The expert: Jenna Matroni, Tier 3+ trainer at Flatiron in New York City
The interpretation: “There’s a reason football players take ballet,” says Matroni, who’s classically trained in the genre as well as in lyrical, tap, and jazz. “Dancers make strong athletes because we understand the importance and feel of correct posture, timing, flexibility, and agility.”
By that logic, it makes sense that Matroni relies on her instincts as a professional dancer to master heavy lifts and more advanced exercises. Even seemingly minor habits, like where you look during a deadlift, can affect your entire body and mean the difference between safe execution and injury. “Looking up squeezes the spinal cord and causes your hips to drop while looking down rounds your upper back,” she says. “Instead, I keep a neutral neck and visualize my spine elongated, as if I’m doing barre work, to ensure proper form.”
Because of the overlap between dance and lifting, Matroni’s fundamentals workout, below, combines traditional moves with elements such as instability and precise timing. The resulting routine has an extra layer of complexity that helps you develop the skills mentioned above.
Doing a push-up in arabesque, for example, has all the benefits of the standard version while also challenging your balance and further engaging the quads and glutes. Performing vertical presses in straddle forces proper posture through the whole back, which will translate into better form during heavy lifts.
Do this routine 2 to 3 times per week in combination with 30 to 60 minutes of cardio at 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate for optimal results. For each move, choose a weight that allows you to comfortably complete all reps and up the load as you gain strength.
The benefits: improves flexibility; forces proper posture in the entire back, which translates to heavy lifts
Sit on the floor with feet as far apart as possible, legs extended, spine straight, and with a ViPR in front your chest. Press the ViPR overhead, then return to start for one rep. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
The benefits: builds extra strength in the back and biceps
Hold a pull-up bar in an underhand grip with hands at shoulder width and your chin above the bar. Take at least 3 seconds to lower your body, just as a dancer would while bringing their partner down from an overhead lift, then quickly pull yourself back up to start for one rep. (Use a box for support if needed.) Perform 3 sets of 5 reps.
The benefits: increases core, glute, and quad activation; promotes balance
Get in a high plank with shoulders stacked over wrists, the left foot resting on a low box or a step with two risers, and the right leg extended and raised. Lower into a push-up, then return to start for one rep. Perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat. Complete 3 sets.
The benefits: trains the obliques; improves proprioception, important during instability training and everyday activities like running
Get on all fours with hips stacked over knees and shoulders stacked over wrists with a dumbbell in the right hand. Row the weight up to your shoulder, lower it back to start, then extend your left leg behind you, arching it out to the left and back to start for one rep. Perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat. Complete 3 sets.
The benefits: forces the upper and lower body to work in different planes at once, which boosts coordination
Lie on your back with knees bent at 90 degrees, shins parallel to the ground, and arms in first position (extended above you) with a dumbbell in each hand. Simultaneously lower the right leg until it’s parallel to and hovering above the floor and lower the dumbbells on either side of your body (into second position), keeping arms straight. Reverse to return to start, then repeat on the opposite side for one rep. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
The benefits: builds calf strength; promotes balance; works the adductors and inner thighs
Holding a kettlebell in front of your chest, assume a plié position with toes turned out, then rise into relevé by lifting your heels. This is your start position. Keeping heels raised, lower into a squat, then return to start for one rep. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
The benefits: challenges balance; builds core and pelvic stability; strengthens the ankles and calves
Stand tall in passé, with the right knee raised, and a kettlebell in front of your chest. Lower into a lateral lunge with the right leg, then return to start for one rep, balancing on your left leg. Perform 12 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat. Complete 3 sets.