The good news? Every cheat can be beat. (Lucas Chilczuk)

Beat the Cheat: Combat Flailing Arms with These Targeted Fitness Exercises

As dancers, we all have our vices—those little technique cheats that we know are incorrect, and we try our best to fix whenever we can remember...but at the end of the day, we just can't seem to banish them for good. After all, these cheats usually appear to help us: They can get our legs higher and our petit allégro a little faster, not to mention help us crank out that one extra rotation in a turn we dream about. Unfortunately, cheating proper technique also sets dancers up for a myriad injuries caused by improper alignment and undue stress on the body.

The good news: Every cheat can be beat. That is, when you know exactly what muscles and mobility pathways you need to strengthen in order to execute the step correctly. To help on that front, Amber Tacy, personal trainer and founder of the dancer-focused fitness community Dancers Who Lift, is here to guide you through a series of exercises designed to help you overcome the most common dancer cheats.


The Cheat: Flailing and winding arms for turns and leaps

Band Pull-Apart

Equipment You'll Need: Mini loop, TheraBand or long loop

  1. Start with your arms straight and fully extended in front of you, holding a light-tension band. Contract and brace your abs. This brings your ribs closer to your pelvis, eliminating back extension.
  2. With your arms parallel to the floor, palms facing down, and your shoulders protracted, slowly pull the band apart by extending your arms to either side of your body.
  3. Pull the band apart until it makes contact with your chest, feeling tension in the back of your shoulders.
  4. Hold the fully contracted position for two seconds, then return to the starting position.
  5. Complete 10–12 repetitions.
Amber's Note: Make sure to keep your rib cage closed and allow the movement to originate from the rear deltoids, back of the shoulder joint, and be aware that you're not just protracting and retracting your scapula (which feels like opening and closing your rib cage).

Band Pull-Together

Equipment You'll Need: TheraBand

  1. Wrap a band around your shoulders, holding one end in each hand.
  2. Straighten your arms out to the sides of your body, so palms are facing forward, and soften your elbows.
  3. Exhale, and bring your hands together toward the midline of your body, pausing when the hands are reaching forward and in line with the armpits. Focus on maintaining tension in the chest muscles.
  4. Inhale and open the arms to reset. Complete 10–12 repetitions.
Amber's Note: You're going to be SO GOOD at hugging…

Lowering-Only Push-Up

  1. Start in a high plank position, thumbs in line with your armpits, and chin tucked. Tilt your pelvis forward towards your rib cage to engage the abs.
  2. Begin to bend your elbows, maintaining a 45-degree angle between the upper arms and the sides of your torso.
  3. Go as low as you can, as slowly as possible, while maintaining the plank position.
  4. Once you've reached your lowest point, omit the push upward by dropping your knees and resetting to the high plank position.
  5. Repeat 5–8 times, moving with as much control as possible.
Amber's Note: If lowering all the way to the floor feels too challenging, elevate your hands on a barre, chair or even the edge of a sofa. Lower until your chest touches the elevated height, then step one leg in to reset. As you get stronger, work your way to the floor.

Latest Posts


Photo by Joe Toreno. Hair by Marina Migliaccio and makeup by Lisa Chamberlain, both for the Rex Agency.

Sienna Lalau: The Dynamite Dancer and Choreographer Helping BTS Make Magic

At just 20 years old, Sienna Lalau is the living definition of "dynamite dancer": bold, confident, almost addicting to watch, and, at her core, overflowing with pure passion. From her work with The Lab Studios to Video Music Award–winning choreography for BTS, there's no stopping this starlet from bringing her love of dance to the global stage.

"Dance is something that can truly connect people," Sienna tells Dance Spirit. "It's a universal language. We may not speak the same language physically, but when we dance, there's a connection where we understand each other on another level."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Tanishq Joshi brings his star quality to stage in his hometown of Indore, India (courtesy Tanishq Joshi)

Tanishq Joshi is Stomping on South Asian Stereotypes by Fusing Hip-Hop Choreo With Bollywood Music

For Tanishq Joshi (aka Taneesky), becoming a dancer was as unexpected as your music cutting off mid-performance. An unfortunate injury in his hometown of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India, led to the more fortunate discovery of a new passion and a flourishing career.

Joshi's had the opportunity to choreograph and compete at "World of Dance" events, perform at the JaQuel Knight Showdown, and grace the stage at Pharrell Williams' "Something in the Water" concert. And that's all on top of work and training with dancers and choreographers like Devin Solomon, Denzel Chisolm, Josh Killacky, Samantha Caudle, and Jake Kodish.

Joshi shared his story with Dance Spirit, and broke down how his unique approach to choreography is helping him diminish stereotypes, open doors for South Asian dancers, and inspire the dance community at large.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Houston Ballet Demi Soloist Natalie Varnum shows off her signature style (Claire McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet)

Fashion Forward: 3 Pros Share What Goes into Their Dancewear Choices

When it comes to in-studio dancewear, the pros know that the right look, piece, or material can mean the difference between a day feeling confident and comfortable, or just plain out of sorts. With so much time spent honing their craft in dance clothes, choosing those items takes equal parts strategy, creativity and a healthy dose of fun.

Here, professional dancers Ian Eastwood, Karilyn Ashley Surratt, and Natlie Varnum share what goes into their fashion choices that enables them to look good, feel great, and turn heads in the studio.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search