Dance is scientifically proven to be the best all-round exercise, because it helps build muscle, improve balance and coordination, builds brain power and allows you to express yourself – something that increases both self-awareness and self-esteem.
You can read my article on why the dance studio beats the gym here.
Only attending a casual dance class once a week isn’t likely to help condition your body. If you’re after something that will help define your waist, abs and strengthen your core, as well as your legs and arms, you will need to do some targeted practise. The good thing is you can use specific dance moves to do this, so you can literally dance yourself into shape.
Word of warning: make sure you’re applying the right posture and technique when starting your drills. Practise makes permanent – not necessarily perfect! If you’re not sure, or haven’t had anyone teaching you how to do apply good dance posture and conduct postural checks throughout, then make sure you find someone that will do this before you get too stuck into the following drills. It should also be needless to say, that if you’re totally new to dancing, and not sure whether any underlying health issues will allow you to do these, please check with your health professional first.
The moves, which are covered in the technique videos below, may not be new to you, but when was the last time you did them as a dedicated drill, and took your time to really nail down and feel them? If you’ve been dancing for a while, you’re probably used to adding variations and layers on top, but try to stick to these basics, for a song each or mix them up as needed to make it a bit more fun. But don’t rush from move to move – it defies the purpose of the exercise.
Take your time to feel how each muscle is working to create and support the move. Dig your fingers in if need be to feel how the mechanics are. Drilling the move like this will not only help you condition your muscles, but also help your technical understanding of the moves, which in return will allow you to develop and advance them further. This is the beauty of isolation technique and not least belly dance.
We all know that ballet dancers spend ages drilling simple moves and positions, which not only helps strengthen their muscles, but also perfects the move, and you can do the same with any dance move once you know you’ve nailed the basics.
Yes, you’ll need to gently warm up also for dancing. It helps your muscles perform better and it can also prevent injury.
Make sure to include squats into your warm up – and even if this is the only exercise you’ll do – it’s perfect for exercising tights, gluten, core and arms.
Vertical 8s, when done correctly are one of the best exercises to help condition abs, obliques, gluten and all your major leg muscles too.
Reversing the move and turning it into what many will know as a maya is also effective, and uses slightly different muscles in your core.
Both work your legs hard, so make sure to do some shimmies every now and again to loosen the muscles, and don’t forget to breath!
Taqs (glut contractions) are great for strengthening your gluteus maximums – the largest muscle in your body. Best of all, if you’re after great isolation, then practise them sitting down. I normally do them when watching the news or sitting in the car and it’s safe to do so (normally when stuck in a queue, as I then have plenty of time to ‘play along’ to the music on the radio and release some tension at the same time!).
Twists are also a perfect abs and core workout, especially when done really slow. But as already mentioned above, make sure to breath and don’t forget to add some twisting shimmies in there too, to make it more fun (and keep you going longer!).
Finally, camels and undulations are great for toning your abs and can be quite therapeutic too. Turn them into small controlled stomach rolls, and you will really feel you six pack. If done more gently, and especially when lying down, they can work as a body/mind mediation. Perfect to add either at the end of your warm up or as a cool down and relaxing session at the end.
Don’t forget to also add some stretching at the end of your workout. Focus on the muscles you’ve actively used and always go into them gently. Hold each strech for at least 8-10 seconds each. No bouncing either, but work with your breath to relax into the stretch even further without pushing it.
I hope you found these conditioning basics useful. Try to incorporate them during your week, even if it’s only for a few minutes at the time. Little and often will work better than doing one long session occasionally, and it will give you an excuse to get up from your desk when working, or make the most of that lunch break.
If you’re really struggling to fit it in, then try starting your day with 5-10 minutes of dance drills. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal, put on your favourite tune (belly dance or not), and dance yourself awake. But don’t forget the warm up, especially if you’re doing it first thing.
How do you use dance drills? Do you find them easy to incorporate? Do still feel the benefit? Let me know how you’r getting on by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to share with anyone that you think may enjoy trying this.
Happy dancing – always 😉
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: Dance or gym?