While a solid six-pack of abs may be a desirable aesthetic, there is another reason working this muscle group should take precedence in your workout routine. Core support is probably a term you here in just about every dance class. The core is made up of the muscles across the front of the trunk. Strengthening your core is key to executing the movements required in class and in performance. If your core falls short, you are guaranteed to fall out of your turns, lose height in kicks and jumps and even put yourself at risk for serious injury.
So, what are the best core exercises for dancers? Against popular belief, sit-ups and crunches are not the best exercise to strengthen your core. “Crunching forward” is not a functional movement you do in everyday life, especially in a dance class. When dancing, are you not focused on zipping up your core to support the movement? These types of exercises also tend to be executed poorly in larger class settings — with shoulders creeping up towards your ears, tucking your chin into your chest and using momentum to complete the movement.
Planking is one of the best exercises when it comes to core strengthening. This complete isometric hold mimics the support required on the dance floor. It teaches you to draw your ribs in, stabilize the back/shoulder capsules and helps you find energy out your heels and spine (a tool for more dynamic movement patterns). The best part? There are endless variations on this exercise that can be done anytime and anywhere!
Get your core strong with these plank variations:
1.) Climbing Plank: Start in a plank on your elbows and press up up to your hands, making sure you’re keeping your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Repeat the movement lowering down to your forearms. Alternate.
2.) Shoulder Taps: In a plank on your hands, reach your right hand to left shoulder while stabilizing through your core so your hips don’t rock side to side. Alternate.
3.) Mountain Climbers: In a plank on your hands, draw your right knee to your belly button. Stop your knee at a perfect 90 degree angle to keep your low back nice and long throughout the movement. Switch legs. When you feel like you have the movement down, take it faster!
4.) Plank Jacks: On your hands or forearms, hop your feet out to a wide second position parallel. Then, hop your feet back in by squeezing your inner thighs together. Repeat.
5.) Hip Twist: In a plank on your forearms, drop your hips to the right, squeeze center and then drop them to the left. Repeat.
These exercises, when done properly and regularly, are way more effective then thousands of crunches. Add them to your warm-up routine or hit them before bed. Your core will thank you!