Are you frustrated that no matter how many practices and cues you give your dancers, their skills just seem to plateau?
Do you cue your dancers to “pull up or “get down in your plié” but see no change week to week?
Can you tell your dancers are getting tired about three-quarters of the way through a routine, resulting in a lackluster performance?
Most of the time when dancers’ skills hit a plateau, it means they need strength training.
Here are three of the most common scenarios that are screaming for more focus on strength training.
- Your dancers have beautiful turnout and splits on the floor, but they lack the power to hit a full split leap in the air.
- Your dancers have gorgeous extensions, but they can’t hold their leg above 90° without using their hands for assistance.
- You give your dancers a correction in their turns or leaps. And they make the correction only for something else to fall apart.
So what’s the deal?
The culprit is either a lack of core, glute, and back strength, using incorrect muscles, or a lack of muscle endurance. No matter which area your dancers are struggling in, strength training can help.
Pay attention to your dancers’:
- Core and glute strength
- Ability to intentionally engage their muscles for control and power
- Understanding of which muscles are needed to stay in relevé or explode off of the floor
- Muscle control
- Knowledge of how to correct the issue
How to level up your dancers’ skills
Maybe your dancers feel stuck in their skills. Or they can do a skill during practice, but then you throw in that crazy awesome turn combo with a jump at the end of a routine and everything falls apart.
It’s easy to make the shape of a skill. Anyone can prep and pull their foot up into a passé to make the shape of a pirouette. But it’s entirely different to maintain that shape during a rotating pirouette.
Your dancers need all the pieces of the puzzle to execute a skill. If their heel is dropping in their relevé, they need more ankle strength. If they’re leaning to the side, that’s their core. Or dropping their arms, that’s their back.
The key is to pay attention to what exactly is happening during a skill to see what part of the body needs to develop more strength to improve.
Help your dancers change their movement patterns in order to improve their skills. With strength training, your dancers learn how to engage the right muscles to hold a skill and improve consistency.
Your dancers need:
Strong Core, Glutes, and Back
These muscles create control, stability, and power in your dancers’ movements. Height, extensions, turns, leaps, and alignment are affected by these muscles. They also allow your dancers’ upper and lower body to work together to perform dance specific movements.
Correct Muscle Engagement
Slow things down and simplify the exercises for your dancers. The slower you do an exercise the more intentional the movement is. That means that your dancers will feel the burn in specific muscles so they know which muscles to engage for a particular skill.
That’s when your muscles are able to keep contracting over an extended period of time. If your dancers have beautiful turns during practice but they are falling apart at the end of a routine, that could be because of a lack of muscle endurance. Their muscles just aren’t strong enough to maintain movements by the end of a routine.
So here’s the plan.
Let’s use strength training to optimize your dancers’ skills and improve their strength and technique. It requires just a handful of exercises that are specifically designed to improve each piece of your dancers’ skill, like a higher relevé, higher passé, or higher back leg.
You need less than 10 minutes at the beginning or end of your practice depending on the needs of your dancers. When your dancers practice skill specific exercises before practicing a skill, they have a better understanding of which muscles are needed for a turn, leap, or jump.
When you run a routine but your dancers aren’t hitting the skills, have your dancers do a circuit of strength training after that routine. Be sure that the circuit is specific to the skill your dancers are practicing. This prepares the body to use the same muscles in the circuit and in the skill while also building muscle endurance.
Adding strength training before or after a skill produces the same results for your dancers. It’s simply a matter of setting aside a few minutes for strength training exercises, during your practice time.
To get started, pick eight exercises. For example, you can do two core exercises, two glute exercises, two upper body exercises, and two lower body exercises. Do each exercise for 40 seconds and rest for 20 seconds.
Running the routine over and over will not improve your dancers’ skills. But strength training will help your dancers become stronger, build endurance, and understand which muscles they need for each skill. It breaks down each skill to see what the root of the plateau is.