Yolan Bal is a Belgium Bboy representing his city Gent and crew Team Schmetta. Next to his breaking career he is a physical therapist. Recently he became the physical therapist for the Belgium Olympic Breaking team, where he combines his experience as a bboy with his professional physical knowledge. We asked him some questions concerning physical health in breaking.
What are the most common injuries in breaking?
To name a few: neck (hernia, acute block, muscle tightness), lower back (joint, hernia, muscle tigthness) , knees (patella femoral joint, patella tendon, meniscal injuries), shoulder (joint, tendinitis,..), wrist (scapho-lunar ligament laxity/pain, other joints,..), groin (muscle strain).. Because of the lack of research it’s impossible to say which one occurs most.
There’s a long list, because of the complexity and diversity of movement within breaking, therefore a lot of joints and muscles get tested during practice and battle.
These days breakers are constantly pushing the limits of their endurance, power, mobility,… A lot of breakers only adapt there way of training once they start getting injured, increasing the risk of having chronic injuries which then will block them in their future development as a bboy or bgirl.
I would distinguish 2 main categories of injuries:
How to prevent these injuries?
1.Warm- up: 3*30” dynamic stretching and active mobilisation, low load end range mobility exersices. Make sure you’ve been in the end range mobility before dropping hard moves. For example: if you want to do airflares, start with mobilizing your wrists in a push up position, increase the load by doing handstands, 1 handed freezes, .. before actually dropping airflares. So take your time and slowly increase the load on your joints.
2. Cooling down: 3*30” static stretching and low intensity movement at the end of practice.
3. Strengthen the most important zones: 2-3 times a week
Spine: train the deep stabilisation of the muscles, core stability: bird dogs, planking
Shoulder: target the muscles in between the shoulder blades: rows, retraction.
Groin: excentric exercises: Kopenhagen adduction.
Wrist: train the flexors/extensors: knuckle push ups, walk outs, excentric wrist flexors
Knees: deep squats, lunges
Is there a difference between bgirls and bboys?
Yes, there is. Pure based on the morphology (shape/form/structure of your body) it’s harder for girls to be explosive and to build power. I think it’s important for bgirls to build strength & explosiveness in order to stand out physically. Where bboys are more explosive and stronger by nature, in my opinion they should focus more on mobility, stretching and control.
What’s the most underrated advise to dancers about prevention?
This is a difficult one. Some bboys think they don’t really need to stretch or do a proper warm-up, this might work for some time. But in the end injuries will catch up, limiting your development. If you don’t like to stretch much, try to focus on one specific group of muscles, instead of rushing through your stretching.
Don’t worry too much about small pains, don’t minimalize an injury you’ve been struggling with for a long time. Unsure about how severe the injury is? Go to a doctor and/or see a physiotherapist.
The asymmetrical movements in breaking get the body out of balance so try to train both sides, this not only lifts your foundation to the next level, it also gives balance to your body by increasing strength and mobility in the opposite joints and muscles.
How to organize your training when having an injury?
The beautiful thing about breaking is that there is always a way to keep practicing and improving. If you can’t upgrade your physical level, try to broaden your skills.
Try to use the injury as a concept to improve your way of moving.
Injuries of the lower limb – try to avoid toprocks/footworks;
Injuries of the wrist/shoulders – try to avoid freezes and powermoves for a while.
The best way to recover from an injury is by using relative rest. This means you have to move within a range that does not increase the pain. Try to stay under a pain score of 3/10; 0 = no pain at all and 10 = the most pain you’ve ever had.