift. As I have come from a science and technology backround, I tend to measure everthing especially performance when things don’t go well. Firstly my height is 5 ft 2 ½ inches, my best static lift and hold is 4ft 5 (LL) and 3ft 9 (RL), my right leg is always the weaker one. For a throwing or kicking action of the foot which stems from my days doing Tae Kwon-do, which is akin to a walking developpe’s or grand battement, then I can achieve 5 ft 7 (both legs) but for a pointed foot somewhat lower at about 5ft 2 (LL). My theoretical achievable height is around 5ft 10. My problem I believe is not so much about flexibility but the strength to lift and hold.

 

Apart from my daily workout I also do a couple of body balance classes and an Awesome abs class every week, but progress with this static lift feels quite slow if not stuck, but in saying that I have achieve about a foot increase in height since I started measuring about 2 to 3 month ago. I know one should persevere, but there comes a time when you have to question is there a better way? That’s why I'm appealing with this Serious Question to the enormous body of knowledge that exists on this forum.

 

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Ah, Serious Question! I wondered what SQ stood for. :-)

 

I can offer no real help except to suggest Pilates for Dancers, if you don't already take classes. Watching my own daughter's progress, the height of the lift was never a problem as her hips are hypermobile - BUT the strength to sustain the lift, e.g. in developpé, all seems to come from core stability. Hence as her core stability has increased, so has the ability to lift the leg - and hold it.

 

My own core stability has been severely compromised over the years, due to extensive surgeries in both spine and abdomen, so that now, laying on my back with my knees bent, even engaging my core, I can only lift my left foot about a centimetre of the bed. But after years of practicing, my right leg will now come up to "tabletop" position. In my youth I had no idea how core stability and strength affects your legs and the ability to lift them.

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Thank you Spannerandpony for your reply, I don’t specifically do Pilates, however the Body balance classes I go to is a combination of Pilates, Tai Chi, and Yoga, but its fantastic for stretching , flexibility and balance but not for strength. As for core strength and stability, at the end of my workout at home as I have a gym and studio, I end my workouts with Scottish Ballet’s  Core de Ballet as a cool down but that’s nearly all floor work on a yoga matt, again good for flexibility and increasing range of movement but nothing directly to increase strength. As for ballet classes I do between 7 and 8 a week without weekend classes, but that’s generally reserved for social dancing.

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Try practicing active flexibility tasks - releve/battement lent is a fantastic exercise (like a grand battement but slowly). Also, if you have someone who can help you, do the leg lift then have someone support the weight of your leg just below where you managed to lift it to. You should relax the leg whilst your partner supports it for a couple of seconds, then you should aim to lift your leg out of their hands, a little higher, whilst keeping very good posture and placing. Your partner should then lift their hands to match the height of your leg, then repeat the relax/lift cycle 3/4 times to fatigue. This can be performed to both front and side.

 

Practicing developpes lying on your back will help to ensure that you are training the correct technique and as gravity acts differently, you should be able to 'lift' your leg higher than if standing. 

 

Finally, a fantastic article produced by IADMS on the topic is here: http://www.iadms.org/associations/2991/files/info/Bulletin_for_Teachers_1-1_pp5-6_Wilmerding.pdf 

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Hi Drdance

 

I understand the logic behind your first comment, firstly I was doing 250 relevé reps in batches of 50 though out the day each day, then I had a mishap about 4 or 5 weeks ago with a simple step hop and my left leg (the strongest) gave way, I thought I had torn a muscle in my lower leg, as I could not bare any weight on it for a short while, however it soon recovered and I was available for class the next day although I had strapped it up with a sports compression tubular bandage. After a week or so I started releve’s again but only 2 lots of 50, as I could really feel it in my calf by the end of 50 reps and I didn’t want to push it. I’m now at 3 batches of 50. Before this happened I was doing relevé retiré’s and holding for 1 minute and alternating each leg, giving a total time of 5 minutes for each leg, those I haven’t restarted, but I can do them quite comfortably now, however at the time of the mishap it was impossible, but that came back about two weeks later.

 

The slow grand battement I have already been doing as that on the surface does seem to make sense. The throwing action give the acceleration that make the leg momentarily weightless so its rises up to the limit of your flexibility, I was trying to slow down the acceleration so it required more effort for the lift until I had built up the strength for a static lift, but that seem to take forever, but the method makes sense.

 

As for someone to help, that’s not an option for me other that on a very casual occasion. We did do something like this is class way back, but once a week for a few minutes is totally inadequate. I have also tried couterbalancing some of the weight of my leg, but suprisingly it makes little difference.

 

Practicing developpe’s lying on my back is something I already do from Scottish ballet’s “Core de Ballet”, which I use as part of my morning cool-down.

 

Unfortunately the link you gave does not work for me, I think there must be a permissions issue, and perhaps you need to be logged in. I am either doing or have tried most things recommended by the books: “Dance Anatomy” by Jacqui Greene Haas and “Conditioning for Dance” by Erik Franklin.

 

If you are able to download IADMS article please PM me and I will give you my email address so you may send it if you are comfortable with that.

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When I used the term 'releve lent' I meant the slow leg lift not a rise onto the toes.... For the article, try doing a google search for 'Wilmerding hip conditioning IADMS' but if you have no luck still, PM me your email address and I'll send it to you. 

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Thank you Drdance

 

Found it, It’s an interesting article; their achievement (6.5inches in 6 weeks) is quite consistent to the increases I have achieved (about a foot in 2 to 3 months). I guess the true answer is much of the same, keep working those muscles as slowly as possible whilst trying to maintain range. In other words, no magic solution for the magic muscles of the iliopsoas.

 

As for relevé lent, yes I did misunderstand that term as I had looked up Battement lent as you had written it as "Relevé/Battement lent" which was not present in Gail Grant’s Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet, however their usage is defined as "Battement relevé lent", but you had explained as a slow grand battement anyway which I understood.

 

Ah well Awesome Abs class in the morning at 9.30am even if it is a Sunday, no rest for the wicked.

 

Thank you again

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Hi Michelle, I am currently working on this too and found that article via google a few weeks ago.

 

I did ballet as a teenager and have done various classes here and there as an adult but not terribly consistently and have always had active static hip flexion with a straight leg of 90 degrees, no more. Since jan I have been doing ballet more regularly and more actively trying to improve certain things. I have worked on passive and dynamic hip flexibility (some improvements in these areas) and had a light bulb moment that was trying to use my quads to lift my leg higher when doing the active static stretch, which clearly isn't going to work! Hence searching for how to develop psoas and finding that article, I have been trying to do the exercise it suggests. Also using my bannister or dressing table as a barre to get leg above that 90 deg and then trying to lift an inch or so more.

 

I have noticed only small improvements so far, but have a busy life with 2 young kids so am doing it most days rather than every day.

 

The other thing I wanted to suggest that you don't mention is ankle weights? I ice skate and although I don't practice spirals that often ( like arabesque but moving on skates) I think the weight of the boot has made a noticeable difference to my leg extension to the back. Am going to get some ankle weights for this reason.

 

Am encouraged by your gains!

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I'm personally not a fan of ankle weights as it's a false economy - you end up training pure strength (as in, how much weight can I lift) rather than muscle endurance through range of motion, which is what's required in adage. Working with weights wont help lift your leg higher, very much, but will make it easier to lift your leg if it gets heavier! However working with weights can help powerful movements eg movements requiring a mix of pure strength and speed eg grande battement

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Drdance, what actually ARE the iliopsoas? Are they the muscles the physio has taught me to engage to lift my leg off the bed? Those are just in from my hips. I have to feel my hips, then move my fingers in towards the middle by about an inch. That's what I engage to lift.

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Drdance, what actually ARE the iliopsoas? Are they the muscles the physio has taught me to engage to lift my leg off the bed? Those are

just in from my hips. I have to feel my hips,

then move my fingers in towards the middle by about an inch. That's what I engage to lift.

 

The iliopsoas are the strongest hip flexors muscles and yes, you'll need them to lift your leg.

Edited by Happymum
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The other thing I wanted to suggest that you don't mention is ankle weights? I ice skate and although I don't practice spirals that often ( like arabesque but moving on skates) I think the weight of the boot has made a noticeable difference to my leg extension to the back. Am going to get some ankle weights for this reason.

 

Am encouraged by your gains!

 

Hi PetrovaFossil Welcome also

 

I do have ankle weights which left over from my days of Tai Kwon-Do, yes I did try them at one stage but they were not effective, and also I don’t want to build big unsightly leg muscles.

 

On the surface of it, it looks as if I will have to increase the number of reps, however as I work to a documented training plan, its time for me now to re-look at it, as many things have changed since I originally created it. I’ve added steps, removed others, added in external fitness classes some days too and consequently there is now a lot of time consuming duplication that can be removed. I do this type of training most if not every day.

 

As for increasing the number of reps I’m always cautious, as I doubled reps once with my Tai Kwon-Do training and ripped a muscle in my shoulder, I couldn’t lift my arm for months. As from April I’m up to 9 ballet classes a week, so I really can’t risk such a debilitating injury to my leg, the thought is just horrifying. My first thoughts are to steadily increase reps of both walking and static lifts with particular emphasis on static lift but divide the reps between both ends of the day. However I will continue to research this as its important the new plan is more effective. Once done I will seek the views of two of my ballet teachers and a PE Instructor as I did with the original.

 

 

Edited by Michelle_Richer
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The iliopsoas is an interesting muscle as it is part core, part deep hip flexor. Spanner that sounds like the right area for the hip flexor part. This link is interesting in terms of its pure anatomy http://www.exrx.net/Muscles/Iliopsoas.html but bear in mind that any diagram is in the anatomical neutral position ie parallel, and by turning out the lower leg, the muscles will be stressed/ loaded in a very different way.

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It depends if the classes are all the same. If they all do everything ie barre/centre/pirouettes/adage/allegro then yes you risk burnout and injury but if they vary the you're ok. Athletes will NEVER do the same thing every day as it doesn't give time for strength gains to actually occur - strength gains take place at rest, NOT during the exercise (in fact the opposite occurs - exercise induces micro trauma which breaks down tissues).

 

More work does not equal more results!

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I'm not a medical professional or anything, but I'm just wondering, isn't 9 ballet classes a week possibly too many, risking incurring overuse injuries?

 

Nope

 

Even if every class contents was identical in every way (barre/centre/pirouettes/adage/allegro) I would still very much dought that one would sustain injury with 9 classes. Firstly the duration and repetitions of these movements will be are quite small per class, but combined into 9 classes it’s just like a series of different movements spread out over time. If they were the same there is a distinct risk of boredom.

 

In reality my classes are quite different to each other, they give me fare better access to learning a much wider range of ballet movements and connecting steps, also I experience different teachers and their training methods.

 

Although you have voiced concerns over 9 classes a week, I think if I added in the equivalent time and effort of ballet training I do in my own studio, it would at least double that figure. The only real area if concern I would have, is high repetition of allegro steps particularly those that contain sauté’s in some form or other. This can be a real problem if the floor is hard; one of my classes has such a floor. Even my own studio floor is quite hard and it’s a Harlequin sprung floor but not a patch on many of the professional floors I’ve danced on. They are a pleasure to dance on, especially the recovered energy you get from the floor after a saute.

 

I do like Drdance’s closing statement:” More work does not equal more results!”, wow can I therefore infer the oppersite that “Less work does equals more results”, it would be nice if it did. 

 

Seriously the reason I ask the question in the first place is I believe in working smarter rather than harder, and I'm always concerned about the risk of injury, I've been there with Tai Kwon-Do, I really don’t want to go there with ballet. It would be sole destroying

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