The Power of the Plie: Abbey K Wills, PT, DPT, ART

Posted 1/19/2015 in Physical Therapy Corner | 3431 view(s) | 0 comment(s)

Physical Therapy Corner
The Power of the Plie
Abbey K Wills, PT, DPT, ART

Happy 2015 to all! For many people, January marks the beginning of race season, pre-season training, and working towards all the goals and resolutions you have made. This is especially true for young dancers; January marks the beginning of competition season. This means rehearsals, costume fittings, master classes, and many performances. Dancing on multiple surfaces in many different settings can be very demanding on the body. The same goes for other athletes as well, many sports are transitioning to from outdoor training to indoor training. So, how can we take some positive steps to maintain good health during the New Year? The answer can be found in technique.

Plie (plee-AY)- as defined by the American Ballet Theater (ABT) dictionary: A bending of the knee or knees. This is an exercise to render the joints and muscles soft and pliable and the tendons flexible and elastic, and to develop and sense of balance.

The concept of the plie is not only applicable for dancers, but can also play an important role in many other sports and activities. Knowing how to identify abnormal alignment and learning to correct abnormal postures can ensure improved sports performance and decrease risk of injury.

Having a good, well-balanced plie (or squat) is key here. When it is done correctly, the weight of the body is held out of the hips and legs. Muscles in the hips help to position the knees and ankles to act like hinges, minimizing the tension in the leg muscles with the feet flat on the floor. When done incorrectly, many problems can occur such as decreased jump height, increased impact with landing, excessive tension in foot and ankle muscles, overuse injuries, joint problems, muscle imbalances, stress fractures and more!

Don’t worry! There is a simple, easy way to tell if you are on your way to better jumps, softer landings, and healthy movement! Just watch the tibialis anterior- a large muscle that is found along the front of the leg and ankle. It can be seen prominently if the improper position is used in plie. If you catch yourself using this muscle, stop and reposition your feet. While going down, use your gluteals to roll the hips under and bring the knees over the toes. Poof! Tibialis anterior will turn off, allowing your foot to be relaxed, firmly on the floor. Doing this simple check during class can help to improve carryover into performance and enhance your power on stage.

Wishing all athletes a happy healthy new year. Now get out there and break a leg!

Abbey Willis is a Doctoral PT and one of Achieveʼs Performing Arts Medicine Phyisical Therapist. Abbey has an extensive competitive dance and musical theater background including minioring in Dance at Ithaca College. She has been privileged to work with NeuroTour on many Broadway tours including “Book of Mormon”, “Motown the Musical”, “Amazing Grace”, and many more. Abbey is available for scheduling out of our Burr Ridge, Sports Medicine Clinic.


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