The Value of Cross Training

No one wants to exit the dance floor after a hearty VW or energetic swing huffing and puffing in a seemingly mad attempt to reenact childhood fairytales and blow the walls down. Nor is it particularly desirable as the day goes on for your frame to wane with the sun. This is where cross training comes in. Cross training is simply a series of non-ballroom exercises meant to enhance your performance and stamina on the dance floor.

Exercises included here will target the core, arms, inner thighs, aerobic stamina, hamstrings, quads, and more. The reasoning? Strengthening the core helps with posture. The core also connects the body. It helps translate CBMP, which starts at the ankles, all the way up to the frame. Arm exercises, in turn, make frame easier to hold for longer amounts of time, while all leg muscles are involved in dance movement in some fashion. Here is a list of a few cross training exercises that can help your dancing!

Target: Core
Reps: minimum 25
Try putting your hands underneath your head to support your neck. This prevents muscles there from being overworked.
Challenge: try elevating your legs (knees bent)
Side Crunches
Target: Core (esp obliques)
Reps: 25 each side
Target: Core and arms
Reps: 10
Sets: 3
Challenge: Do the push-ups on an incline (feet on stairs/chair etc). Remember to keep the body in a plank position
Target: Core
Starting time: 2 minutes
Do plank with straightened arms to work upper arms in addition to core. Remember to keep the pelvis down and neck straight. Be careful not to lock your arms.
Challenge: Lower yourself slowly with control at the end of the exercise. Aim for 10 seconds to get to the ground
Side Plank
Target: Core
Starting time: 1 minute each side
Be careful not to lock your elbows
Mountain Climber
Target: Core
Reps: 16
Sets: 3
Begin in a downward dog position. Lower into plank as you draw your left leg in. Repeat with right side.
Ballet Scissor
Target: Inner Thigh (for turnout in latin) and Core
Time: 2 minutes
Start lying on the ground with the legs elevated and crossed making a 90° angle with the torso. Raise your head, supported by hands, as if for crunches and hold. Scissor legs (switch which one is in front, which is in back) down to the ground or as far as you can go without releasing the core and then back up.
Challenge: Point your toes! This will be useful in latin/rhythm dances where you need to do so anyway.
For the most part, ballroom is not aerobic. We don’t VW or quickstep for 15 minutes straight. Imagine if you could though–a two minute VW would be a breeze, leaving you with more attention to focus on the finer details of the dance. That’s where aerobics come in: to build stamina.
Recommended Time: 30 minutes daily minimum (American College of Sports Medicine)
Note: This can be varied and depends on the individual
Note: Stretch before and after aerobic activity; you are tightening muscles. Plus, muscles attain maximum benefit from stretching when warm.
Warning: Running puts pressure on the joints already overworked in dance. While as ballroom dancers, most of you don’t need to be concerned with this, for those with existing issues, be careful.
Low impact alternative: Run in the water or tread water
Pros: Activates all major muscle groups; low-impact; decompresses the spine (posture!)
Backstroke: Stretches the pectorals. Strengthens the back, torso and shoulders
Breaststroke: Works the inner thighs (turnout) as well as shoulders and pectorals. Stretch the pectorals after breaststroke! Also the groin (Butterfly stretch)
Treading Water/Water Jogging
Gets heart rate up without the impact of pavement
Strengthens quads and glutes.
Warning: Can shorten muscles at front of hips so be sure to stretch (lunges).
Nordic: Builds cardiovascular strength and works parallel position (smooth/standard dances)
Alpine: Strengthens internal rotation (Rhythm/Latin)
Challenge: work balance by not holding onto sides
Warning: Can overdevelop calves, which may lead to shin splints. Be conscious of actually stepping heel first OR use real stairs.
Jump Rope
Brisk Walk
Stretches should generally be held for a minimum of 2 minutes per side
Toe Touch
Sets: 3
Target: Hamstrings, lower back
Let the head hang and the neck be loose and relaxed. Make sure not to lock the knees.
Variation: Reach to a side and hold
Target: Hamstring, quads, hip flexors
Target: Hamstring, obliques
Straighten the front leg in a lunge position and reach the corresponding arm down to the ground so the torso is bent at the side, making a triangle.
Target: Inner Thighs
Sitting, place soles together, legs open.
Upward dog/Cobra
Target: Core
Lay on the ground and push the torso up with the arms leaving the legs on the ground
Downward Dog
Target: Hamstrings (also works Core)
Wall Stretch
Target: Pectorals
Position arm about shoulder height against a wall/flat surface parallel to the ground and turn torso away from it.
Target: quads, hamstrings, outer thigh
Like a split but with the front leg bent, calf not under the thigh but out as if sitting cross legged
Challenge: Try leaning back for a greater stretch in the hip
Target: hamstrings
Note: Pigeon is a good way to work up to a split
Side Split
Target: Inner thighs, hamstring
Open legs to the side as far as you can. Bend forward. Also bend to each side.
Sore Muscles?
Another good exercise, in addition to stretching, is rolling on a small, firm ball (lacrosse, tennis, etc). It’s like an area specific massage that you control.
Recommendations: Hip creases, back of calves
Note: This can be painful on injured areas! ex. Rolling on your shins with shin splints is awful. Use discretion.
Ice! If you’re experiencing more than the usual muscle soreness, use ice. Try freezing paper cups and using the ice to massage the sore areas. This is great for sprains, shin splints, etc

2 thoughts on “The Value of Cross Training

  1. says:

    Massage can be an effective way in order to give your shins a TEMPORARY relief…
    There’re other techniques you can use to defeat permanently shin splints

    • rradulsk says:

      Hi never-never,
      You’re totally right! Just massage would not be super helpful with shin splints. A regimen of ice, stretching, and massage is generally what doctors and athletic trainers recommend for shin splint care unless it is more serious than just shin splints.

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