“Point those toes!”
You’ve probably shouted these words over the music to your dancers about a thousand times. Pointed feet make lines look longer and are aesthetically pleasing. But there is a little more to pointed feet than just looking pretty.
Many coaches find that when they tell their dancers to point their toes, dancers scrunch up their toes. This gives the illusion that they are doing what you asked. But in reality, they’re just making the shape they think you want to see. They may not have the strength in their feet to execute a correct pointed foot.
That means they could use a few minutes to focus on foot and ankle strength.
And you can help them out with that!
Why do dancers need strong feet and ankles?
About 50% of dancers’ injuries are in the foot or ankle1.
(Are you cringing too?)
Help your dancers minimize injuries so they can dance longer and healthier by teaching them how to strengthen their feet and ankles. Strong feet and ankles help improve balance and posture and significantly lower the risk of injuries.
You can’t build a house lacking a foundation. Likewise, dancers need their foundation – strong feet and ankles – to help them perform skills in the safest way possible. It’s the foundation of everything dancers do, from jumping higher in leaps to consistently nailing a triple turn to a solid landing on the floor.
The feet and ankles are the foundation for strong, pointed toes that will improve your dancers’ skills!
How to strengthen your dancers’ feet and ankles
Here are a few exercises you can do at the next practice with your dancers. You’ll need a theraband and a ball for this training plan to get the most out of these exercises.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, in parallel, and place your ball between your ankles. Put your hands on your hips for balance.
- Do 20 elevés, squeezing the ball with your ankles, so it doesn’t fall or slip out from under you.
Your goal with this exercise is to keep the feet in alignment to strengthen the correct muscles in your ankles. Ensure that your dancers’ feet are not rolling in toward the arch or out onto their pinky toes. The feet should go up and down in a straight line without wobbling.
- Lay your theraband flat on the floor in a vertical line in front of you, so there aren’t any wrinkles. Then place the ball of your right foot on top of the edge of your theraband. Your left foot should be further back behind you, like a relaxed fourth position, for better balance. Put your arms on your hips.
- Use your toes to pick up the theraband and release it, so it scrunches up by the ball of your foot.
- Continue this exercise until the entire theraband is collected under the ball of your foot. It may move to the side of your foot, and that’s completely ok.
- Repeat twice, and then repeat on your left side.
This exercise focuses on strengthening the muscles in your arch for those banana feet that dancers want and judges love. Encourage your dancers to think about working those tiny arch muscles. This teaches the brain which muscles to use and shows your dancers how it should feel when they use the correct muscles.
Point and Flex
- Sit on the floor with your back tall, legs straight out in front of you, and your right foot flexed. Put your theraband behind the top half of your right foot and hold one end in each hand.
- First, use the muscles in your arch to go to demi point, keeping the toes flexed.
- Next, point your toes against the resistance of your theraband.
- Then, flex the toes, keeping the arch in your foot.
- Return to your flexed foot position.
- Do as many repetitions as possible for 30-40 seconds on your right foot. Then repeat on the left side.
This exercise is great for strengthening the toes so your dancers aren’t crunching their toes. Instead, they point with long, strong toes that improve lines, making the legs look longer. If your dancers need more resistance, have them pull tighter on their theraband to increase difficulty.
Where to find equipment for these exercises
If you don’t have any exercise equipment, you have a few options. Try searching “playground ball” on Amazon. You can use any size you like, but I recommend a smaller ball, so your ankles stay aligned with your body. If you don’t want to buy a new ball, try rolling a towel and putting it between your ankles.
Amazon also carries therabands (seriously, is there anything they don’t have?). Choose your resistance level or a theraband pack to continue your strength training as your feet get stronger. For a homemade version, use an old pair of tights or leggings for your toe curls and point and flex exercises.
Let’s get started!
The number one reason to strengthen your dancers’ feet and ankles is to prevent injuries.
When you add a few minutes of strength training to each practice, you reduce the possibility of injury to the #1 area of the body — the feet and ankles.
That means your dancers can build a strong foundation that leads to clean turns, powerful jumps, and long lines.