I often talk about cross-training because you need to work on both strength and flexibility in order to maintain a strong and healthy dance body. Students tell me they struggle finding the time and I fully understand that it can be tricky to juggle everything, but dancing with weak knees or core is a ticking time bomb, and you are likely to get injured at some point.
I’m speaking from my own experience here. I used to think that because I dance every single day, I was as strong as I needed to be, but the human body is lazy and will always try to compensate to find the easiest solution. So if you have a weak core, you may be able to counteract it to some extend with strong gluts and quads. But you will need to address your own body strength and not least weaknesses, if your want to continue to dance and generally move your best no matter what age.
Read my post on how improve your dance training here.
If you only have time to incorporate one strengthening exercise into your daily routine, then choose squats. It works your entire lower body, your core and depending on which variations you decide to add, also your arms and upper body. It’s as good as a ‘plank’ but without the need to having to get down on the floor (although you can also do easy planks up against wall).
You may think squats sound too boring, but there is actually a lot to them. There are thousands of videos on YouTube showing you skinny gym bunnies doing squats, but a lot of them forget to cover the basic technique which, as you may know by now, is essential to me.
I came across this video which explains it quite well.
Adding to the tutorial I would call the ‘turn out’ in the feet, that the instructor mentions, a natural turn out. So don’t force the feet into position. As a general rule of thumb, your knee should go in the direction of your second toe, but never beyond it. If you’re feeling discomfort in your knees, then you may be pushing them out beyond your toes. Make sure you can still see your (second) toes, as you’re doing your squats. I also like to think of doing a gentle tucking under and pulling my belly button up and in, as I’m going into the squat. It helps keep your spine nice and straight, as in general dance posture, which is what you’re aiming for.
If for whatever reason you don’t think this is right for you, or it hurts, then please stop and check with your healthcare professional. Your dance instructor should be able to guide you, if they have studied anatomy and had professional training, otherwise book yourself in with a good physiotherapist or osteopath. If you do see a professional, make sure you get as many tailor made exercises right for you, and do ask if you can film them or you doing the exercises, so you know you’re doing them right.
I hope you enjoy your squats, ideally every single day, to keep you strong and injury free. Aim to do one to three sets of 10 squats. I like doing mine whilst watching TV or waiting for the water to boil, but do make sure you get the technique right before doing loads. You can also do them a bit ‘dancy’ but that’s a totally different topic.
Happy practising, and do leave me a comment below so I know how you’re getting on.
Happy dancing – always 🙂
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: How to advance your Sidestep