Why Warm Up in Dance Class?

Why Warm Up in Dance Class?

I’ve heard it many times before. 

“Why do we spend so much time warming up?” 

“Why does every class have a different warm up?” 

“I’m naturally flexible so I don’t need to warm up.” 


I hear you and I understand wanting to just plop down into the splits for five minutes and then get to dancing. We live in a fast-paced world these days and waiting for anything is hard! For dancers wanting the maximum results from the slow discipline of dance, the importance of a proper stretch and conditioning routine is essential to a healthy and long dance experience. At Red Door, this is a priority for us and a healthy dance experience is top of mind.


Stretching enables a dancer to loosen necessary muscles and better prepare their whole body for a dance class or performance. More importantly, the warmer and stronger the muscles, the less energy and strain is being put on the joints and ligaments which helps avoid injury. Participating in a routine that prepares your body for class, also prepares your mind and helps grow healthy dancers- physically and mentally. Even the most flexible of students needs to engage in a proper warm up. So, what does that mean to me as a dancer, why is it important, and what should it look like?

  • Stretching is the key to improving your overall dance ability- but it’s not about aesthetics! 

As a mUvMethod Level 1 certified dance instructor, one of the main things I was taught is that the most impressive looking stretches aren’t always the most effective. We have to make sure that both large and small muscle groups are being worked as well as the fascia and deep 6 external rotators of the hip. Most stretches I hold in class don’t look like they are doing much, but I can assure you that my dancers are feeling it and benefiting from them. While it is tempting, the dance community has since learned the dangers of “overstretching” (pushing muscles past the point of safety) and has shifted into stretching in positions that target specific muscle groups and training the central nervous system to release tension for maximum flexibility. It may look fun and impressive, but “overstretching” is never a good idea and can actually hinder your potential, so think twice before propping up your legs in those splits!


  • Flexibility is important to physical fitness, mental and physical relaxation, and, most importantly, injury prevention. 

In order to increase flexibility, stretching and warm ups must be done multiple times a week. Each style of dance has a beneficial style of warming up which actually trains the body to be adaptable and well rounded. In jazz you will likely get a more aerobic warm up with a lot of dynamic stretching while in contemporary you might see a mixture of a dynamic and static style. It’s important to intentionally participate in a warm up routine so that both sides of a joint are getting attention in order to avoid imbalance and reduce risk of injury. A proper warm up consists of a light aerobic routine, dynamic stretches targeting specific muscles, deep breathing exercises, and strength and conditioning. Static stretching is best utilized after a class when the muscles are sufficiently warm and mobile. 

  •  A proper warm up helps train our Central Nervous System (CNS) and takes our flexibility further.

Did you know your muscles might not just be “tight?” Our body has a system to protect itself and when you are stretching a muscle your body goes into “fight” mode to ensure that you don’t pull too hard by contracting that muscle to prevent injury. Consistent and safe stretching and warm ups help communicate to our CNS that we are in control and that these “alien” stretches are good. When we stretch the same “big” muscle consistently without paying attention to the supportive muscles and fascia, we are running the risk of getting hyper mobile areas with loose range of motion that don’t have the strength to support that flexibility and we become prone to injury. This is why your CNS tries to protect you. When stretches are combined with deep breathing and strength and conditioning, we have better control over our range of motion and muscles so our CNS is happy and feels safe and will eventually release that tension, allowing us to become more flexible. With repetitive, safe, and effective warm ups we train the CNS to accept the stretch which allows us to move into a new level of flexibility. 

Conditioning and stretching is essential to a dancer and while it might seem tedious or redundant to engage in a warm up for every class, it is the key to the overall health and success of our students. Even our most mobile and flexible dancers benefit from the breathing exercises that not only get lots of oxygen to our hard-working muscles, but help focus thoughts and prepare the mind for class. It’s good to slow down in our fast-paced world, so enjoy your warm ups dancers! You are putting in the work as soon as you step foot into class. Red Door Dance prides itself on creating a safe environment for all of our dancers and knowing the science behind the stretches you are doing and why you are doing them is crucial to that safety. We like to work together with dancers (and parents) to help our dancers reach their full potential, reach their goals, all while keeping their healthy and safety as our top priority