No one likes seeing a student get injured, especially if you feel it could have been avoided. By including proper warm ups and cool downs into your weekly classes, you can prevent injuries in your students, and make the entire class more successful.
Each class should begin with some cardiovascular exercise that gets blood flowing to the muscles, preparing them for the work that is about to take place. Skipping this step before stretching can result in painful muscle tears that take time to heal. The cardiovascular portion of your warm up doesn’t need to take long (2-5 minutes) and can include jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, squat jumps, running laps, simple dance movements, or anything else you can think of!
After the heart rate has been raised, stretching will prepare the muscles to perform better during exercise, and will further minimize risk of pulling or tearing. Lastly, including targeted strength training into your warm ups (exercises that recruit the specific muscles that will need to fire during your prepared lesson) is also highly recommended for student success. The ADTA Syllabus contains detailed warm ups for every level, with specific physiotherapy-based exercises tailored to enhance the training of your students.
To finish off your class, a quick cool down (5-10 minutes) will also help to avoid injuries. During strenuous exercise, blood vessels in the lower half of your body expand, bringing blood in. When you stop the strenuous exercise without taking the time to lower your heart rate slowly, blood can pool in the lower half of your body, causing dizziness or fainting, because the blood has been pulled away from your head. This is especially true for very fit people because their heart rates slow down faster than the average person, and their veins can hold more blood. To bring your students’ heart rate down gradually, transition from strenuous exercise (i.e. regular training) to gentle exercise (i.e. walking at a quick pace). Following this step, perform gentle stretches of each muscle group to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the following day(s).
Besides the physical benefits of warm ups and cool downs, these sections of your class also play an important role in your dancers’ mental game. Warm up is a time to mentally prepare for the class ahead, create mind-body connections, and transition from “the outside world” to training time in the studio. Cool downs give your busy dancers a moment to pause and reflect on their class; what they have achieved, and the goals they are still working towards.