3 Steps to a Cohesive Team Using Strength Training
by Katie Peyton Groven
Hey coaches and teachers!
It can be frustrating when you start working with a brand new team. Some are more flexible, stable, or have a stronger core while others have stronger legs.
I get it.
You’re working with various levels of dancers within the same group.
But you’re just not sure how to challenge some dancers while not asking too much of others.
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
The more I’ve coached, the more I’ve noticed an interesting trend.
The gap in strength isn’t a result of technique. It’s actually a result of a lack of strength. Younger dancers simply don’t have the ability to hold their bodies in a way that allows them to move with control.
Now, that doesn’t mean that your older dancers have this down – everyone can improve their strength. But younger dancers aren’t aware of how to activate the right muscles… yet.
That’s where you come in. Help them develop the strength they need so your whole team moves in sync – as one unit.
Guide them on how to train their brain to communicate with the right muscle groups. When they learn how to develop that communication within their bodies, they develop control in their movements.
Here are a few tips to make sure all of your dancers are being challenged according to their abilities.
Dancers, don’t leave yet. If you’re struggling to keep up with the level of your current team, level or job, you can improve your strength and technique using the tips below!
Use strength-building exercises.
Include exercises focused on core, glutes, and upper back strength. These types of exercises help dancers of all levels close the gap in strength.
A strong core helps dancers with control, balance, and stability. The upper back improves arm strength and enables dancers to move with more power. Don’t forget the glutes and the hips to help with power, turnout, and extension.
Make sure to begin each class or practice with a dynamic warm-up.
It’s more simple than you may think. Try doing a set of one or two exercises that hit the full body – from the shoulders, all the way down to the feet.
After dancers stretch, remember to set aside a few minutes for:
- Core strength
- Glute engagement
- Upper back exercises
How do you include strength training into each class or practice?
Easy. Pick one or two exercises from each category and do them two or three times. It should take you less than 10 minutes.
But you'll see the difference in your younger dancers. You’ll notice that it gets gradually easier for them to connect their mind to their muscles. Then connect muscles to movement.
Bridge the strength gap in your dance team.
Keep it simple.
That’s the best thing you can do for all of your dancers. When you start with basic movements, you can be sure that your dancers have the correct form. That’s the foundation. Just as you build a house on a strong foundation, you can build on basic strength exercises.
Then you can add variations to the movements to make them more difficult.
A few variations to try:
- Adding a jump to squats
- Removing a leg while planking
- Adding an athletic band around the feet during core work
You can add athletic bands to any exercise. This makes exercises more difficult and challenging for your older dancers while offering a modification for younger ones.
Push-ups are great for dancers and they are just as effective on the wall or on the floor. If you really want to challenge your dancers, have them do a walking push-up. This is when they start in a normal push-up position but they walk with their hands to the right once and do a push-up. Then walk their hands to the left and do a push-up. And repeat.
3. Include circuit training.
If you’re including strength training with your dancers, I encourage you to do circuit training. It builds endurance and strength, is time efficient, and can be adapted to different levels of dancers.
How do you incorporate circuit training with your strength training?
Try setting a timer for 30 or 40 seconds. Have your younger dancers do as many of a particular exercise as they can and have your older dancers do the same.
Let’s say you have your dancers do jump squats. Your younger dancers may only get through 12 - 20, while your older dancers may hit 20 - 40. If you were to tell the whole team “we’re doing 20 squats”, it might be too much for some dancers and not enough for others.
We want to bridge the strength gap, not maintain it. That’s exactly what circuits help you do.
When working with a team of different levels and ages, your dancers are going to have different abilities. In order to bridge the gap in strength of the team, be sure to include training dedicated to strength. Your team will improve so they’re better able to move as one group.
Remember to focus on core, glutes, and back for control, stability, turnout, endurance, and power.
- Try adding harder variations for older, stronger dancers.
When you’re doing strength training, include circuits so every dancer benefits.
- Always match the training to your dancer’s abilities and you’ll see improvements.
Understanding what exercises to include is different than having a strength training plan already in place.
Don’t have time to create a strength training plan?
Check out our training plans for exercises tailored to your dancers’ needs.
Katie Groven is an ACSM certified personal trainer, holistic health coach and two time world champion dancer. She is the creator of dancer-fitness.com an online exercise database designed to transform competitive dancers into athletic powerhouses. She has combined her 25 years of dance and her expertise in fitness to empower dancers of all ages to view themselves as athletes and gives them the tools to increase their strength, endurance, injury prevention, and overall performance. Katie travels the country cross training teams and studios including Larkin Dance Studio, home to World of Dance finalists Eva Igo, Ellie and Ava Wagner and The Trilogy. When she’s not training individual dancers or teams she’s spending quality time with her husband Chris, daughters Hazel and Amelia or growing her collection of Converse shoes.
Katie is also a Doctors For Dancers specialist and regular blog contributor for More Than Dancers, The Line Up. Listen to Katie speak about simple and effective ways to strength train dancers on the Dance Boss Podcast (Ep.56) Count me in Podcast (Ep.68) and Dance Studio 411 Podcast (Ep.30)