Switch Leaps, Switch Tilts, Side Leaps, and More! The Exercises You Need to Master These Skills


I think we can all agree that having enough strength and mobility to hit a full split at the top of a split leap is hard enough. Now imagine needing to hit that while your body is diagonal or quickly changing leading legs mid-air!


The skills we’re talking about today take the humble split leap and flip it on its head. 


That means dancers need to strengthen muscles that give them enough power to:


  1. Get the height they need and keep themselves in the air long enough to finish the skill
  2. Switch their legs quickly and cleanly
  3. Change hip placement or open hips to complete the skill
  4. Land gracefully (not like a giraffe on ice skates)


Whether it’s a switch leap or switch tilt — placement, speed, and power are the name of the game. 


Let’s break down which muscles dancers need to strengthen and which part of the skill they impact.

👉🏻 Get Height in Skills: Glutes, Hamstrings, and Core


Now the tricky thing about switch leaps and switch tilts is that your dancers need to change their legs in the air and change their hip placement. So you need them to get high enough to stay up in the air long enough to actually complete that part of the skill. 


The muscles that are going to be important for switch leaps and tilts are the glutes, hamstrings, and core. When the core and glutes work together, they create the resistance your dancers need to explode off of the floor. 

Here are two exercises your dancers can do to strengthen those muscles. 

180 Degree Jump

jump height for dancers exercise

  1. Begin standing in front of the mirror, with your feet a little wider than your hips.
  2. Bend both knees into a squat. You can hold your hands together in front of you for balance.
  3. Jump off of the floor. While you’re in the air, turn your entire body 180°.
  4. Land in a squat with your back to the mirror.
  5. Stand up with your legs straight. 
  6. Repeat your 180° jump again, in the same direction as the first time, so you’re now facing the mirror. 
  7. Repeat this exercise as many times as you can for 40 seconds. 


This exercise may be tough at first, but you’ll build up endurance quickly. Feel free to alternate directions in your jumps.

Glute Warm Up

lower body strength training for dancers

  1. Get your exercise band and put it on the outside of your thighs, about an inch or two above your knees. Stand with your feet about hip width apart.
  2. Bend your knees into a squat position. You can hold your hands in front of you for balance.
  3. Push your thighs slightly outward, five times.
  4. Then straighten your legs and return to your standing position.
  5. Repeat this exercise as many times as you can for 40 seconds.


Bring your band higher on your thighs to challenge your glutes even more.

👉🏻Switch Legs in the Air: Hip Strength and Adductors


The next important part of your dancers’ skills is switching their legs. It’s really important to focus on hip strength and adductors because these muscles give your dancers the strength and power they need to complete a leg switch. 


The adductors are your dancers’ inner thighs. When your dancers move one leg from front to back, especially in their switch leaps, they want strong and stable adductors. Adductors give your dancers the ability to switch legs quickly, before landing. 


And we can’t forget about hip strength. Hip strength makes it possible for dancers to adjust their pelvis, especially in a switch tilt. Strong hips give your dancers control over lifting and lowering their legs. Then you throw in switching the legs mid-air and this needs to be done quickly and cleanly. 


Your dancers need strong adductors and hips to be able to switch those legs and hit that tilt before they land. 


Here are two exercises that can help your dancers with switch tilts. 

Adductor Drill

exercises for lower body jumps for dancers

  1. Begin by laying on your back with your arms straight by your sides. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. And place a yoga block between your thighs, just below your knees.
  2. Do a bridge by lifting your butt off of the floor so your body is in a straight diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees.
  3. Squeeze your yoga block with your thighs for 4 seconds.
  4. Then loosen your grip on the yoga without letting it fall and return to the floor.
  5. Repeat as many times as possible for 30 seconds.


Try to relax your upper body and really focus on the adductors when you squeeze your yoga block during your bridge. 

Reverse Lunge

leg strength for dancers leaps

  1. Start by standing with your feet hip width apart. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  2. Step back with your right leg, into a lunge.
  3. Then return to your standing position.
  4. Repeat on the other side. 
  5. Do this exercise as many times as you can for 40 seconds.


Do your best to evenly place your weight between your legs during your lunges.

👉🏻 Hit Full Range of Motion: Turn Out and Hip Mobility


Remember to pay attention to developing explosive power. When your dancers are in the air switching legs, there is an explosive element to completing that skill before they land. In a switch tilt, dancers need turn out and hip mobility. Even in a side leap, turn out and the ability to rotate the hips create the lines you want for your dancers. 


Strengthen the rotators and focus on exercises that increase hip mobility. Hip mobility is the hip’s ability to hit its full range of motion through the joint. If your dancers lack hip mobility, their turnout is going to suffer. 


Try these exercises to see improvement.

90/90 Hips

hip mobility exercise for dancers

  1. Sit on the floor. Place your hands on the floor behind you for support.
  2. Place both feet flat on the floor in front of you, wider than shoulder length apart. This will put your legs at a 90° angle.
  3. Rotate your hips to the right so you’re resting on your right butt cheek. The inside of your left leg and the outside of your right leg should now touch the floor. 
  4. Rotate your hips to the left, moving through your starting position. Now you should be resting on your left butt cheek. Your inner right leg and outer left leg should be touching the floor. 
  5. Repeat this exercise, alternating sides, for 40 seconds.


Try to keep a 90° angle on your legs when you’re “resting” your legs on the floor. Continue to move through these 90/90 positions without pausing to help increase your range of motion. 


Cossack Squat

lower body strength for jumps

  1. Stand with your feet in a wide second position with your hands clasped in front of your chest for balance. 
  2. Bend your right leg so it’s in a squat position while your left leg stays straight. Sit back into your squat with the right leg. Keep your left foot flexed with your heel on the ground with your toes toward the ceiling.
  3. Return to your standing position.
  4. Repeat on the other side. 
  5. Alternate sides for 40 seconds.


This is a fluid exercise. Continue moving through the positions, without stopping until the time is up.

👉🏻 Landing and Skill Transition: Glutes and Core


Finally, let’s talk about landing. And not only landing gracefully (without a thud) but being able to transition into another skill. We need to focus on the glutes, core, and plyometric exercises so your dancers can actually practice controlling their landings. 

Some of my favorite exercises are below. 

Banded Half Squat

safe landing exercises for dancers jumps

  1. Put your exercise band on the outside of your thighs, about halfway between your knees and your hips. Hold your hands together in front of your chest. 
  2. Bend both of your knees so you’re in a squat.
  3. Straighten your legs halfway. Hold for 2 seconds.
  4. Bend your knees so you’re deeper in your squat again.
  5. Then straighten your knees all the way to a standing position.
  6. Repeat as many times as you can for 40 seconds.


You’re doing a full squat, up to a half squat, down to a full squat and THEN you straighten your legs.

One Leg Skip

landing exercises for dancers jumps

  1. Stand with your arms by your sides and your feet together.
  2. Bring your right foot behind you, into a lunge.
  3. Then bring your right knee as high as you can in front of you, while you use your left leg to jump into the air.
  4. Land back in your lunge, without letting your right foot touch the floor on your way down from your jump.
  5. Repeat as many times as possible for 40 seconds.
  6. Repeat on the other side.


Focus on a gentle landing and increasing your ability to jump up for ease in skill transitions. 


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