Recommended Products for Improving Technique, Flexibility and Strength
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 one is 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.
Please note that like with 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.
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 have 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!
If that machine is a bit out of your price range, then you could also try this FIGROL leg stretcher also from Amazon.com. The reviews are good, but it does take a little more effort to use and seems a little less comfortable because of the poles that need to go under the ankles, but it is effective and will also help your dancer achieve that middle split whilst watching their favorite tv show or reading a book!
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.
If you really want to get a rectangular board we love this turn board pro from Amazon.com or Discount Dance Supply. 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!
Although the next two stretching tools we recommend are also really good for dancers and are most used by dancers, if you can only buy one stretching tool, than this would be it! 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.
This one from 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!
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 specialised exercises.
We love this set from Amazon.com that 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!
This leg stretcher from Amazon.com 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. It is not for the beginner and 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.
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 practising 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!
Alternatively, if you would like the board seen in this YouTube video you can get one from Discount Dance Supplies here.
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.
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!