Teachers, we all recognize that core strength is essential to any strong, technically sound dancer. While we aim to teach our students to always move from the inside out vs. from the extremities (i.e. arms, legs, etc.,) getting started to build towards a sound center takes work and committed practice.
Below you’ll find three of my favorite exercises to get your dancers going; both in the studio and on their own at home. Each can be executed daily with multiple repetitions and modified based on level and physical capability. Remember, without a strong core we don’t have the potential to master turns, balances, extensions, jumps and a whole catalogue of movement necessary to develop one’s technique safely and properly!
“OVERHEADS”- Start lying on back with legs extended. Core engaged. Arms stretched above your head. As you begin a ‘crunch,’ the right leg comes up and battements as the arms also come up overhead simultaneously (think of a dive position.) Ensure that the shoulders come off the floor in the crunch position. Repeat left. Start with 15-20 repetitions and build from there.
Progressions #1: Come up higher and higher to a full sit up.
Progression #2: Keep opposing leg off the floor slightly for added resistance
Progression #3: Both legs coming off the floor during the crunch in a “V-Sit” position vs. one leg at a time. Hold at the top. Slow roll down to starting position.
“CRUNCH VARIATION”- Start in basic crunch position. Ensure that hands are behind head (place one on top of each other, not laced,) elbows are back and dancer is looking up to ceiling. They should envision that there is an apple or an orange under their neck at all times, so they engage the crunch from their core, not from the chin. Start with a slow 4-count crunch, getting higher and higher every count. Hold at the top. Pulse for 8 counts with short movements. Hold 8-counts. Lower down to start position with a slow 4-count. Make sure dancers are breathing and exhaling on the contraction as they come up. Repeat 15-20 times and build from there.
Progression: After 8-count pulse, hold for 8-counts and then from that position proceed with another 4-count crunch lifting even higher into a full sit-up position.
“PLANK VARIATION”- Start in a basic push-up position. Ensure the dancer is in proper spinal alignment. Head is in line with the spine. Core is engaged. Hold this isometric position for one minute.
Progression #1: Come down to forearms to plank position and repeat hold for another minute.
Progression #2: “Up, Up, Down, Down”- Push back up to push-up position, one arm at a time R/L, then back down to plank position on forearms. R/L Repeat 15-20 times.
Progression #3: “Four-Count Sideways Walk”- Stay in plank position. Make sure body stays in alignment and hips don’t rise to a V-Position. Take four slow walks to the right. Four walks back to center. Repeat left. Back to center. Repeats 15-20 times