It is likely that you struggle to turn out your feet (or foot) when landing or when balancing on one foot at a time Example: Putting weight on your back foot and keeping it turned out at the same time, it is likely that you find it hard to change direction or push off the spot with speed when wanting to move, it is likely that you find it hard to create a nice arch at the bottom of your foot when pointing your toes downwards, it is likely that you struggle to balance when performing spinning movements, it is likely that you have a restriction when trying to lift your legs up high, it is also likely that you struggle to maintain good turnout when lifting your legs… And it is also likely that you have suffered from one of the following (if you haven’t, you have been lucky so far!)… Plantar fasciitis, big toe injuries, bunions, stress fractures, ankle sprains, shin splints, Achilles injuries, knee strains, hip strains, low back discomfort, calf strains, and the list goes on…
Reading this, it looks like a big problem and may even seem impossible to fix. Some even get orthotics to try and fix the problem… (which will not work! that’s a subject for another day)… But what if I told you that all of these issues are mostly caused by one single problem… 😳 and fixing this problem will possibly fix all of the issues which I mentioned above…
If you have suffered from one or more of the above or know somebody who has, then I recommend that you read on…
How I found this information…
My understanding of Irish dancing as an Irish dancer in my younger years and my understanding of the body from years of research and study combined has definitely helped me to understand a lot more about a dancer and how I can help them compared to the average trainer and therapist… Unfortunately, when I started working with Irish dancers a few years back now, there wasn’t any information to help guide me in the right direction. You can find as much information as you like about other sports to help an athlete but for Irish dancing, there was little to nothing. This left me with no option but to find things out for myself. Now, after assessing hundreds of dancers, I can confidently give you information like the information which I have included in this blog and I can help you resolve the same with effective programming. Like everything, it was all about trial and error. When starting out, I would recommend exercises to resolve an issue that I thought would be most effective. Though we got good results, I still wasn’t happy with the amount of time it took for the dancer to see positive changes. So I kept going back to the drawing board until I found the perfect plans to resolve each dancing problem. As you know, we still have very little information available to us but I hope to change that for everyone in the near future 😉
The issue which I am going to discuss with you, briefly, came to my attention when I kept noticing the same problems arise for at least 8 out of 10 dancers. When carrying out a full assessment, I would see this issue and I would then notice that they all suffered from the same injuries and struggled with the same movements at dance class. I knew then, that this information would be a game-changer for a large percentage of Irish dancers all over the world. After proving this theory to many dancers in the past, I can now tell you that if you fix this issue, you will definitely reduce the risk of injury and it will enhance your performance!
How do I know if I have this problem?
If you look at the picture above you will see a dancer standing with her feet roughly hip-width apart and parallel with each other. If you look closer, you will notice that her feet and knees are falling inwards (you can get a better view of a person’s knees by looking at them from the front). Try this yourself and let me know what you find. Some people may have no problems at all, some may see that their knees internally rotate but their ankles and feet are fine, some may find a problem with everything as shown in the picture and some might only find a problem on one side and not on the other or other. Post your results at the end of this blog 😀 As you probably guessed, different results means that some may be diagnosed differently and may have other issues to the one I am going to tell you about but it is likely that most of you have the issue which I am going to discuss with you now!
Your Problem = Poor Hip And Knee Stability
To understand the connection, you must first understand some basic anatomy. The hip is a ball and socket joint and is a major weight-bearing joint in the body. There are many ligamentous attachments and muscular attachments around the hip that help stabilize the hip and control the motion of the joint and your leg. The muscle that receives much scrutiny as a cause of poor hip and knee stability is the gluteus muscle group, namely the gluteus medius. Obviously, other muscle groups play a vital role and are also the cause but the gluteus medius is the muscle group which I found was the main cause of weakness for Irish dancers. Without proper training and exercise, it is possible that you may experience a weakness in the gluteus medius muscle. This may be caused by injury, or like most, for no apparent reason and without injury and trauma (I have my own personal opinions on why this issue may occur but I don’t want to confuse you by giving you information that has not been scientifically proven… or maybe it has and I just haven’t come across it yet…). When your gluteus medius muscle becomes weak, it allows your thigh to rotate and pull inwards abnormally. This is called a ‘collapsing kinetic chain’. This abnormal position of your thigh can put excessive stress and strain on different parts of the body. For dancers, this would include your lower back, hips, knees, shins, ankles, and feet. If your therapist or trainer finds that you have a weakness in your gluteus medius and that your thigh turns inwards abnormally during walking and running resulting in knee internal rotation and foot pronation, then you may benefit from a strengthening program to target specific muscle groups.
How does this affect my dancing performance?
This issue will affect many areas in relation to your dancing performance for many different reasons. Let me give you an example and give it to you in words that I hope will help you to understand better. Let’s look at your turnout. Do your knees and feet fall inwards? If so, I can tell you now that turnout will be an issue for you. How do I know? Simple. When you run, walk, jump and make an impact with the ground and apply weight to the joints including the hips, knees, ankles, and feet your knees will bend to some degree to lessen the impact on your body and to allow you to push and move again. Every time you bend the knee, the knee is supposed to travel in the same direction as your toes (try it!). As a dancer, you want to land with your feet turned out. In order to do this, your body must rely on a specific group of muscles to stabilize the movement to allow the knee to travel in the same direction as the toes resulting in a safe landing (try it! stand with your foot turned out and then bend the knee allowing the knee to travel in the same direction as the toes, you should be able to feel and see the correct muscles working). Because your feet, knees, and hips fall inwards your body has been relying on a different group of muscles on a daily basis which does the opposite to what you want to do when dancing, therefore, you do not have the strength to stabilize the hip and knee whilst keeping your foot turned out and you must land with your foot straighter than you hoped for in order to land safely, allowing your knees to travel in the same direction as your toes. You may be able to control the movement when standing or even walking, but when more weight is applied to the joint when running, jumping and landing it can be more difficult.
I would have loved to be able to give you a program and some sample exercises but I couldn’t guarantee that they would work for everyone and I wouldn’t like to disappoint. A thorough evaluation and assessment of the body including your posture, movement, flexibility strength and other will help to provide the proper treatment for your condition. If you do not have access to this service, then you can start with the simple examination which we did above (in the picture) to see if this problem exists. You can also feel free to message me for help or to book in for an appointment. I travel all over Ireland on a regular basis and I also conduct workshops worldwide. Online calls and assessments are also an option.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you are still unsure, send me a message on social media. Find more information by reading more of my blogs. I will try not to leave it too late before I post another one. Please share my blog on your social media channel if you liked it. It would be greatly appreciated.
Happy Training and Happy Dancing!
Your Dance Coach
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