Finding new tools to help increase flexibility and strength in dance is always fun! Some dance and ballet tools can simply help motivate a dancer to practice because of their novelty whilst others can really help through the science of physics to exert a gentle force or pull to increase a stretch for example.
The thing is there are so many products out there that claim to help you improve your technique, flexibility or strength that it can be quite confusing to know which oned are the best to buy.
Hopefully, our guide can help take some of the guesswork out of it as we have carefully researched, choosing only what we consider to be the best and most useful products that help dancers improve their technique, flexibility and strength.
I have recently purchased many of the products below myself for my dance kids to test so look out for our updates on how we have gone using them!
Please note that like all products and tools everyone will get something different out of them depending on how much work and effort you put in. There are no miracle solutions to get your dancer doing perfect pirouettes in one day or magically allowing their muscles to flex so much they can do a full split overnight. The following are tools only and therefore will only help if your dancer puts in the hard work.
The dance tools on this resource page include affiliate links which means if you purchase a product, Dance Parent 101 will receive a small commission which helps us to continue to provide this free and helpful information!
Tools for Improving Technique, Flexibility, and Strength
1. TURN DISC OR BOARD
Turn Discs and Boards help to increase your balance and ability to do multiple pirouettes. Currently, because of the influx of Instagram and Youtube videos, the long rectangle type turning board has become popular with dancers on a flat foot, which is perfect for figure skaters, but dancers turn on demi-pointe so practicing turns with a flat foot can promote the development of the wrong muscles and technique.
For this reason, our first preference would be a turning disc like this one from Amazon.com. It encourages you to turn en releve or demi-pointe so that you are actually developing the appropriate muscles and can transfer all your hard work into your dancing.
In saying that, my dancer Sydney who is learning to pirouette finds using this board a little more difficult then the next one for the reason that she needs to keep her heal off the floor!
If you really want to get a rectangular board we love this turn board pro from Amazon.com. This is their generic version but as my girls love the Ziegler sisters we got the pink McKenzie version at our house!
The most fun thing about this board is it is discoverable through blue tooth and an app you can download on your phone which counts how many turns you are doing and gives you statistics and more fun stuff!
If you want to know how to properly use a Turn Board our writer Lesley Mealor wrote the following article Teacher Approved Turn Board Exercises for Dancers To Improve Balance & Turns that you can take a read of!
2. Stretch Straps
Stretch straps are a great tool for dancers as they are like a pulley system where the dancer can use a pulling force to gently increase a stretch they would not normally be able to do with only their hands.
It can help the dancer find the most aligned position so that they are training, stretching and strengthening the correct muscles, instead of being in a position that works incorrect muscles because they are trying so hard to get into the position in the first place.
This stretch strap is made from a strong non-elastic material and has loops so you can secure your foot and grip the loops with your hands to help provide a good stretch.
They are popular with people who do yoga and are extremely beneficial to dancers to be able to control the stretch and not overstrain the muscles. I like the loops because you can gradually pull your limbs further or closer together as your grip moves from loop to loop.
There are many different ones to choose from but this one on Amazon.com has the best reviews and comes with a mesh carry bag, quick info guide and access to an online educational portal with more information and exercises on how to use the strap!
This stretch strap also available at Amazon is one I bought for my daughters. They really wanted to try and practice a needle which is when the leg is pulled up behind their head.
We found it to be very sturdy and liked the extra padding this one had compared to a few other we also purchased to compare them.
It is is a 9.8ft, 150gr cotton strap that you anchor through a ring that is attached to a door with a hook. You use it to lever your leg into stretches a dancer might not otherwise be able to achieve.
I really wish I had one when I was training! I can remember putting my leg on a shelf in my wardrobe and pushing against a chair to create a stretch I couldn’t achieve otherwise – this tool would have been much easier and safer to use!
It comes with a carry bag, an information booklet and access to an online educational portal with videos on how to use the stretcher.
Look out for our review which should be coming along soon!
3. Stretch & Resistance Band Set
A stretch band is a long loop of latex rubber that dancers use to help them hold stretches with some resistance. A Resistance band is a long wide thin strip of latex rubber that dancers use to work and strengthen specific muscles through specialized exercises.
When buying some of these products to test we were given a free resistance band as well as a stretch band, so if you are buying more than one thing, take a look and see if these products are offered with any of them. In saying that, although these are strong, they can break and loose tension over time so having a spare set is always good!
This set on Amazon.com includes both a stretch and resistance band, a bag to store the bands, a stretching guide booklet and access to an online e-book with more information on stretching and strengthening using the bands for not much more than some companies sell one stretch band for!
Therabands as linked to here are also one of the most trusted brands of resistance bands in the dance world! This set comes in three different thicknesses which create different levels of resistance when being used.
4. Split Stretching Machines
When I first walked into the ballet studio at the full-time performing arts studio I went to, I encountered these funny-looking machines tucked away at the back of the studio.
When I found out what they could do I wanted to try it, except one of the ballet girls got in and wound the mechanism round and round until her legs had surpassed a perfect middle split and I just didn’t want to be humiliated in front of everyone with my measly attempt!
Boy do I wish I could have bought one of those machines to use at home then, but luckily for you, now you can!
Amazon.com has these amazing split stretching machines just like the ones at my old ballet studio and they have great reviews, many from grown men who are training for martial arts, which shows me that this machine will be strong enough for the resistance in the legs of a dancer!
The machine above is currently a bit out of my price range, especially when you add on shipping to Australia. But I will get one one day.
So instead we purchased this leg stretcher also from Amazon.com.
It does take a little more effort to use and seems a little less comfortable because of the poles, but it is effective and will also help your dancer achieve that middle split whilst watching their favorite tv show or reading a book!
5. Balance or Wobble Board
Balance or Wobble boards are useful for the advanced dancer who really wants to nail their center work. I’ve seen some amazing dancers work with a balance board en pointe or en releve practicing their developes or even just retires and holding them for as long as they can and really developing their core muscle strength and balance. A balance board is a MUST have product for the home practice of any serious dancer! This one from Amazon.com had over 800 good reviews and was also the least expensive coming in at well under $20 US!
This video uses the Suffolk Balance Board which you could also search for and buy.
WHY WE DON’T RECOMMEND FOOT STRETCHERS?
Foot stretchers that claim to help develop the arch of the foot do create more flexible feet, but in dancing flexibility must be developed with strength so that injuries do not occur.
Simply repetitively doing sets of slowly pointing and flexing the feet can help instead.
When doing the exercise focus on using every tendon, ligament and muscle of the foot as you slowly flow through from flex to a full pointe (as hard as you can pointe without cramping the calf muscle) and releasing slowing using all the muscles to get back to a flexed foot.
The dancer should be sitting with good posture on the floor, with their core muscles engaged and legs straight out in second or directly in front of the body.
This exercise when done daily, three sets of 12, can help to develop beautiful strong feet and arches.
Resitance bands can help to increase the resistance and strengthen the feet and arches.
That being said if you really want to buy one, buy the best you can which we believe is the Original Foot Stretcher designed by John Campos which you can buy from Amazon.com here. The elastic is strong and the wood extremely sturdy compared to the cheaper plastic ones and the design has been tested and investigated over 5 years and has a US patent!