Health & Body

Ask Deb: Can You Take the Load Off Your Quads Using Your Glutes in a Leg Extension?


Q: I was always taught that if you engage your gluteal muscles in a leg extension, you can take the workload off the quads. Is that true?

A: The short answer is no—not if it's a front or side extension. In order to lift the leg to the front or side, many muscles need to contract, including the quads, the deeper hip flexor (iliopsoas) and the external rotators found deep within the hip. During the extension to the side, the lateral hip muscles must actively engage. Perhaps the myth began because dancers felt fatigue in various muscles during développé, including the rotators, which are underneath the bigger gluteal muscles, and mistakenly assumed they were actually engaging their glutes.

In arabesque, the glutes contract to take the leg back, while the quads lengthen to allow it. If a dancer tries to engage both the front and the back of the hip at the same time (meaning contract both the quads and the glutes), it is like the two muscles are at war in the joint, and movement becomes strained.

Instead of thinking of muscle engagement, try using imagery, such as becoming a star with light shining through arms, legs and head, to keep equal energy throughout the body. That way the whole body is supporting the extension rather than focusing on just the height of the working leg.

Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.