Flexibility and strength are what makes a dance look elegant yet powerful. Just dancing itself can naturally increase these skills. However, exercising outside of practices will definitely speed up that process.
Here is the list of exercises I personally have found to be effective and would like to share include:
- Arms: Push-ups, arm circles, jumping jacks
- Core: Planks, bicycle crunches, Russian V-twist, bridges
- Back: Dorsal raises, downward-dog-to-cobra, supine spine twist, yoga
- Legs & Butt: Lunges, squats, burpees, mountain climbers
When I first started dancing, it was usually after classes. I did not think about extra workouts. I only did small physical training (PT) before practice to get my body warmed up. Over time, I did improve and became quite flexible, but I was still lacking in control. It was then that I learned that if I wanted to be a better dancer, I needed to put in the extra work. I started doing more exercises to train my core, back, arms, legs, you name it. Eventually, it paid off. I felt so much more in control of my body and my movements look better too!
Most of the exercises or PT that I do, do not require any equipment and are for about 30 – 45 minutes each day. The most I use is a yoga mat for body comfort.
Let us start with some simple arm exercises:
Push-ups are the simplest and frequently used exercises for arms training. Doing about 20 push-ups per set each day can make a difference. There are various forms of push-ups that focus on different muscles like the biceps, triceps, chest, etc.
For females who are just starting out, start with the push-up where your knees touch the ground. After a while, you can change it up to the regular push-ups. I still struggle with the regular push-ups, so do not be disheartened!
Arm circles are a very simple but painful workout. Just make sure you keep your back and arms straight. I used to do a lot of these for warm-up/PT. I would do these for about one whole song. Do remember to rotate in the reverse direction to really work the muscles. Be sure to cool down after this exercise and stretch those arms to prevent cramping.
Next, jumping jacks.
Jumping jacks work not only the arms but the whole body. I normally do jumping jacks as part of warming up the body before I get into the PT session. The duration of jumping jacks depends on the individual but I would do it for about one whole song. Personally, it is hard to keep track of the counting while maintaining good breathing.
From the arms, we move on to the core and back.
Common exercises like planks and crunches are definitely effective for the core. I would not suggest doing sit-ups because they can hurt the spine and lower back over-time. Bicycle crunches and Russian twists are another good way to improve the core. Doing them for 30-45 seconds for 3 sets.
Doing planks always has my core burning but it does work for me. I would do about 30 seconds to 1 minute of planks and 3 sets of them.
Focus on the lady on the left. Doing stretches like the table-top/bridges will test your flexibility and back strength. It will aid in stretching the core and leg muscles too. Holding it there for 30 seconds to 1 minute is a good start.
I remember the first time I did this exercise. I could not even hold it for 30 seconds. Gradually after a week or so, I could hold it for a good minute. If possible, get someone to help you especially at the beginning. It can be really hard to lift yourself up.
Another variation of bridges is a glute bridge. It trains the hip area, core, and thighs. Also, if you want a good butt, this helps a lot.
For the back, doing exercises like dorsal raises, downward-dog-to-cobra, and supine spine twists work the spine and the muscles around it.
I have taken a break from dancing for a while now so my body has become really stiff. When I first started doing these exercises, I really felt the stretch in my muscles. I did these exercises for a while, and it has reduced the stiffness of my back.
Doing yoga once or twice a week will really stretch the muscles all over your body. I never realized how stiff I actually was until I did about 30 minutes of yoga. It stretched my hamstrings, back, core, etc. It will hurt a lot at the start, but it does get better. This goes for all exercises too!
Moving on to the legs and butt!
Lunges, squats, wall squats are good exercises to work out the thighs and butt. These appear in pretty much every leg/butt exercise video. I quite like doing squats, usually doing them for 30-45 seconds for 3 sets. I would do about 30 seconds to 1 minute of wall squats.
Do note that when doing squats, your knees should not go past your toes. It can be bad for the knees in the long run.
Exercises like burpees and mountain climbers work the whole body and build muscles while skaters focus on the glutes. I personally am not a huge fan of burpees so I would normally do mountain climbers for about 30 seconds for 3 sets.
There are plenty of other exercises that are suitable for one’s flexibility and strength. The ones I have stated are those I have tried and personally found them to be effective for me. Do try and change up your exercises once in a while, do not always stick to the same workout routine. Your body will get used to the routine and eventually, the workout will not have the same effect as it initially had.
Just some tips to note before exercising:
- Be sure to warm up and do some light stretching before starting these exercises. After the exercises, it is good to do some cooling down exercises to stretch the muscles. It will reduce muscle ache during the next day.
- Do keep a bottle of water while exercising for hydration. Got to replenish for the lost sweat!
- If you have a yoga mat, it will be good for your feet, knees, and back when exercising.
- Finally, have a rest day. Working out every day can burn out your body. Let your muscles have sufficient time to rest and rejuvenate.
Images are taken from Pexels.