Dancing can be fun, especially with friends and loved ones. But for some, it’s their lives, their livelihood. From catching their partners to jumping up and down at fast paces, muscular strength and power play an incredibly important role. But thanks to functional training, which is basically a type of exercise that mimics the movements that our daily life demands, dancers can improve their strength, flexibility, and endurance, to perform well in the world of dance. In this post, we share with you the importance of functional training for dancers and various exercises that we believe will prove to be helpful for you.
Benefits of Functional Training for Dancers
When you see a dance performance, you are often mesmerized by how effortlessly and gracefully the dancers move. But have you ever wondered about the physical demands of dancing? You see, each and every twist, turn, leap, and spin requires strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. And as such, dancers usually have their own ways of training to prepare their body before any performance. And this is where functional training can help dancers in so many ways.
As we have mentioned earlier, functional training is basically a type of exercise that mimics the movements that our daily life demands. Instead of working on just one muscle, it works many muscles at once. This training helps dancers remember movements better, so that they can dance more smoothly and naturally.
In addition to traditional functional training methods, dancers can further enhance their training experience through personalized guidance. Personal training sessions provide tailored workouts and one-on-one coaching, addressing the specific needs and goals of each dancer. This level of customization can significantly accelerate progress and improve technique.
Moreover, the convenience and accessibility of online zoom classes have revolutionized the way dancers engage with functional training.
1. Core Strength and Stability
If you are a dancer then you probably know that the core is the foundation of a dancer’s body. It helps you in maintaining your posture, balance and even in controlling complex movements.
Here are some strength training exercises you could try to enhance your core strength and stability:
Planks and Variations
- Modified Plank:
- Begin by lying on your belly.
- Lift your body up using your elbows and knees.
- Keep your head, neck, and back straight.
- Ensure your shoulders are right above your elbows.
- Tighten your stomach muscles and hold for three long breaths.
- Relax and start again.
- Modified Plank Variation
- Start in the basic plank position.
- Lift your right arm up and hold. Breathe deeply three times. Swap to your left arm and repeat.
- Now, lift your right leg up and hold. Breathe deeply three times. Do the same with your left leg.
- For a tougher exercise, lift your left arm and right leg together. Then, switch by lifting your right arm and left leg.
- Side Plank:
- Start by lying on your left side.
- Use your left elbow to prop up your body, keeping everything in a straight line.
- Your right arm can relax by your side.
- Tighten your stomach muscles and hold for three long breaths.
- Try it on your right side next.
- For a tougher version, instead of resting on your elbow, straighten your left arm and lift your body higher. Point your right hand to the sky.
- Start by lying on your back with both knees pulled to your chest.
- Place your hands behind your head, spreading your elbows out wide.
- Lift your head slightly.
- Rotate your left shoulder in the direction of your right knee while stretching out your left leg.
- Now, turn your right shoulder toward your left knee while straightening your right leg.
- Keep switching between sides.
- Scissor Kick
- Start by lying flat on your back.
- Raise your right leg straight up, forming a right angle with the floor. Put your hands behind this raised leg, gently pulling it closer, and lift your head slightly. Keep your left leg just a bit above the ground.
- Change legs – bring your left leg up and let the right one hover just above the ground.
- Keep alternating between the two legs.
- Boat Pose
- Start by sitting down with your knees bent.
- Place your hands behind you on the floor for support.
- Lift your feet off the ground, so they’re level with the floor. As you do this, pull in your belly and lift your chest. Point your toes upward.
- For more of a challenge, stretch your arms out in front of you.
- Dolphin Plank Pose
- Start on your hands and knees. Make sure that your hands are under your shoulders while your knees are under your hips.
- Drop down to your forearms. Make sure that your elbows are right below your shoulders.
- Extend your feet back, one at a time, until your body forms a straight line from head to heel.
- Push your shoulders away from the ground, and tighten your stomach to keep your hips in line.
- Keep your head relaxed, either gazing at your feet or between your arms.
- Hold tight for a few moments, feeling your core and arm muscles working.
- To relax, drop your knees down and stretch back into a resting position.
2. Balance and Stability
Balance isn’t just about standing on one foot. When you are a dancer, it is also about controlling your body during fast dance moves. Be it you’re just starting or are an experienced dancer, remember that strong stability and balance make your moves much smoother and more graceful.
Let’s take a look at exercises that enhance balance and stability.
- Yoga Tree Pose
- Begin by standing tall with a straight back. Ensure your feet are together and touching.
- Let your arms hang relaxed on either side of your body.
- Take a moment to breathe deeply. Find a spot or object in front of you to focus on, helping you maintain balance.
- Carefully transfer your weight onto your left leg.
- Gradually lift your right foot off the ground. Place the sole of your right foot on the inside of your left thigh, toes pointing downward. Ensure your pelvis is level and straight.
- Raise your arms overhead, reaching towards the sky.
- Join your palms together, forming an inverted V shape with your arms.
- Single Leg Stands
- Stand upright with feet positioned hip-width apart.
- Slowly raise one foot, standing solely on the other.
- Engage your core muscles to maintain balance.
- Fix your eyes on a specific point in front of you to help with stability.
- Maintain this position for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Switch to the other leg and repeat.
3. Flexibility and Mobility
If you are a dancer, then you must know that flexibility allows you to move freely and widely.
Here are some Let’s exercises that will give you more flexibility and mobility.
- Dynamic Leg Swings
- Stand on one leg.
- Gently swing the other leg forward and back.
- Start with small swings, then go bigger as you feel comfortable.
- Switch to swinging your leg side-to-side.
- Wide-angle Seated Forward Bend
- Sit down with legs spread out, forming a 90-degree angle.
- If you can’t sit straight, lift your hips by sitting on a yoga block. This helps straighten your lower back.
- Stretch your arms out in front of you and point your toes upward.
- Bend forward from your waist, keeping your back straight and tummy tight.
- Stay in this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
4. Strength Training
As a dancer some, if not most, of your dance moves will include jumping, leaping and landing gracefully, among others. And to execute this to perfection, you need to have lower and upper body strength.
Here are some strength training exercises that will definitely help you in your performances.
- Glute Bridges
- Lie flat on your back, bending your knees with feet flat and spread hip-distance apart. Make sure that your feet are a short distance from your buttocks and let your arms rest beside you, palms facing up.
- Tighten your abs and buttocks as you begin lifting your hips up.
- Bring your hips up until there’s a straight line from your knees to your hips and then to your shoulders.
- At the topmost position, hold for two seconds, making sure your buttocks are clenched tight.
- Gradually bring your hips back to the ground, maintaining the tightness in your glutes and abs.
- Begin on the floor with hands placed a bit wider than shoulder-width.
- Keep your arms almost straight, but not locked.
- Stretch your legs out behind you, balancing on hands and toes. Keep your feet about hip-width apart.
- Make sure your stomach is tight, imagining pulling your belly button to your spine.
- Breathe in and slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until they form a 90-degree angle.
- Breathe out and use your chest to push yourself back up to the starting position.
5. Plyometrics and Power
For those graceful leaps and quick footwork during a dance performance, explosive strength is a must-have skill for all dancers.
Here are some Plyometrics exercises that can help you increase power.
- Box Jumps
(Please note that for this, you will need a box(s), step, sturdy bench, or chair, preferably something that is between 12 – 24 inches in height).
- Position yourself a small step away from the box, feet set apart at shoulder width.
- Slightly bend your knees and lower your body a bit, stretching your arms behind you.
- Push off the ground, using the slight squat’s energy, and jump onto the box, swinging your arms forward.
- Make sure you land softly, with your knees a little bent.
- Carefully step backward off the box and get ready for the next jump.
- Standing Long Jump
- You can start by standing up straight, and your arms raised high.
- Move your arms down fast and bend into a squat.
- With a quick move, roll forward, kick your legs out, and move your arms ahead.
- While in the air, pull your legs forward for landing.
- Touch the ground gently, landing in a squat, and make sure you’re steady on your feet.
6. Coordination and Agility
In dancing, your agility is quite important. It’s all about how quickly and smoothly you can move and change positions. For you to master this, you need to stay balanced (whether you’re still or moving), coordinate your movements, pick up the pace, use your strength, and keep your endurance up.
- Side Shuffles
- Stand in the center, ready to run: bent arms, soft knees, and a straight back.
- Step forward using your right foot.
- Take a diagonal step back and to the side with your left foot.
- Bring your right foot back next to your left.
- Now, step forward with your left foot.
- You’ll have moved forward, backward, and to the left in a shuffle.
- High Knees
- Begin at your starting point.
- Run ahead, keeping on your tiptoes, lifting your knees high, and moving your arms.
- Focus on raising your knees up rather than how far you step.
Read more : Benefits of Functional Training After Pregnancy
7. Endurance Training
Cardio endurance is about how well your heart and lungs work to keep you going during tough activities. Cardio training is key for dancers. It helps you last through fast dances and keeps your moves sharp. Plus, with good cardio, you’re less likely to get hurt.
Here are some endurance exercise that you could always try at home or wherever you are:
- Brisk Walking
- Running or jogging
8. Injury Prevention
Dance training is as tough and demanding as training for competitive sports. Just like athletes, dancers can get hurt, especially in areas like their feet, ankles, lower back, hips, and knees.
Here are some injury prevention exercises that we believe could help you in the long run.
- Seat Stretch
- Begin by sitting with legs extended straight ahead.
- Grasp your shins or ankles.
- Bend forward from your hips, aiming your chin towards your knees.
- Maintain this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Standing Quad Stretch
- Stand upright, using a wall or chair for balance.
- Lift one foot behind you.
- Using the hand on the same side, grab the foot at the ankle.
- Gently pull the foot towards your buttocks, feeling the stretch in your thigh.
- Ensure knees are close together and hips are facing forward.
- Maintain for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Gently release and switch to the other leg.
9. Specific Dance Movements
To be a great dancer, you need to focus on moves unique to your dance style. Think about it: in ballet, you’ll often see toe stretches and knee bends, while hip-hop has those cool quick moves followed by freezes. Training in these moves can help you get better at dancing all the while staying more safe.
So, the next time you train, you might want to step outside of your comfort zone and try some, if not all, of the dance techniques.
10. Rest and Recovery
Taking a break gives your body the chance to heal after tough workouts. It allows your muscles to repair, boosts your energy, refreshes your mind, and lowers the risk of getting injured, especially from doing too much over time.
During your recovery time, you could go for low impact exercise such as pilates and yoga.
Pilates: Pilates is a gentle workout that uses specific exercises to improve balance, strengthen your core, increase flexibility, and boost your mood.
Yoga: Yoga is an awesome way to strengthen and stretch your body while also relaxing your mind at the same time. Different types of yoga mix body positions, breathing exercises, and calm thinking. It can also help with pain and stress.
11. Cross-Training for Dancers
In dance class, you cover a range of exercises. Cross-training helps by improving flexibility for better extensions, building strength to protect against injuries, boosting cardio to dance longer without tiring, enhancing agility for quicker movements, and training balance for safer and more graceful performances.
Well there you have it, dear dancers. You can now see just how effective functional training can be for your dance career. From activities as simple as running or jogging improving your cardiovascular fitness to planks giving you core strength and stability, these types of exercises will help you become a better dancer so that you can enjoy each and every of your performances with grace and power.
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Until next time, stay safe and healthy!