Dance Conditioning - 'Core Strength' & 'Seated Frame'
It's easy to understand why beginning dancers may feel they don't need special exercises to help execute a box step in Foxtrot or basic forward and back steps in Rumba. But good conditioning from the very start is a ballroom dancer's "insurance" for smoothly moving up to more advanced levels. Bad habits in posture or body movements can become ingrained early in ballroom training – with negative effects for every style a dancer eventually pursues.
Check with your doctor first.
Before you begin any dance program—or any exercise regimen to improve dancing—check in with your medical specialist. Understand your physical abilities, ask about limitations, describe the styles of dancing that appeal to you, and discuss what is safe. Perhaps have videos of some favorite dances ready on your smartphone, showing what you would like to learn.
A reminder from a previous post: Never try to be your own doctor. It's not unusual for professional dancers to check in with medical specialists. Since everyone's body is different, what is safe for one dancer will not always be safe for another. As you may have seen on "Dancing with the Stars," the pros and celebrities don't hesitate to seek medical advice to avoid aggravating or sustaining injuries.
Different dance styles require an emphasis on different sets of muscle groups, particularly throughout the thighs, legs and feet. However, all styles ultimately depend on "core strength." This is not something you need to develop with bench presses or stomach crunches. There are alternatives for strengthening the core, while working related parts of your body that also require close attention. Here is just one example:
Seated Dance Frame
You can engage core muscles—supporting the front and side abdominals, the lower back, neck and hips—while sitting with your back straight. Think "dance frame position" (from the waist up) at your office desk or in a chair at home. The chair seat should be completely level, not tilted up or down. Make sure you are not slouching, that your back is in full contact with the chair's seat back, which should be at a straight vertical angle.
Slowly raise one leg, gently stretching the thigh and leg muscles straight out until your leg is horizontal with the floor. Stretch your toes back towards your body, hold the position for a few counts, then release it, pointing your toes forward for a few more counts. Lower your leg, slowly resisting gravity until your foot touches the floor. Do this with the other leg and repeat the exercise a few times.
If you maintain your frame, you will feel muscles engage in your lower abdominal area throughout the range of motion – a sign you are doing it right! This is one of the better ways to build core strength, while working the quadriceps, hamstrings, other leg muscles, ankles and feet.
How to check if you're getting the most out of this exercise? In addition to a doctor's approval, consider asking a qualified dance instructor or dance coach to watch your posture and leg movements while using this "seated frame" leg stretch. Veteran dance professionals familiar with this exercise can help you receive maximum results.
Hope to see you on the dance floor!
© 2012, Cheryl Burke Dance. All rights reserved.