From bunheads needing strength in a partnered promenade to b-girls mastering airtracks, all dancers need upper body strength. DS turned to athletic trainer Megan Richardson for three moves that work the shoulders, chest and back. Bonus: They all work the abs, too! To get started, you’ll need a medium-strength Thera-Band and a pair of dumbbells weighing between five and 12 pounds (choose a weight that’s heavy enough that you won’t be able to lift any more than the recommended reps). Read on for three moves designed to help you get fiercely fit.
Exercise #1: Shoulder Press
Why this is good for you: This exercise strengthens the shoulders and abs and improves balance.
Start in first position parallel with a weight in each hand. Lift the right foot slightly off the ground. Slowly raise the right elbow up to shoulder height, then rotate in the shoulder to create a 90-degree angle with your hand toward the ceiling, then press the arm straight overhead. Slowly lower along the same path. Repeat 10 to 12 reps, then switch arms and feet. Repeat set.
1. Keep abs tight.
2. Keep active shoulder pressed down.
3. Keep non-active arm still.
Exercise #2: Kneeling Row
Why this is good for you: This exercise works the upper back and abs and improves balance.
Start by securing a Thera-Band to a sturdy door handle or barre (or a friend!), crossing the band and holding an end in each hand. Kneel on the floor with your body straight and facing the band. Slowly pull the band back toward your shoulders, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release. Repeat two sets of 10-12 reps.
1. Don’t sit back.
2. Keep abs engaged.
Exercise #3: First-Position Squeeze
Why this is good for you: This exercise works the serratus anterior (muscles at the side of the chest) and other scapular (shoulder blade) stabilizing muscles, improving port de bras.
Wrap a Thera-Band around your upper back, holding the ends in each hand. Stand in first position parallel, feet slightly apart. Start with the arms out in second position, parallel to the floor. Slowly pull the fingertips toward each other, as if hugging a large beach ball, allowing the shoulder blades to slide outward on the back. Slowly squeeze the shoulder blades together while keeping the arms along the same parallel path until you return to the standing position. Repeat two sets of 10-12 reps.
1. Maintain correct posture.
2. Keep abs engaged.
Photo by Matt Karas
Model: Monica Levy
Consultant: Megan Richardson
Megan Richardson is a clinical specialist and athletic trainer at The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases. Monica Levy is a former Dance Spirit intern.