List Of Dance Exercises
Dance is a wonderful form of expression while also being a great way to work out and do some cardio while having fun. Dance is a universal practice with many different styles that have been practiced as long as history has been recorded. Whether you are a professional or just like to dance for fun, it is a great way to get yourself moving and build strength throughout your body. Benefits of dancing include better coordination and balance, improved heart and lung functions, and greater flexibility. It is also linked to more self confidence and improving mental health. Below are some dance warm ups and exercises for dancers of all levels.
List of Dance Exercises
- Bent Knee Wall Stretch
- Foot Rolls
- Forward and Back Tilts
- Cool Downs
This may go without saying for some, but flexibility is key for a dancer’s body. Just like in any workout, it’s important to warm up one’s muscles to increase flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. Stretching gets your blood circulation flowing which helps with your body’s mobility. Stretching also reduces lactic acid in the body, which lessens muscle soreness after a workout. When a dancer does not stretch before and after their sessions, they are at risk of injuries like pulling a muscle. Before your class, start with dynamic stretches, which means motions that warm up your joints and aren’t held for any length of time. Static stretches can be performed at the end of a class, and are stretches which extend the limbs and are held for a period of time. These are best to perform at the end for your cool down and to let your muscles recover from the workout they just had.
For many classical dancers, the class will start at the barre. The barre is intended for warming up the left and right sides of your body before your more intensive dance workout. While it is most commonly used in ballet classes, the barre can be helpful to dancers of any style or level. The barre helps dancers to find their balance with the help of a stationary support rail at average waist height. Exercises and dance positions are often learned at the barre before they are taken to the floor. Dancers may also practice with a barre to replicate the presence of a partner in their choreography when another dancer may not be available. Dancers who work with a barre are able to learn key elements which help a successful dancer, such as balance, precision, strength, and flexibility. If a barre is not readily available to you, you may substitute a stool, chair, table, or desk.
Stretching and Strength Exercises
Bent Knee Wall Stretch
A good exercise for the feet and ankles is a bent knee wall stretch. This stretch warms up and lengthens the lower body in the calves, knees, feet, and ankles. To perform this exercise, place your toes on the wall about an inch off the floor, while keeping your heels on the floor. With one leg at a time, bend your knee forward to touch the wall. Continue to do this exercise on each side. If done correctly, you will feel this stretch in your calves. These exercises strengthen your calves and ankles, while also offering relief of tension in the feet.
A bridge is an exercise which focuses on building strength in the gluteus and hamstring muscles, both essential to a dancer. It also works out the core and lengthens the spine. Pulling a hamstring is a common injury in most aerobic sports and will cause stiffness and pain in the back of the leg, and keep you off your feet depending on the severity of the injury. It can be avoided with proper warmups and stretching exercises. To perform a bridge, lie with your back on the ground, and your knees bent with your feet flat on the ground under them. Raise your hips while tightening your abs and buttocks. Do not raise your hips too high; the proper height is when they are at a straight line from the knees to shoulders. Tighten your core and remain in this position for 20-30 seconds before returning to your starting position. Repeat this several times.
Squats build muscles all over the body. Doing squats every day strengthens the core and lower muscles of the body like the glutes and thighs. To do a basic squat, begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your back straight. Then, lower your body into a sitting position with your chest upright. You will feel the squat in your glutes, thighs, and abdominals when doing it correctly. To engage more muscles, you can use a kettlebell or weights to raise the intensity of your exercise.
A great way to make sure you don’t lose your breath during a dance class is to practice cardio at least 15 minutes a day. Controlled breath is important for a dancer’s stamina. Some good workouts for training are things like jump rope, swimming, and running. Cardio keeps your lungs and heart strong, and improves your body's endurance and minimizes shortness of breath.
Skaters are a cardio and aerobic exercise which work the muscles in the lower body and abdominals. They also improve your stability, balance, and coordination. Start with your feet at shoulder’s length, then do a lateral jump with your leg in front bending 90 degrees, and the back foot going into a reverse lunge behind the front foot. This motion is repeated on each side and mimics a skating motion. This exercise works the glutes, calves, and abdominals. Try to do this for a continuous 20-30 seconds to get your heart rate going.
If the idea of going to a class or dancing in front of people intimidates you, never fear! The internet has a huge variety of classes which are hosted online, some live, and some pre-recorded. It’s a great way to not have to leave your house and still get exercise. There are a wide range of classes that may pique your interest, such as zumba, hip hop, jazzercise, and barre classes. Video classes are easy to follow along with and do not have the societal pressure of a crowded dance studio. Many dance teachers charge for their classes, but if that does not appeal to you, then consider looking at Youtube’s library of dance videos. There are many wonderful artists putting their work out for free that you can follow along with at your own pace.
A dancer’s strength in their feet and ankles is essential. Consider doing a foot roll with a tennis ball or water bottle a couple of times a day and roll your foot over the item, focusing on any points of pain or tension. This exercise helps to relieve plantar fasciitis pain, a common cause of heel pain.
Forward and Back Tilt
It is critical to take care of your spine and neck when you are a dancer. Most choreography utilizes head and neck movements during a dance. Stretching your neck at the end of a workout helps your neck and spine to recover from intense aerobic activity. A forward and back tilt can be done on your feet or while sitting down. Whichever you choose, remember to keep your spine straight, as slouching and bad posture contribute to neck and back pain and will make this exercise ineffective. Start with your head straight and forward, before slowly lowering your chin to your chest. Hold this for 15-30 seconds before slowly moving your head backward so that it is tilted towards the ceiling. Hold for a shorter time, about ten seconds. Repeat this motion about ten times.
Just as important as your workout is your cool down. A cool down allows your body to reduce its heart rate from being in exercise mode and readjust to continue daily activities. Do some passive stretching to ease the onset of muscle soreness and let your breathing turn to a long and deep rhythm.