Hyperextension is both a blessing and a curse. While a slight hyperextension of the knee can create a beautiful line that is highly desirable in classical ballet, it can also come with some unfortunate risk for injury from over-flexibility at the joint. Working improperly with hyperextension can cause everything from knee pain to back issues. In this blog, we chat common questions and strengthening prevention techniques to incorporate into your routine to keep your body health and moving.
First up: what is hyperextension?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of hyperextension is “to extend so that the angle between bones of a joint is greater than normal.”
Why is hyperextension commonly associated with knee injury?
Hyperextension is associated with muscular weakness because when you “sit” into your hyperextension, you are relying on the ligaments to do the work rather than your actual muscles. This can cause wear and tear over time. If your quads and leg muscles are not strong enough to control knee range of motion, stability is compromised, which will result in overuse injury or injury on impact (including injuries such as ACL/MCL tears and tendonitis).
Why is hyperextension commonly associated with back pain?
When you sit into your hyperextension, your knees press backwards, which tilts your pelvis forward. This lengthens your core muscles and tightens your low back muscles.
What are some tips for dancers with hyperextension?
- Make sure you avoid locking out your knees at barre and in center.
- Focus on hip, quad and glute strength – exercises that focus on stability to strengthen your range of motion.
- Watch your knees while executing basic movement patterns in the mirror (squats, lunges, step ups, etc…) Focus on stabilizing from the hip and glute activation.
- When stretching, keep your body in alignment and avoid sitting into your flexibility. For example, keep your hips square in a hamstring stretch rather than allowing your hips to open up.
- Implement a stretch and foam rolling routine for recovery after dance class.
- Research physical therapists that specifically work with dancers — preventative physical therapy measures with a licensed professional is the best tool for injury prevention!