Your Strength Training Plan For Every Season of Competitive Dancers


Whether you’re a dance team dancer or coach or part of a studio, there are three seasons throughout the year for dancers who compete. 


Those seasons are: off-season, in-season, and competition season


The difference between in-season and competition season is that when your dance team is in season they’re learning routines and working on skills. Your dancers aren’t quite hitting the floor with performances yet. During competition season, you focus on perfecting the routines your dancers have already learned. 


If you’re not a coach, studio, or dancer who competes, I’m sure you have recitals or performances you prepare for throughout the year. The training plans laid out below will still benefit you and your dancers for your annual show.


Each one of these seasons has a different need when it comes to your strength training, goals, and exercise plan. 


Today we’re going to break down these three different seasons and walk you through how you should alter your training based on the season you and your dancers are in.


Let’s get you on the right track. 

Competition Season Strength Training


You and your dancers are in your competition season, ready to hit the stage. 


I want to remind you that a lack of strength training can actually result in decreased performance and loss of strength after your dancers have worked so hard during your off-season. So even though time is short during your competition season…


Don’t skip strength training


Strength training doesn’t require as much time during competition season, because you’ve built up your dancers’ strength during the off-season. That means you can decrease the number of days your dancers workout and increase the intensity. So instead of doing a 12-minute circuit, the meatiest part of your practice is going to be the warm-up. 


Your goal during competition season is:


  • Injury management 
  • Balancing out the body 
  • Skill specific exercises 
  • Building endurance 


I recommend that you pick three skill-specific exercises. Decide where your dancers’ skills need improvement to help you pick the three exercises that will benefit them the most. Encourage your dancers to have a list of exercises (specific to them) on hand to do when you’re at practices as well. Then, each dancer gets a more individualized training plan.


There are two times you can incorporate these exercises.

1. Warm Ups

Your dancers can do these exercises before doing the skill that needs improvement. So maybe your dancers are doing kicks across the floor or practicing the turn set that’s in your routine. Do three exercises specific to those skills, before you practice them. 


During your dancers’ warm-up, focus on unilateral exercises. These include exercises like lunges and single-leg deadlifts, where you’re focusing on one leg at a time. If you think about it, during competition season, dancers tend to dance on one side at a time. You don’t choreograph a routine doing the same steps on each side. So strengthen each side individually, to avoid injuries from overuse of your dancers’ muscles. 


During your warm-up, focus on: 


  • Core engagement
  • Glute engagement
  • Hip strength
  • Dynamic stretching

2. After the routine

You can do these exercises after you run your routine. So if you run your routine and your dancers’ a la secondes are sloppy and they’re dropping their leg during the turn, do your three turn exercises instead of just trying to do those turns again.


You’ll see your dancers’ skills improve. Strength training exercises for the legs and hips will help your dancers build the strength they need to hold their leg up, without dropping it during their a la secondes.

In-Season Strength Training Plan


In-season for many dancers is in the early fall. This is when you’re not quite competing yet. But you’re starting to think about what happens when your dancers hit the stage. 


Your goal is to train for:


  • Overall strength
  • Endurance 
  • Specific skills 
  • Consistency 


Use this time to remind yourself and your dancers of the benefits of strength training


Have you noticed more core and glute engagement, flexibility, or cleaner skills from strength training with your dancers? 

Have your dancers noticed improvements in themselves?


When you’re deciding which exercises to do, take a hard look at your dancers’ skills. 


Is your dance team always dropping their heels on turns? 

Is your dancers’ jump height really low? 


Create your training plans around your dance team’s specific goals. 


A sample training week includes:


  • 3 days of training 
  • 10 to 15-minute workouts


You can do your strength training exercises all at once during your practices or have your dancers do them on their own. If you’re doing them during practices, feel free to break them up into 5-minute chunks.


First, would be a warm-up for the core and glutes. Make sure you include dynamic stretches to prepare your dancers for the demands of practice. 


Next, add in 5 -10 minutes of our “strengthnique”. This is where you work on specific exercises for the skills that are challenging your dancers. So if your dance team is dropping their heels, you’ll work on ankle exercises. If their arms are always dropping, focus on back exercises. If their jump height is low, concentrate on the glutes. 


Then, create your circuits. When you’re doing circuits, begin at 30-second intervals. Then increase by 5 seconds each week until your dancers build enough strength and endurance to last for 40-60 seconds, depending on their skill level and age. 


Remember to pick exercises specifically for your dancer’s skills that need to improve.


Off-Season Strength Training Plan


For many dancers, this is your summer. 


Your goal is to train for


  • Mind-muscle awareness 
  • Overall strength
  • Endurance 
  • Consistency


Because I know (as well as you do) that once you’re in your in-season, or competition season, making time for strength training becomes much more difficult.


Here’s an ideal week of training


  • 3 to 5 days of cross-training 
  • 10 to 30 minutes of workouts 


For example, during practice or at home, you’d start your dancers with a warm-up. Alternate between core and glute exercises like Clamshells and Up-Down Planks


I like to do: 


  1. 20 clamshells on the right
  2. 20 clamshells on the left
  3. 8 up down planks 
  4. Repeat circuit 3 times 


Customize your circuits just like you did with your in-season training plan.


Pick your exercises based on where you feel like your dancers need more mind-muscle awareness. If you’re not quite sure, you really can’t go wrong with a circuit that includes a core exercise, a full-body exercise, and an endurance exercise. Have you dancers work through each exercise then repeat. 


When in doubt, no matter where you are in your season, make strength training an essential part of your program. 

It’s a guaranteed way to increase your dancers’ skills and help decrease injury throughout your dance seasons.

About to enter your off-season? 


Here are two ways to make sure you’re improving as much as possible:


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