Many in the Millennial Generation may be under the impression that dance-inspired fitness is the latest and greatest thing in exercise. But, those of us who have been around a few more decades know better.
The following is a non-exhaustive, semi-chronological list of the last 40+ years of dance-inspired fitness: Fat-turned-fit Richard Simmons introduced “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” to my Mom’s generation with music from the 50s and 60s; Jazzercise classes set to the day’s pop music were held at shopping malls in the 70s; Aerobics and Step Aerobics classes are still going strong since their hey-days of the MTV Generation in the 80s and 90s, inspired by the intricately choreographed Top 40 music videos; the traveling “Riverdance” theatrical show, whose first NYC performance was in 1996, gave rise to a renewed interest in Irish step dance classes for people of all ages; similarly, small dance studios were popping up all over the country teaching ballroom and western line-dancing to couples; then came Latin-inspired Zumba classes; Bollywood-inspired Masala Bhangra; dance-inspired video games like Dance Revolution; and honorable mentions to pole dancing and belly dancing classes. Let’s not forget Joseph Pilates trained some of the most prominent dancers in New York in the early 20th century.
Trending recently are ballet-inspired Barre classes and workout-like-a-Hollywood-star classes based on celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson’s workouts with starlets using current pop and hip-hop music. Trending today, literally, are videos of choreographed workouts and spontaneous dance-offs alike going viral based on a throw-back 1980s aerobics video using Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” single.
Bottom-line: dance-inspired workouts have been around a long time and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Most of these classes are cardio-based and, certainly, any recreational dancing would also be considered a cardio activity. For that reason, anyone who engages regularly in dance-type activity would benefit from a strength and flexibility workout because it increases endurance and helps prevent injury.
Activity-Specific Workout of the Month Defined: A 30 minute strength and stretch training workout tailored to benefit those who engage in a particular recreational sport or activity. The workouts will be challenging and safe for the novice but will also offer progressions for the experienced. If your children participate in these activities, know that strength and flexibility training is not only safe for kids but beneficial as well. The workouts will have minimal equipment requirements so they can be done anywhere. The goal is to properly strengthen and stretch the key muscle groups involved in the activity so the participant can achieve performance improvements and reduce the risk of injury. Click on the exercise to link to examples and step-by-step descriptions provided by www.acefitness.org.
Strength and Flexibility Training for Dance-Based Activities
Concept: The primary strengthening targets are the muscles of the legs and feet and, just as importantly, the core – abdominal and back muscles. If Joseph Pilates taught us anything it’s that all movement comes from the core, without a strong foundation there is no meaningful strengthening anywhere else in the body. Flexibility is essential to any dance-based activity. Therefore, in addition to the flexibility portion, some of the strength-building exercises also incorporate flexibility elements. This is accomplished by using yoga-inspired poses merged with Pilates-inspired strengthening. Because good balance is also essential in dance, progressions offer challenges to train balance along with strength and flexibility.
Warm-Up: 2-5 minutes of dancing or high knee marching, swinging opposing arms to shoulder height as you lift knees to hip height.
Strength Workout: Perform the following exercise circuit in succession with no rest between exercises:
- Standing Calf Raises: 8-16 repetitions. Strengthens calves, feet and shins. Progression 1: *add weight by holding free weights, medicine ball or containers filled with water while performing. Start with lighter weights, 1-5 lbs, until you can easily perform 20+ squats in a set before progressing to heavier weights. Progression 2: Add balance challenge – perform with balls of feet on step with heel hanging off step, 8-16 repetitions.
- Front Plank: Hold for 10-30 seconds. Strengthens entire core. Progression: hold plank for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, return to plank for 10-30 seconds
- Forward Lunges: 8-16 repetitions each side. Works quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calves & balance. Progression 1: add weight according to the protocol for calf raises above* Progression 2: Inverted Flyers, 8-16 repetitions each side.
- Side Plank with Bent Knee: Hold for 10-30 seconds each side. Strengthens entire core including obliques with balance challenge. Progression: Side Planks with Straight Leg, hold for 10-30 seconds each side
- Side Lying Leg Abduction: 10-20 repetitions each side. Works outer and inner thighs. Progression 1: Side Lunges Progression 2: add weight to side lunges according to the protocol for calf raises above* or Standing Gate Openers, 10-20 repetitions each side
- After performing each exercise once, rest for 1-2 minutes and repeat the circuit (calf raises through side lying leg abduction) for a second set of each exercise. After performing the circuit twice, perform the flexibility workout.
Flexibility Workout: Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds
- Warrior I: full-body stretch with emphasis on hips & thighs
- Standing Triangle Straddle Bends: stretches back & outer thighs
- Cat-Cow: stretches core
- Modified Hurdler’s Stretch: stretches hamstrings & calves on straight leg and opens hip & stretches inner thigh on bent leg
- Childs Pose: targets core and provides instant relaxation to end your workout
The keys to safe and effective strength training are the same regardless of gender or age – proper warm-up, form, breathing, load, progressions and stretching. The cues for these exercises provided by ACE Fitness (via my links) are excellent and, if followed, anyone can perform this workout safely, even a novice. It’s important to focus on your own body’s feedback and listen to the cues your body is providing you. Adults are much better at reading those cues than children are. For this reason, if any of these exercises are new to your child, I recommend having a professional (such as your child’s coach, gym teacher or sports trainer) review the proper form for each of these exercises with your student athlete.
Now you’re ready. Dance…in the dark, in the streets, the night away, to the music, or, to quote Lady Gaga, just dance.
Author’s Note: Always consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.
Click on the link to view previous Activity-Specific Workouts of the Month: Hockey & Cross-Country Skiing, Snowboarding & Figure Skating, Golf & Softball, Distance Running, Racquet Sports, Swimming, Waterskiing & Surfing, Cycling, Rowing & Desk Jockeys, Track, Field & Court Sports, Throwing & Pitching, Dancing, Downhill Skiing