Part injury prevention and rehabilitation, part fully body workout. Whether you’re injured or in peak condition, Sugarfoot Therapy is a challenge. My physical therapist Nick Cutri and his wife (and fellow dancer/choreographer) Katie Schaar created SFT to disrupt dancer’s bad movement habits. While dancers look and move like superheroes, they often develop movement patterns that stress and damage tissue overtime. SFT was integral in rehabilitating my torn shoulder(s) and continues to strengthen my body as a whole today.
But Sugarfoot Therapy is not just for dancers, I’ll let them explain:
Where did the idea for Sugarfoot Therapy come from?
I (Nick) had been treating several dancers in the PT clinic, rehabbing existing injuries. Every time I went to discharge a dancer patient, they would express that although their injury was fully healed, they wished they could keep coming to PT…they had never felt stronger in their bodies…they wished somebody had taught them these types of therapeutic exercises much earlier in their lives.
We did some research and realized that there were very limited resources for dancers in terms of science-based conditioning and injury prevention training. While many athletic programs have well-developed strength and conditioning programs, dance was in need of a program that bridges the gap between up-to-date kinesiology and physical therapy practices and dance technique. We decided to put a program online so that it could be a universal resource for the dance community.
Through our website, any dancer or dance teacher in the world can instantly access clinically proven exercises and workouts. A home exercise program is a huge part of the Physical Therapy process. With Sugarfoot Therapy, we have created a library of our evidence-based exercises…used by my patients, dancers and dance teachers worldwide, as well as by other Physical Therapists.
What does a typical workout look like?
I am a specialist in Functional Science; it is at the core of my practice as a Physical Therapist. With Sugarfoot Therapy, we merge functional exercise with dance-relevant movement. Our workouts always begin with dynamic mobility and neuromuscular activation exercises and then progress to strength and stability work.
Many orthopedic dance injuries are overuse injuries caused by a repeated dysfunctional movement pattern that places continued stress on a tissue over a period of time. The only way to fix the problem is through a process of movement re-education…and this takes repetition and practice. SFT exercises first retrain the neuromuscular system with functional exercises, and then we advance the exercise into more extreme dance-relevant positions…such as external hip rotation and demi point. This way the movement re-education translates into actual dancing.
Your routines seem to stress hip stability. So what exactly is hip stability?
Hip stability is having the neuromuscular activation and muscular strength to control the hip joint through its entire range of motion…during push off, during landing, while standing on one leg and kicking the other, etc.
…why is it so important?
The hips are the center point of the body, so if the hips are unstable it can cause a chain reaction of problems throughout the body…both above the hips and below the hips. Dancers often have tremendous mobility in their hips…not meaning that the muscles around the hips are extremely flexible, but that the hip joint itself has a huge range of motion. This is how dancers are able to create the gorgeous lines and shapes they are known for. The problem is many dancers lack the functional strength to control all of that range of motion. And instead of taking the impact of their expansive and explosive movements into the big structurally stable hip joint with it’s big powerful musculature, they take the impact into the soft tissue surrounding the hips.
Furthermore, one cannot adequately control their hip mobility, that instability often trickles down through the femur and affects the knee…which can then continue down and affect the ankles and feet. Over time this can wreak havoc on the connective tissue in the hips, knees, and lower back. A large number of injuries can be traced back to instability in the hips. So with SFT, we focus heavily on creating mobile stability in the hips, and how that mobility and stability integrates into the function of the body’s movement chain.
Can non-dancers benefit from the SFT Routines?
Yes! I prescribe SFT routines to non-dancers all the time. The main focus of our exercise routines is to improve your body’s functional biomechanics. This is something that benefits all bodies and can help us to live sustainable active lives, while reducing the occurrence of pain and inflammation caused by dysfunctional movement patterns.
How would someone who is new to fitness with less body awareness, know if they’re doing SFT right?
We teach our program with a lot of joint alignment cues. For example, “Your toes should be pointing straight forward and as your knee bends it should track straight forward over your second toe.” With our emphasis on hip stability, you will feel a great deal of glute activation…so sore booties are common! Also keep in mind that you should never experience joint pain with SFT. At the end of a workout, you will feel both strong and flexible.
Would you consider a SFT Routine a complete workout?
Absolutely. Many of our workouts focus on a specific joint or movement principal (e.g. SFT Ankle Stability Circuit, SFT Jumps, SFT Knee Stability Circuit), but every workout works the entire body. For example, if you are looking to strengthen your ankles and prevent future ankle sprains…the only way to actually develop functional ankle stability is to work on the ankle with all of the other moving parts in a full body workout.
Outside of SFT, how do you two workout?
Nick: We go on a lot of hikes/walks/jogs pushing our 18 month old son in a stroller! I workout at the PT clinic at the end of my work day…usually a 45-60 minute circuit workout of functional exercises and traditional weight lifting. My focus is always trying to create movement authenticity by incorporating 3 dimensional movement into my program design.
Katie: Dancing/choreographing professionally is a lot of my workout. I teach SFT classes weekly and perform the circuits regularly. But I love how my body feels with a variety of training…yoga, Pop Physique, running, aerial silks training.
Check out Sugarfoot Therapy for yourself! Click here.