6 [Shock]ing Strength Exercises for Dancers
by Amber Tacy from Dancers Who Lift
You’re a dancer likely still at home. Space is limited. Equipment is limited. Time is limited.
What’s not limited? Your potential.
Apolla Performance has made sure of that. With their world-class Shocks any dancer can stay injury-free, recover better, and get stronger. As a strength coach for professional performers, I have been working to come up with creative ways to increase strength and endurance while training at home.
Thankfully when training in my shocks I’m presented with the perfect pairing of glide and resistance. In fact, I want to share 6 shocking exercises you can incorporate into your home or studio workout routine using no equipment except a smooth surface and your favorite Apolla Shocks.
Follow this link for demonstrations of all the exercises below.
Your hamstring is the predominant muscle that is bending your knee and rotating your lower leg. Strong hamstrings mean daily activities like walking, jogging, and climbing stairs are easier. For dancers, strong hamstrings result in fewer knee injuries, healthier hips, higher jumps, and better overall stability. So yeah… pretty important. One exercise that will directly target your hamstrings is a supine hamstring curl. Lying face up with your legs extended in front of you, flex your feet and pull both heels towards your bum while simultaneously engaging your glutes to lift your tailbone 1-2” off the ground. Pause in this lifted position for a beat then lower your tailbone and return to your starting position. If the double leg version is too challenging or you start to experience a “cramp-like” sensation in your hamstrings or ache in your low back, start with one leg extended and one knee bent with that foot planted firmly on the ground.
Perform 3 sets of 12 reps total, resting 30-60 seconds between sets.
This is a total-body exercise. Arms, chest, shoulders, core, and hips. Start in a high plank position; thumbs in line with your arm pits, belly button lifted, and feet together. As you lower to your push-up simultaneously glide to one foot, with your knee as straight as you can make it, out and around toward your elbow. As you push the floor away, the “up” part of the push up, glide the foot back to meet the other foot in the starting position. Seamlessly transition and glide the second leg around as you lower down for your next push-up, again return the leg to the starting position as you press up. If the push-up part is too challenging, hold a high plank position and focus on controlling the leg.
Perform 3 sets of 6-8 reps total, resting 30-60 seconds between sets. .
AKA “the pirouette prep perfector.” Even if you’re stuck in a space where actually practicing your pirouettes would result in the destruction of precious family heirlooms, you probably have enough space to work on your preparation for turning. This exercise lights up the quadriceps of both legs and the glutes of the stationary leg, meaning you’ll build the power from the quads to explode into your pirouettes and the strength and stability in your glutes to sustain the position and perform multiple rotations. Start in a parallel position, plie and slide one foot forward to a lunge position, both legs remaining bent. Attempt to keep 60% of your weight on the stationary leg, immediately slide the working leg through center and into a reverse lunge position.
Perform 3 sets of 30 seconds per leg, resting 30-60 after completing both sides.
Personally, I find the beauty of dance is found in seamless and stable transitions from one position to the next. Oftentimes, these transitions come with the transfer of weight and feet. This move demands core and ankle stability in correlation with power. Perform a single leg hinge, reaching your hips back and keeping a straight line from head to heel. As you drive your hips forward to stand up, immediately glide back into a reverse lunge. From here, pull your back leg up into a passe position (releve optional). Balance and return to your starting position.
Perform 3 sets of 10 reps total, resting 30-60 seconds between sets.
While many dancers have no problem sitting into deep splits, they often find themselves frustrated when it comes time for developes or battements. The flexibility is there, as evident by their ability to pull their foot to their face, but why can’t they hold that position. Oftentimes, performers believe their hip flexors are weak, usually focusing on the tensor fascaie latae or rectus femoris, and they might not be wrong… but there are a series of connected deep core muscles that play a big role in hip flexion (namely the psoas and iliacus) and thus, by strengthening these muscles we can improve the height of one’s leg. The sliding tuck starts in a high plank position and then draws both knees into the chest before returning to the starting position. Similarly, the pike also starts in a high plank position, but keeps both legs straight and lifts the tailbone upwards as the toes slide forward.
Perform 3 sets of 10 reps per exercise, resting 30-60 seconds between sets.
I love this exercise because it forces dancers to work in an uncomfortable but often necessary way: parallel. Ballet and contemporary dancers in particular are constantly working their hips in external rotation (turned out) while neglecting the internal rotators and hip stabilizers like the adductors. Not only can this combo move eliminate hip tightness it will lead toward healthier, more stable knees as well. Win, win! Begin a single leg squat with the foot on the floor. Keep the opposite (sliding) leg straight and simultaneously abduct that leg out to the side of the body. Slide the working leg out only as far as you can without shifting the pelvis or torso, keeping both feet parallel. Bring the sliding leg back towards the midline as you come out of the squat and back to a standing position. Then, transition into a curtsey lunge, reaching the working leg behind you diagonally and sitting into the hip of the supporting leg. Be sure the bending knee tracks forward over your middle toe each time it bends.
Perform 3 sets of 6 reps per leg, resting 30-60 seconds between sets.
Feel free to try these exercises and get creative with your own workouts in and out of your Shocks, then kick back and enjoy your strong, healthy dance body.
For more from Amber Tacy and to learn more about Dancers Who Lift and her incredible programs for dancers, go to: