I’m always reaching out to my community on Instagram to find out what you guys want to improve on and I’m always told:
- Turn Out
- No more hopping
Did you know when you use strength training to effectively strengthen glutes, you can achieve all these skills?
The muscles of the glutes impact everything from your turn out to the height and power of your back leg in your jumps.
The skills I get asked about the most require a strong supporting leg. When many dancers try to improve their skills like turns, they focus on core strength and flexibility, often forgetting about the glutes. A strong supporting leg from strength training your glutes is one of the steps that most dancers miss when they want to nail their favorite skills.
It’s an easy but crucial piece of the puzzle that leads to strong, clean skills for your dance team.
Why Do Dancers Need Strong Glutes?
Strong glutes improve countless skills for dancers because they are essential for stability and strength in your movements. All body parts work together to help dancers execute skills properly and safely. The glutes are no exception. They help with hip extension, abduction, and rotation.
In English, that means glute strength improves your:
- Leg holds
- And more!
The other bonus is when you strengthen the glutes, you can actually decrease injuries. If you feel pain in your lower back or hips, that could be an indicator that those muscles are working overtime.
Often, dancers don’t know how to activate their glutes.
You may tell your dancers to get their back leg up in their leaps, but they may not know what muscles to use (or strengthen) to make it happen. So when they’re doing specific skills, the lower back, hamstrings, and hips try to do more work than they’re meant to do. That’s when we run into overuse injuries.
When you take time to strength train your dancer’s glutes, you can improve skills and keep injury far away.
Here are three exercises to try in your next practice. These will help your dancers learn to engage the glutes and bring awareness to which muscles to use in their favorite skills.
- Place your exercise band around the outside of your thighs, about midway between your hips and knees. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, in a parallel position, and your arms relaxed at your sides.
- Bend your knees so your legs are in a high squat position and clasp your hands together in front of your chest for balance.
- Move both thighs away from each other at the same time, so you feel resistance from your exercise band. Then release the tension by bringing your knees back to a parallel position, pointing to the front, in your high squat. This is a very small movement. Repeat for a total of 5 pulses.
- Straighten your legs and relax your arms, returning to your starting position.
- Repeat this exercise as many times as you can for 40 seconds.
Each time you straighten your legs between a set of pulses, squeeze your butt cheeks to keep the glutes engaged. This gives you the most gain from your glute warm-up. Be careful not to roll onto the outsides of your feet for a wider pulse. Keep your feet planted firmly on the floor, and remember these are very tiny movements, not a wide plié.
- Step into your band and place it on the outside of your thighs, right in the middle. Get into position by laying on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Bend your knees, keeping them stacked as best as you can. Lift your upper body, using your straight right arm to support yourself, like Princess Ariel sitting on her rock. Place your left hand on your left hip.
- Use your right arm and right shin to lift yourself into a side plank and lift your left leg as high as you can at the same time.
- Lower your left leg, so it rests on top of your right leg as you come back down to the floor in your Ariel position.
- Repeat this exercise as many times as you can for 40 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.
This exercise is advanced because it’s a combo move of a side plank and a clam shell, at the same time. It requires a strong core while kicking your glute muscles into high gear.
Focus on the glutes by keeping the hips stacked and your belly button pulled in, so you don’t turn your body in an effort to get a wider clam shell. Face forward and lift your top thigh as high as you can without twisting your body.
- Start by standing with your legs straight, feet together, and hands clasped in front of your chest.
- Take a wide step back with your right foot and bend both knees to a 90° angle. Your right shin is parallel to the floor, with your toes curled under your right foot. Your left thigh is parallel to the floor, creating a 90° angle, and your left foot is flat on the floor.
- Use your right toes to push yourself up out of the lunge, and return to the standing position with straight legs.
- Take a wide step back with your left foot, so your left shin is parallel to the floor with your toes curled under. Your right thigh is parallel to the floor with a flat right foot. Both legs are at a 90° angle.
- Use your left toes to push yourself back up, straightening your legs as you return to your beginning position.
- Repeat lunges, alternating sides, for 40 seconds.
Be sure to take a large step back, so you can make a 90° angle with both legs in your lunge. This is also how you keep the alignment of your knee over your ankle. When in your lunge, engage your glutes to keep a straight line from the back of your knee all the way up to your head. This prevents the hips from moving forward, straining your lower back, hips, and hamstrings.
Improve Your Favorite Skills
It’s clear that the glutes are a powerhouse group of muscles that are responsible for helping dancers execute incredible skills.
But they often get ignored.
If you fall into that group, it’s ok! You can start today.
Spend a few minutes with your dancers to strengthen their glutes during practice. No matter which skills you want to improve — for yourself or your dance team — you’re sure to see higher kicks, powerful jumps, and stable turns in no time.
Are your glutes feeling tight?
Try my favorite stretch to release some of that tension