This week I want to talk about exercises for your mini-dancers. When I say mini-dancers, I’m talking about your dancers who are ages 5–10. You may not be giving strength training exercises to this specific age group, but you really should.
(If you don’t have mini-dancers, use this as an outline for your next warm-up.)
These dancers are excited to learn, so let’s use that to your advantage. If they can build up good habits from strength training now, it will improve their dancing and their overall health as they get older.
I’ve seen it time and time again — these dancers shouldn’t be underestimated.
Sometimes, the youngest dancers have the best form because they don’t have years of bad habits to undo. When you give your mini-dancers the chance to improve their overall strength, control, and stability, you help your dancers keep proper form in their skills.
Build on your mini-dancers’ good form now.
How to Safely Strength Train Your Mini-Dancers
Now you understand the importance of strength training as soon as possible, especially with your mini-dancers.
So let’s talk about how you can do that.
Here are 3 exercises your mini-dancers can do to help build their strength and confidence on stage.
Start by going across the floor with a Walking Airplane Warm-Up. This exercise helps your dancers improve their stability, balance, and ankle strength.
How to do the Walking Airplane Warm-Up:
- Start at one side of the room, standing with your feet together with your hands clasped together in front of the chest.
- Step forward with your right leg, and kneel into a forward lunge. Both of your legs should be bent at a 90° angle. Your left knee should be about an inch from the floor with your left foot in a demi pointe position. Keep your right foot flat on the floor.
- Push your weight into your right foot while you raise the left leg behind you, like an arabesque. Your left leg and your upper body should create a straight line, parallel to the floor. Hold this position.
- Demi plié twice on your right leg.
- Return to your beginning, standing position.
- Repeat on the left side.
- Alternate sides across the floor until you run out of space.
If your mini-dancers are struggling with balance when they do their demi pliés, remove the plié from the exercise and have them hold the arabesque-like position. When your dancers develop better balance, add the plié to your Walking Airplane Warm-up.
2. Hip Bridges
Hip Bridges are good for warming up the glutes and hips. The sooner you can help your mini-dancers understand how to engage their glutes, the better off they’re going to be. Using the glutes properly is key for injury management and consistent skills — like jumps and leaps.
How to do Hip Bridges:
- Start by laying on the floor with your knees bent, feet about a foot away from your booty, and your arms to your sides, resting on the ground.
- Lift your butt so you have a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes (your booty muscles) at the top.
- Lower your butt to the floor so you’re at your starting position.
- Repeat 20 times.
Remind your mini-dancers to squeeze the glutes at the top of the Hip Bridge. That is the most important part of this exercise. You want to make sure that your dancers activate the correct muscles for consistent and strong skills.
Although Mountain Climber With a Twist is a full body exercise, let’s focus on core and hip strength. Core and hips are the two areas that need to work together seamlessly in order for your dancers to be able to kick above 90°.
How to do Mountain Climber with a Twist:
- Begin in a solid plank position on your hands and toes.
- Bend one knee in toward your chest, then return to the starting position. That’s one mountain climber. Do 3 mountain climbers, alternating legs. These are quick movements.
- Hold your third mountain climber.
- Cross your knee to your opposite elbow.
- Return to your beginning plank position. This is one rep.
- Repeat 8-10 reps per side.
If your mini-dancers can’t do this mountain climber twist without letting their hips sink toward the floor, simply have them hold a plank. This still helps your mini-dancers build up their core and hip strength. When your dancers are strong enough to hold a proper plank, then slowly build up the muscle endurance to turn the plank into a Mountain Climber With a Twist.
Strength Training for Mini-Dancers IS Safe
Many coaches and teachers worry that their dancers are too young for strength training. That’s a good thing. We would never want to do anything to hurt our young dancers.
But you’ll notice these exercises don’t require any equipment. So all you’re doing is isolating the muscles your mini-dancers already use when they stand in place or perform your choreography.
Strength training helps your dancers understand how their muscles work for different skills, right from the get-go.
If your mini-dancers are a little more advanced, you can add jumps and create more challenging variations. For example, when they’re doing Hip Bridges they can lift one leg or add a squat while they do the Walking Airplane Warm-Up.
Start Strength Training Now
If you haven’t been strength training with your mini-dancers, please give it a try. You may be surprised at how good your dancers’ form already is.
And we want it to stay that way.
Strength training with your mini-dancers builds:
- Proper form
- Consistent skills
Again, I promise, these exercises are safe for your mini-dancers. And you’re doing them and yourself a favor by training them early on how to use the right muscles effectively in your choreography.
Now, Let me help you implement these exercises with one of my MOST downloaded classes “Getting Fit Without Knowing it.”
Are you a dance instructor looking for fun and creative ways to incorporate strength training without your young dancers KNOWING you’re working on strength?
Are you looking for new and innovative ways to improve skills and strength during the summer besides burpees and running laps?
If so, this class is for you!