Crush Your Dance Skills at Every Competition With Upper Body Strength


You know that moment when you’re waiting to hear the judge’s thoughts on your team’s routine. Although you may be thinking about that tricky section in the middle with the group lift, there are two specific areas that many teams get critiqued on the most. 

  1. Sharpness of movements
  2. Execution of skills

So you do what you’ve always done. You go back home and focus on a specific piece of a routine by practicing over and over again. But there’s still little improvement despite you and your dance team’s hard work.

Sound familiar?

It’s ok! We’ve all been there. 

Instead of rerunning your routine, your dancers need muscle-specific strength training. A strong core, back, and shoulders significantly improve dancers’ ability to hit their motions harder, turn sharper, and have more control over each step in their choreography. 


Why do dancers need upper body strength?

When your dancer’s trunk (from the shoulders to the hips) is strong, it’s more stable. This makes it possible for dancers to move their arms and legs quickly, so they have long lines and sharper movements that wow the judges. 

We’re talking about improved turns, balance, and lines just by adding a few targeted exercises to your practice. It only takes a few minutes so you can get back to practicing for your next competition and actually see results.

Upper Body Strength Exercise Plan for Dancers

Here’s a training plan specifically created for sharpening skills and improving the execution of movements. 

I recommend doing this upper body training plan twice a week.

Every time you complete the plan, add two more repetitions to each exercise, so your dancers get stronger and stronger, increasing their control and stability.

Let’s get started!


Single Arm Banded Row

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place your hands inside your exercise band. Position your band so it rests on your wrists and wraps around the bottom of your palms. Keep your arms extended in front of you, shoulder-width apart. Flex your wrists so your fingertips point up, and the back of your hands are facing you. 
  2. Keep your left hand extended as you bend your right elbow directly behind you, as far back as possible. You should feel resistance from your exercise band. 
  3. Return to your starting position by straightening your right arm in front of your body. Both arms should be extended to the front.
  4. Do 20 rows total with your right arm. Then repeat on the left side. 


Remind your dancers to keep their elbows close to their bodies as they do each row. It should feel as if they are squeezing their shoulder blades together. This is key to working the back muscles, so dancers can perform with sharp movements and clean skills. 


Tricep Plank Jack

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Get into a basic plank position with your weight resting on your toes and forearms. Your feet should be hip-width apart.
  2. With control, rock your body forward and back so your body moves up, over your hands, and back to your starting position. That’s for your triceps (arms).
  3. Now, the plank jack. Use your core, arms, and toes to jump and lift your body a few inches into the air. While you’re in the air, move your feet further apart. When you land, your feet should be wider than when you started. 
  4. Use your core, arms, and toes to lift yourself off the ground and bring your feet closer together. When you land, you should be in the plank position that you started in. 
  5. You’ve completed one tricep plank jack!
  6. Do 12 tricep plank jacks total, and you’re done.


Think of this exercise as a jumping jack, but you’re facing the floor in a plank. It’s the same type of movement, but since your arms support your entire body, it works your core and arms too. I love this one because it’s effective in strengthening multiple areas at the same time. 

Have your dancers imagine that they are pulling their belly button into their spine to help them keep the correct alignment throughout this exercise.


Banded Lat Pull Down

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place your exercise band around the bottom of your palms, just above your wrists, and extend your arms straight above your head. 
  2. Bend both arms, so your elbows are even with your shoulders, making a 90° angle with your arms. Use your hands to push against your exercise band to keep that 90° angle in your arms.
  3. Extend your hands straight above your head.
  4. Do 20 lat pull-downs or as many as you can for 30-40 seconds.


To feel the lats really work, have your dancers squeeze their shoulder blades together when they bend their elbows. The lat muscles cover your mid to low back, connecting your upper arms to your hips and back. When your lats are strong, it’s easier for dancers to move and extend their arms for quick, clean, and precise movements.  

If you’re a visual learner, here’s a quick tutorial for each exercise.

Increase Sharpness and Execution

It isn’t a mystery how to help your dancers crush their skills every time they perform. It’s just a matter of learning which muscle groups help with specific movements. Then take the time to focus on strengthening those muscles.

These three upper body exercises should only take a few minutes and deliver incredible results. 

Help your dancers improve turns, jumps, and complex choreography with a skill-specific plan.

Looking for a more detailed plan to increase dancers’ sharpness and skill execution?

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