Developing a Dancer's Strength

BY: MACKENZIE MARTIN
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You can always pick out the dancers in a crowd, from their pulled up posture and noses in the air, to their lithe, supple bodies. Dancers have the strength of an athlete but the grace of a swan, making their bodies the ultimate fitness goal. Like any other athlete, dancers have to train day in and day out to have the ability to execute their craft with flawless technique. Unfortunately, if you have no aspirations for being the next prima ballerina, dancing five hours a day, six days a week is an unrealistic workout regimen. So, how does one achieve a dancer’s body without putting in thirty hours a week at a dance studio? Simple, to get a dancer’s lithe body you need to combine exercises that develop lean muscle with a complimentary dancer’s diet. While some dancers choose to follow unhealthy diets – like smoking on the hour, every hour, to sugar-free gum and diet soda – these are only quick fixes that will be detrimental to your body and long-term health. A healthy dancer’s diet consists of lean meats, such as fish or chicken, for the protein and fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects on the aching and sore muscles after a long day of rehearsals. Yogurt is another excellent source of protein, but has the added benefit of nutrients that help boost the immune system and improve bone health. Nuts and berries are a staple dancer’s snack that promotes healthy skin and hair and reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. Finally, vegetables, especially dark greens, make up the majority of a dancer’s diet for the many nutritional benefits they provide.

Dancers are known for having lean, supple bodies with the strength of an athlete. To build lean muscle, one needs to combine light resistance with many repetitions. This is the complete opposite of how bodybuilders train, where they lift massive weights for fewer repetitions to “bulk up.” The best workout to develop a dancer’s body involves many repetitions of exercises, as found in pilates and yoga. Try these five easy exercises, combined with a healthy dancer’s diet, to achieve your dancer’s body by summer!

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Scissors

-Lying flat on your back, curl your head and shoulders off the floor. Your lower back should be in contact with the floor the entire exercise.

-Slowly lift and grab your right leg so that your toes are pointing directly at the ceiling. Your left leg should be hovering slightly off the floor.

-Keeping your head and shoulders off the floor switch legs so that you are now holding your left leg.

-Do three sets of ten scissors (right and left count as one).

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Wall Push-Ups

-Stand with your arms fully extended in front of you, palms flat on the wall, shoulder-width apart.

-Bring your feet together in parallel and lift your heels off the floor.

-Bend your arms until your chest in an inch away from the wall. Be sure to maintain a flat lower back with your abdomen engaged.

-Push back to your starting position and repeat.

-Do two, thirty-second sessions.

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Clams

-Lying on left your side with your hips and legs stacked, bend your knees to a forty-five degree angle.

-Keeping your feet together lift your right knee up and then lower it back down. Be sure to keep you right hip stacked above the left hip at all times.

-Do five sets of ten then switch to the other side.

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Inner-thigh Leg Lifts

-Lying on your left side, bend your right leg and place your right foot flat on floor in front of your left knee.

-Using your right hand to stabilize your body lift your straight, left leg a few inches off the floor and then lower it back down. Be sure to keep your abdomen engaged so that your body is not rocking back and forth.

-Do five sets of ten then switch to the other side.

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Forced-arch Relevés

-Stand with your arms slightly bent, palms flat on the wall.

-With your feet hip distance apart, slightly turn your toes out to the sides and lift your heels of the floor.

-Keeping your heels lifted off the floor, bend your knees and squat down. Be sure to keep your pelvis in line with your spine and abdominals engaged.

-Maintaining the forced-arch squat lower and lift your heels without letting your pelvis move up or down.

-Do three sets of 10.