Stretches for the side popping and snapping hip

In the last post we saw a good example of a popping and snapping hip and I talked about the possible reasons for a popping/snapping hip.  Many of you appreciated the post and have asked me to talk about the hip pops that happen in the front of the hip.  That’s been duly noted and is on the list for a future topic to look at in the Dancing Smart newsletter.

Today let’s look at some stretches that you could do to work with the side hip pops.  Let’s start with stretching out the back of the hip.  There are many different ways to work with the turnout and gluteal muscles, and I have shown you recently one of my favorite sitting stretches.  Let’s add another stretch into the mix and see if it works better for any of you.

Picture-1-300x261  Begin lying down on the floor on your back, and crossing one leg over the other.  Lift your other knee up by grasping around the back of the thigh.  Now gently press the knee of the crossed leg away from your body (that would be the right leg in this picture) as you bring the left thigh slowly closer to your chest.

This is an active stretch.  You are actively contracting the turnout muscles on the right side, while you are stretching them by bringing the legs closer to your chest.  In essence, this is a variation on the sitting stretch that was demonstrated a few weeks ago.

It’s good to have many ways of stretching so you can figure out the best ways for you.  We aren’t all built the same – and what works for one StandingTFL2person – doesn’t always for the next.

Stretching the muscles on the outside of the hip (the abductor) can be easily done inthe standing position.  The photo on the right shows the most popular way of stretching those lateral muscles.  I also encourage dancers to use a tennis ball or pinkie ball against the wall to release and massage those often tight muscles.


The muscle that usually needs stretching the most is that all important but now always acknowledged  turn-in muscle, the tensor fascia lata or TFL.  Curiously, this week I assisted 5 dancers in getting a good release and stretch of their TFL muscles and it was magical when they came back to standing on one leg.  They felt like they could stand up more easily and effortlessly and access their turnout muscles without strain.

To stretch the TFL – lets use the popular iliopsoas lunge stretch and then shift from stretching the front of the hip to feeling the stretch towards the outside of the front of the hip.  The picture on the left is stretching the front, and then as the dancers turn towards their front leg they can feel the stretch moving to the side and are now stretching the TFL muscle.  If you don’t feel a stretch in that area – no problem – typically means you aren’t tight there!  But if you do feel a strongish stretch it would be a good variation to add into your stretching repertoire.


These muscles aren’t going to change their tightness overnight – but you’ll know you are on the right track if you stretch (especially, the TFL) stand back up and see if there is any difference in your ‘popping’ action at the hip.  It will be a softer clunk – or perhaps not pop, click, snap, at all!  (Hmm…all of a sudden I have a sudden desire for rice krispies:)

I hope everyone has a glorious Thanksgiving week.  I am thankful and appreciative of having such a warm and welcoming dance community – thank you for being a part of my life!


“Dance is the hidden language of the soul”  Martha Graham

What’s up with snapping/popping hips?

I had the pleasure of working with dancers from the Allegro Performing Arts Academy recently and they were the dancers shown in the picture on the post on strengthening the iliopsoas for higher extensions.  This week’s post is answering a common question about snapping or popping hips.  What does it mean?  There are different types of popping hip but first watch the clip below to see in action the type of popping hip I’m going to talk about.

The hip popping that is being shown in this clip is being caused by a tight IT Band snapping over the greater trochanter of the femur.  Huh?… what muscles/where are those spots you might ask?





The greater trochanter is the bump that is on the outside upper part of the thigh bone right before it angles in towards the center of the hip joint.







The IT Band, otherwise known as the iliotibial band, crosses over that area.  The iliotibial band is the fascial band that runs down the side of your leg that the gluteus maximus and the tensor fascia lata (TFL) muscles connect into high on the leg, and the band connects then to the bones below your knee.




The gluteus medius and minimus don’t connect directly into the iliotibial band, but their tightness creates an imbalance around the hip that may lead to this snapping or popping hip problem.




When there is excessive pull or tightness from one or more of these muscles the IT band will ‘snap’ or ‘pop’ over the greater trochanter when you lean into or stick your hip out to the side.  that is what you are seeing as the clunk in the clip.  It’s pretty impressive, huh?  I’ve been asked by dancers if they are dislocating something because it is disconcerting to have such a significant pop, snap, clunk… however you want to describe it.

The good news is…. you can work to decrease the tightness around the area and the clunking, popping, and snapping will diminish.  The other benefit to addressing this?  As you decrease the tightness your range of motion should improve and consequently make movements of the hip joint, like développé, battements, ronde jambe, etc. easier and more efficient.

Stay tuned… next week we will look at the 3 different muscle areas and I’ll give you ways to release each area!  Have a productive and joyful week!


“Education is the key to injury prevention”


Hip pops – sounds of trouble?

How do you know when hip popping and snapping is something to be concerned about?  A general rule of thumb is if you have pain in the joint along with popping sounds you want to see a qualified health practitioner.

There are three areas where snapping or popping may be felt and heard.  The most common area is at the outside of the hip at the greater trochanter of the femur. Snapping hip syndrome is named for the clunking sound that occurs at the greater trochanter when the dancer stands and shifts their weight onto the leg, which creates the snapping sensation and clunking sound.  Extremely tight lateral hip muscles create this clunk as they snap over the greater trochanter.  This is not a desirable action as it’s an easy way to develop bursitis or tendonitis in the greater trochanter area over time due to the constant irritation.  The solution is to stretch the lateral hip muscles.  You can do this by standing on one leg and letting the hip move sideways as the upper body.

The second area of popping is around the front of the hip. This pop is often heard during a kick or battement.  For some dancers their hip pops every time they lift their leg, and for others once they ‘pop’ their hip by standing on one leg tipping the pelvis forward as they lean to the side, it won’t pop for a while.  This type of popping is generally related to the iliopsoas tendon.  Sometimes the iliopsoas tendon snaps over the bony ridge of the pelvis or femur.  There is always a bursa that acts like a pillow between the joint and a tendon and when the iliopsoas bursa gets irritated and inflamed you will also feel pain in the front of the hip besides hearing and feeling the pop.  If you feel a popping sensation in the front of the hip try stretching out the iliopsoas by frequently doing a runner’s lunge stretch.  This stretch can be done standing with your foot up on a surface, sitting (as shown) or on the floor in the more traditional stretch.  If stretching the iliopsoas muscle helps decrease the popping, then briefly stretch before or after battements, and periodically during class between combinations and at the end of class. As with all tight muscles when you first begin to stretch, the muscle acts like a yo-yo.  You stretch it out and then it wants to go back to its original shape.  It takes time and commitment to truly change the flexibility of a muscle.

The third area where pops may be felt is within the joint.  Labral tears are often the cause. What is a labral tear?  Let’s start by remembering that the hip joint is a ball and socket joint.  The head of the thigh bone is the ball, and the acetabulum is the socket.  In latin ‘labrum’ means lip.  So the acetabular labrum is the ring of cartilage that is attached to the edge of the acetabulum and acts to deepen the bowl shape where the head (or ball) of the femur rests.

Injuries to the labrum can occur from chronic trauma, such as a dancer working to turnout their leg through sheer muscular determination and force, and also acute trauma, such as a fall or violent motion at the joint.

Signs and symptoms that accompany a labral tear may be pain with certain movements, (usually in the groin area), loss of strength, decreased range of motion, and a ‘catching sensation’ in the hip.

I checked in with sports physician, Vernon Patterson, DO, and asked him about labral tears at the hips.  He reported that the majority of patients with labral tears have a history of acute injury while weight bearing that resulted in a sudden onset of groin pain and a period of pain and disability.  The initial injury may have been earlier in their career, but memorable. If the dancer did not have any significant injury history to the area then he would be concerned about structural problems that could make them highly susceptible to other joint problems, including labral tears.

While the majority of hip popping is benign and won’t cause painful problems, they are a signal that the muscle balance around the hip needs to be evaluated. But if there is pain with the popping sensation see a physician.  Your hips will thank you for listening!

The Science of Dance Training Podcast #1 is ready!

Happy Holidays!

After some trials and tribulations (the learning curve to technology is never easy) the first Science of Dance Training podcast is ready for your listening pleasure! The volume varies some (we’ll get that fixed for next time) but we are too excited to wait any longer to share this with you!

We’ve made it easy for you. All you are going to need to do is to click the link below and you will be taken to a page where the podcast is waiting for you to listen to online – or to save to your desktop or itunes to listen to later.

Click here

Here are the questions that we answered in the first podcast.

Question #1
Thank you so much for all you do to promote healthy ballet information for dancers of all ages. I have a question that I have not seen an answer to as of yet from a physiological perspective. Often, we parents have questions that we’d like to run by an impartial source rather than solely rely on our dance teachers’ answers.

As non-dancing parent of a young ballet dancer, aged 9, who would love to go to class 5 days a week if I would let her, how do I know how many hours of dance daily and weekly would be considered too much for her strong but still growing body?

I don’t want her to sustain injuries that she might not be aware of from dancing too much at a young age. She is studying under a teacher well-trained in the Cecchetti method and is taking mainly ballet classes and a jazz class for variety.

I’d appreciate any information you can provide. Thanks in advance.


Question #2

Thank you so much for taking on this project. I applaud your innovative use of technology to reach this new generation of dancers (especially because incorrect information is so easy to find on the internet).

My question for the Science of Dance Training:

I’ve been told by dance teachers that a movement like a developpe or a grande battement starts from the hamstring muscles. I’ve also heard from athletic coaches that the hamstring does not control this movement, and that it is rather the quadricep. So, which is it? What exactly is the anatomy of a developpe or a grande battement?

Cross-training Confusion,

Question #3

Another suggestion applies to pointe. I know this is a delicate area, but I have several girls that I feel are ready to begin pointe work. Do you think the amount of hours of ballet in conjunction with body readiness are appropriate to assess readiness? Do you feel that an x-ray of their feet and ankles is necessary before commencing pointe work. Also, for prep-pointe, I would like the dancers to have pointe shoes to start working with them at the barre and breaking them in for 6-mos before they begin actual pointe work. Is this advisable? Dana

Question #4

I have three newer students with amazing flexibility, all three of whom are dealing with a snapping hip. It is getting painful, and doctors locally aren’t really sure what to do with them because it isn’t a flexibility issue. I am sure there are some exercises they should be doing to help strengthen, rather than lengthen, the iliopsoas, which they probably aren’t using properly due to the flexibility….I have a feeling they can cheat because the don’t need to work the joint as the rest of us do! What can I have them do to work that area for strength? And am I on the right track with that, or is there another reason for the snapping hip?

Question #5

Thank you for providing this helpful information to all of us.

I have read a good portion of both of your publications, and seen many of the videos. The question I have has to do with the timing and order in which to introduce the exercises and stretches to a young dancer. It seems that they are often overwhelmed with what they are supposed to do. Instead of incorporating these great techniques into their routines before and during class, I see my own daughter reverting to the old ways, such as prone frogs, etc.

What is a good way to introduce these exercises so that they can actually remember what to do. Using a book or video is awkward during class.

And to make the sequence logical and easier for them to remember, and to incorporate into a routine, how do you suggest they start? For example, back, then hip, knee, ankle and foot?

I know your books suggest the routine to follow, but I ,myself, find it daunting to get my daughter to do the exercises as often as she needs to. I thought if there were a way to introduce, say 3 exercises at a time, then maybe she would be more compliant. But, I’m not really sure where to begin. She is “tight” in all areas!

Anyway, those are the issues we have which seem to be the major stumbling block to my daughters progress! This combined with a child’s natural timidity to be seen by her friends doing something new!

Thank you so much for the wonderful work you both are doing! I have learned so much from both of you!


Here’s that link again to click and be taken directly to the podcast!

Click here!

Have a wonderful holiday!

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Snapping Hip Syndrome

Welcome to Teaching Smart! This blog will house the Dancing Smart Newsletter and gives you the opportunity to add your helpful suggestions at the end of the post. Hopefully, posting the newsletter in this format will decrease the newsletters that get caught by spam filters and create more active dialogue between us. I’m always open to feedback and learning – and will be the first to admit I don’t have all the answers! Please be respectful in your responses and it goes without saying that the focus and content should stick to the posting topic.

Warmest wishes for a successful 2008!


About two years ago when I started training very seriously for just ballet, I started having a popping sensation in my hip. I soon learned that I had snapping tendon syndrome. During the winter of that year I hurt it badly enough where I couldn’t walk comfortably and couldn’t dance for about two weeks. It got better, but I always had the same popping.

Now two years later, I have learned that I have had snapping tendon tendonitis. It hurts whenever I do anything to a la seconde (especially doing développés, ronde de jambs, and retire/posse). It also hurts when developing devant and fouettes of course.

Last year I got physical therapy at the local exercise place and it didn’t help at all. I’ve read your “Tune Up Your Turnout” book (and love it 🙂 and I’ve been stretching in a lunge position during class often. Any other stretches or exercises I can do? Will my tendonitis ever go away even though I’ve stopped growing, and are foam rollers helpful?
Thanks, Rachel


It’s unclear from your description whether the popping is coming from the front of the side of the hip. Snapping hip syndrome usually refers to the pop at the side of the hip that comes when the thick band of tissue (the iliotibial band) snaps over the greater trochanter which is the bump on the outside and top of the thighbone.

The foam rollers are extremely helpful as you roll slowly on the outside of the hip, and down the outside of the thigh. It can be pretty tight and uncomfortable, so only put as much pressure on the foam roller as you can easily tolerate.

If the popping is coming from the front of the hip it is the hip flexor tendon that is causing the snap. I’m happy to hear you are doing the stretches from Tune Up Your Turnout, which focus on stretching out the iliopsoas muscle with the lunge stretches, and standing quadriceps stretching. Keep doing those and add on a new way of stretching with the foam roller.

Start resting with the foam roller at the top of both thighs. You are going to rest on your elbows. Gently allow your weight to drop into the foam rollers. Slowly bend both knees until you feel a subtle stretch. Keeping your knees bent let both feet drop to one side, then the other. It will feel as if you are rolling across the width of the quadriceps. (The foam roller stays in the same place on your thighs)

After doing a couple of passes, shift forward slightly so the foam roller is now a bit closer to your knees. Repeat bending your knees and slowly letting your feet drop from one side to the other – easily and slowly.

Try this once again bringing the foam roller closer to your knees – staying at least 4 inches above the knees. In this final position your chest is probably now resting on the floor as you drop the feet from side to side. The last position will be the most tender (or at least is for me) so please do this carefully and slowly.

Then stand up and see how your legs feel – hopefully a lot looser!

It does help that you have stopped growing as growth spurts are notoriously challenging for dancers and athletes. Can you get rid of your tendinitis? Absolutely, Rachel! Tendinitis is an overuse syndrome and can be very tricky to work with. It often seems like it is 3 steps forward, then 1 step backwards. Decreasing the overall tension of the contributing muscles and creating a better balance between strength and flexibility will give you better muscle tone, increased range of motion, and decreased pain.

Good luck, be patient, and let me know how you do!

Happy New Year!


“Education is the key to injury prevention”