Every coach wants to help their dance team become the best they can be, right.
But it’s not about running your routine over and over again and then poof, you impress the judges at competitions. (Although that would be nice.)
Your dancers need strength training in order to execute skills correctly, safely, and consistently. And the best part is they can do it at home and it doesn’t take much time.
So, what should your dancers focus on to improve their skills?
There are three exercises they should be doing DAILY.
You want to have some variation of these exercises on repeat because they build strength and create a foundation for your dancers’ skills.
For example, squatting is the foundation for dancers’ jumps and leaps. Squats build glute strength so you have more power in your jumps and get higher into the air.
Planks require a lot of core strength. Plank variations increase your dancers’ control and stability throughout their turns. When dancers have a strong core, they can get into their passé quickly and avoid falling out of their turns. Extend or reach an arm or lift a leg when planking on the hands and toes for a more challenging core exercise.
Reverse lunges, forward lunges, and even lunge kickbacks build the foundation for your dancers’ single leg movements, like turning. When your dancers get really comfortable supporting their weight on one leg in a reverse lunge, it’s easier for them to have a straight supporting leg in their pirouettes. Then, they can understand your cues to keep their supporting leg straight and know what to do to maintain the proper form.
There are so many variations of squats, planks, and lunges that you’ll never run out of ideas when training your dancers.
Try switching things up to keep your dancers interested and challenged during their strength training. Slightly different variations turn an otherwise “boring” exercise into something, dare I say… fun.
Here are three of my favorite exercises for dancers.
A Squat High Five is fun to do with dancers of all ages. It keeps them entertained while also strengthening their glutes. Feel free to add a jump to make this exercise more difficult for advanced dancers. Daily squats help dancers get higher in their jumps for competition season.
How you do a squat high five:
- Face a partner with your feet hip distance apart. Bend your knees so your legs are in a squat position. Hold your hands together in front of your chest.
- Cross your hand over to your partner in a patty cake like motion so you high-five your partner’s opposite hand.
- Alternate high fives 15–20 times.
- Return to a standing position.
Remind your dancers to keep the weight in their heels, chest up, and knees over their toes. Don’t let the knees go in, toward each other so you prevent injury. Keeping the hands in front of the upper body helps with balance while the high fives keep it fun and engaging.
Planking is one of my favorite exercises for dancers. It trains the core while keeping the rib cage tucked in so you avoid discomfort while working on the floor. Your core is the foundation for many skills in dance like turns, tilts, and balancing.
You can rotate your dancers through 3 plank options.
- Kneel down on the floor and support your body with your elbows and knees.
- Straighten your legs behind you and curl your toes. Now you should be on your toes and elbows, with your forearms supporting your weight on the ground.
- Squeeze your core and glute muscles and hold this position for 30–90 seconds.
Use your core to keep your body in a straight line, parallel to the floor.
- Start on your hands and knees on the ground.
- Straighten your legs behind you, curl your toes, and straighten your arms. You should be supporting your body on your hands and toes.
- Squeeze and hold your core and glutes muscles for 30–90 seconds.
Keep your shoulders away from your ears. Use your core to hold up the hips so the body is in a straight line.
- Begin on your hands and knees on the floor.
- Bend your elbows so they are at a 90° angle, with the forearms on the floor. Clasp your hands together on the floor if that helps with balance or is more comfortable.
- Keep your knees together so they’re touching. Your chins stay on the floor. Your thighs are at a 45° angle to the floor. From your knees on the floor to the top of your head, it should look like a straight, diagonal line.
- Squeeze and hold your core and glute muscles for 30–90 seconds.
Planks can be done on your dancers’ knees or on their toes. But if you want to make it more fun, they can plank across from each other and do a high-five, tap each other’s shoulders, or even alternate lifting their legs.
Make sure no matter which plank variation your dancers do, their back is flat and their core is engaged. It should feel like they’re trying to touch their spine with their belly button. Their elbows and arms should always be directly under their shoulders.
If you have the space in your practice room, doing lunges across the floor is a great warm-up. Or simply have your dancers lunge in place or do a reverse lunge for more focus on the glutes.
How to do a reverse lunge:
- Stand with your feet hip width apart and hands together in front of your chest.
- Step one foot back behind the body so both legs are at a 90° angle.
- Return to the standing position and repeat on the other side.
- Repeat 12 reps, 3 times.
Check that your dancers aren’t tapping the floor with their knees when they go into their lunge. Repeatedly tapping their knee can cause injury later on. Their upper body and the thigh of the working leg should create a straight, vertical line during the lunge.
Let’s Give These a Try
Different dancing skills require the use of different muscles. Your dancers work a little bit of each muscle group every day by doing squats, planks, and lunges!
Work the core, glutes, quads, and upper body to get higher jumps, more consistent turns, and stronger technique.
Include all three of these workouts in a circuit, or pick two of them to do in your next warm-up.