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7 strength exercises for dancers

So it’s no surprise that mastering such a uniquely beneficial mind-body exercise demands a little extra support in the training department. “It’s crucial that dancers protect their joints and muscles, and strength is the number one injury-prevention tool,” says Maxwell, who adds that low-back issues are common among dancers. “When you dance, your hips and core work together. If those muscles are weak, it pulls on the lumbar spine and causes low-back pain.” To counter this and stay in peak form for dancing and other athletic pursuits, Maxwell recommends doing the following moves as a circuit (do it three times through with one minute rest between rounds) two to three times a week. Maxwell says you’ll see the impact within two to four weeks: “Your dance form will improve and you’ll have better posture, a stronger core, and all-around greater stability.”

Resistance band chop

Attach a resistance band with two handles to a stable base of support (or to the clip on an adjustable cable at its highest setting). Kneel on left knee with right foot flat on the ground in front of you. (You can kneel on a yoga mat for comfort.) Extend arms to grab band with both hands, over to right above right shoulder. Engage core, squeeze glutes, and use torso to pull handles down and across your body, past your opposite hip. Return to starting position and repeat for 8 to 12 reps. Switch sides and repeat 8 to 12 reps for one set. “Try to stay tall and don’t slouch so you keep your hip stable,” says Maxwell.

Single-leg deadlift with kettlebell

Stand with feet together and hold a kettlebell (choose one you can confidently lift 20 times) with right hand in front of thigh, arm extended, and palm facing in. Lift your right leg off the floor and bend knee to 90 degrees in front of you. Keeping your back flat, hinge at your hips and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the ground. Extend right leg behind you as you lower kettlebell to the ground. Bend right elbow to 90 degrees, lifting kettlebell to hip height, then lower. Rise up to starting position and repeat for 8 to 12 reps. Switch sides and do 8 to 12 reps for one set. “The biggest key to this movement is trying to stay tall throughout, keeping hips parallel to the ground so you create a straight line from head to toe,” says Maxwell.

Inline band lift

Attach a resistance band with two handles to a stable base of support (or to the clip on an adjustable cable at its lowest setting). Kneel on right knee with left foot flat on the ground in front of you, to the left of band. (Kneel on a yoga mat for comfort.) Extend arms to grab handles with both hands, over to right at hip level. Engage core, squeeze glutes, and use torso to pull handles diagonally up and across your body, past your opposite hip. Return to starting position and repeat for 8 to 12 reps. Switch sides and repeat 8 to 12 reps for one set. “This is great for dancers who do a lot of spins and turns,” says Maxwell. “Doing this move will strengthen and improve rotational movement.”

Lateral step-up with kettlebell

Start standing to the left side of a box or step. Step onto the box with your right foot, holding a kettlebell on your left shoulder. Step up, lifting your left leg upward and bend knee to 90 degrees, while bending your right elbow to 90 degrees. “Make sure to keep your heel on the box,” says Maxwell. Hold, then lower your left foot down to the ground and lower right arm down to sides for one rep. Do 8 to 12 reps, then repeat on other side for one set. “This is a great move to improve your side-to-side movements and your jumping abilities,” Maxwell notes, adding that it can be done without a kettlebell while you get acclimated to the move.

Medicine ball throw

Grab a medicine ball and stand with feet shoulder-width apart, with a wall on your left. Step forward with your left leg and lower into a lunge, so your thigh is parallel to the ground while twisting from your waist as far as you can to the right, bringing medicine ball to right hip. Engage core, then explode out of lunge, straightening right knee up as you throw ball across body to wall. Catch ball for one rep, then repeat 8 to 12 times; Switch sides and do 8 to 12 reps to complete one set. “The split stance in this move helps promote hip stability,” says Maxwell.

Single-leg hip bridge

Lie face-up with left foot on a medicine ball, right leg extended diagonally toward sky and arms extended out to sides with palms up, hands in line with hips. Press into left foot and squeeze glutes as you lift hips up off the ground. Lower back down to start. Do 8 to 12 reps; switch sides and repeat. “This is all about hip extension, which is incredibly important for dancers,” says Maxwell.

Squat rotation

Attach a resistance band with two handles to a stable base of support (or to the clip on an adjustable cable at its lowest setting). Facing the attachment point, grab a handle in each hand. Extend arms, palms facing down. Initiate the squat by bending the knees and sinking the hips at a 90-degree angle. Press through the heels to stand and draw left elbow back while twisting from waist and extending left leg behind you so left foot is almost perpendicular to right foot. Return to squat position and repeat. Do 8 to 12 reps; switch sides and repeat.

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