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a ballet education

Mobile and Strong

Dr. Alexis Sams gives her physical therapy tips to quell the question on every young dancer’s mind. How do I have a more mobile spine? She goes deeper to providing guidance to the even more important and often forgotten question, how do you have a strong and healthy spine?

Exercise for a spine that will bend, but won’t break.

FOCUS: bringing balance between mobility and stability for better range of motion and performance (often mobility restrictions happen when this balance is off)

via GIPHY

  • Abdominal release and spinal release (including jaw and neck)
  • Rotational stabilization isometric
  • Lateral spinal stabilization (side plank)
  • Trunk extension
  • Single leg bridge

All exercises should be performed once a day.


Get to know your therapist

Dr. ALEXIS SAMS

Dr. Alexis Sams is taking the dance medicine industry by storm with her integrative approach to performance enhancement and injury management for dancers. She is the owner of AZ Dance Medicine Specialists based in Phoenix, Arizona and the host of The Dance Medicine Podcast.

After being burned out from overbooked schedules in outpatient therapy and hours of travel and documentation as a home health PT, Alexis finally broke away to pursue her dream and started AZ Dance Med in 2014 as a mobile service to local dancers in the Phoenix area. 

Over the last six years, her business has grown to a six-figure earning free standing clinic and in 2019 she expanded even more and established DancemED Coaching and Education, a professional development and consulting business for dance professionals and other dance medicine specialists.

Alexis combines over 20 years of dance training, teaching, and choreography with over 10 years of practice as a physical therapist to treat and educate dancers, instructors, and clinicians all over the world. She is widely known for her holistic approach to maximizing performance and injury management, and is on a mission to empower the dance community with the knowledge and tools to keep dancers safe and healthy. 

ABE: Why did you become a physical therapist?  

DR. AS: My desire was for a profession which allowed me to learn more about how the body moves and apply those principles to improving dance performance and prevent dance injuries.  I knew I didn’t want to go to medical school and I wanted to have in depth knowledge of injury rehab beyond a personal trainer or exercise instructor.  My research led me to discovering physical therapy. 

ABE: What do you feel is the importance of black women in dance medicine? 

DR. AS: I think diversity in any profession is important to allow future generations to dream without limitation of their full potential.  

Abdominal release and spinal release (including jaw and neck)

Releases: General neck/jaw release 

  1. Lie on your back with legs straight and uncrossed. 
  2. Massage the lower back corners of the jaw and down in side of the neck in slow motion.
  3. Repeat with downward strokes for 1 – 2 minutes.  

Releases: Low back muscle release

  1. Lie on back or stand against the wall with tennis ball or lacrosse ball 
  2. Use the ball to roll over each side of the low back. 
  3. Roll gently for 1-2 mins.

Releases: Abdomen

Release your abdomen by:

  1. Placing the ball to one side of the midline of the trunk as shown.
  2. Release for 1-2 mins. 
  3. Prop upper body up on elbows if laying completely flat is too uncomfortable.

Rotational stabilization isometric

Rotation activation in 1st position with straight legs and in plié rotating the spine

  1. Extend both arms to the front, parallel to the floor and clasp hands as shown.
  2. Exhale as you press the back of the forearm into the wall. Hold 4 counts, then relax. Perform 3 reps in the following positions:
  • 1 – standing with head straight forward
  • 2 – standing with head turned fully to the right 3 – standing with head turned fully to the left

Perform on both sides (meaning pressing each forearm into the wall), total 18 presses. Perform also in plié

Lateral spinal stabilization (side plank)

  1. Keep feet stacked on top of each other with flexed feet as shown.
  2.  Keep heels and buttocks against the wall to assist with keeping body aligned. 
  3. Raise to create a straight line from the middle of the head to the feet. 
  4. Hold 4 counts, then lower to the ground and rest 4 counts. Exhale as you raise into each plank.

 Repeat 8 Times

Trunk extension

  1. Keeping legs in parallel 1st or 6th position, feet pointed and knees active  
  2. Raise chest from floor, activating the back muscles. 
  3. Hold 4 counts, then slowly lower to the floor.

Repeat 8 times at half, as shown, and 8 times at full extension with chest perpendicular to hip bones arms remain in second position extended. 

Single leg bridge

Activation of single leg bridge – do with each leg

  1. Exhale as you press the hips up from the bed/floor. 
  2. Hold 2 counts before lowering back down. 
  3. Keep pelvis level throughout, avoid allowing the free hip (not on the step/chair) to drop down.

This can be performed with the working leg on a chair, bed, sofa, or other sturdy surface.

Repeat 8 times