10 Exercises for Dancers That Will Transform Your Technique

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Weight training houses some of the best exercises for dancers out there. From posterior chain strengthening to increased mobility, the benefits of weight training for dancers are immense. 


I am so glad that the industry is waking up to the idea that strong dancers are dancers that thrive on contracts. And I am even more thrilled to see more and more dancers walking into the weight room. But with the internet overflowing with “workouts for dancers” it can be hard to decide what to prioritize in the gym. 


Likely the exercises that comprise your workouts fall into one of five categories: 

Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat, and Core. The first three of these categories are called “functional movements” as they help you perform daily functions as well as feats of athleticism. These exercises are important for dancers and humans alike.If they are in your workout, you’re doing great so far! 


But, what if you could take it to the next level?


 Have you ever considered the difference between working out versus training? Training is a workout specifically designed to help you get improve not just in health, but in your specific sport. As a professional dancer, you should be training. This means your workouts should contain the best exercises for dancers out there.  


So, just in case you haven’t joined the fam here at Dancers Who Lift yet, or if you just like building your own workouts. We’ve compiled a list of 10 Exercises for dancers that will transform your technique. 


number 1




Dead Bugs: 

Dead bugs have been a Dancers Who Lift favorite for a long time now. Dead bug exercises work your deep core muscles, as well as your rectus abdominus, and your obliques. They train your core to work together to stabilize the spine while allowing the rest of your limbs to move freely. We believe so strongly that  Dead bugs are one of the best exercises for dancers we wrote an entire blog post about them.

number 2


Bird Dogs:

While we are discussing core exercises, I would be remiss if I did not include Bird Dogs and all of its variations in my list. Bird dogs are one of the best exercises out there for teaching balance and coordination. (Sound like anything a dancer should have?) Bird dogs are also fantastic at creating a mind-body connection for spinal alignment. And bonus, once you hit pro level with Bird dogs, you can try this variation to turn up the heat!


number 3



Pallof Presses

People don’t talk about Palloff presses very much because, well, because they aren’t sexy. You likely won’t find reels of “fit-spirational fit-fluencers” doing palloff presses. BUT, palloff presses will improve your pirouettes every single time. No more arms lagging behind you when you spot. No more wobbly obliques when the tempo starts to fly. Palloff presses build an incredibly stable core and back. And the best part? There are TONS of variations depending on what you are working on. Start with the basic form to get the swing of things. Then, try the kneeling pallof press to train those lagging arms. Got the hang of that? Try the single leg pallof press to add a balance challenge!




Dead Lifts

Dead lifts can look intimidating. But dead lifts are also one of the most beneficial leg exercises for dancers. Once you get the form down, the number of variations on this lift offer an entire world of training exercises for dancers.  Dead lifts will put the spinal stability gained from your Bird Dogs to the test! But the biggest benefit of dead lifts is that they will improve the height of your jumps! Want to soar through grande allegro with ease? Dead lifts. Want to put the cast of Newsies to the test? Dead lifts. Needing help stabilizing your pirouette standing leg? Try this off-set dead lift variation!



Split Squats/Reverse Lunges

Split squats are one of my favorite exercises for dancers because not only are they fantastic glute and hamstring builders but, like our other top rankers, split squats work out your stabilizers. The way Split Squats (and their cousin Reverse lunges) force you to center your weight between a front leg and a back leg is perfect for training powerful pirouette preps. And if you’re really looking to train pirouette preps, add the drive to passe at the top of your squat! That will really test your stability! Another reason to do split squats? They are fantastic at helping you train better jumps!

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Squats are probably some of the most talked about weight training exercises and it’s for very good reason. Squats strengthen the quads, calves, glutes, hamstrings, and the knee joint, all while improving hip mobility and strengthening the abdominals and lower back. Talk about a powerhouse exercise. But why is this one of the top ten exercises for dancers? Because having a strong lower body translates into powerful jumps and turn preparations. Having improved hip mobility means higher extensions. And having strong abdominals and a lower back make for a stable dancer who can be lifted easily, turn like a top, and land jumps with control. Even better? Just like split squats, Squats come in many forms and variations so you’ll never get bored. 





Rows are some of the best exercises for dancers who struggle with droopy elbows in their turns and port de bras. Rows will take the pressure off of your (likely) already tight pectoral muscles and engage your back and lats. Why do we want this? Relaxed pecs and engaged lats result in relaxed shoulders that are not rolling forward. This gives you supported arms no matter where your port de bras takes you! Need a visual aid? Check out this reel of Amber explaining the best exercises for proper port de bras





I know, I know, a lot of dancers really hate push-upsh. But I think that’s because we were never really taught how to do them. They’re usually thrown in at the end of an ab workout or, worse, used as a punishment. But when you learn how to do a push-up properly, almost no other strengthening exercise will engage your entire body the way a push-up does. Push-ups build a stable spine, strong core, and of course, strengthens the arms and chest. Learning how to stabilize your body for push-ups is also helpful for teaching you how to hold your weight during lifts. What’s more, push-ups will naturally improve your posture. So, how do you do a proper push-up? Take a glance at this form breakdown and you’ll be well on your way to perfect posture and a strong core. 




Mobility Flows

Mobility > Flexibility. Period. Read that again.

“Flexibility is the degree to which a muscle or group of muscles is able to passively lengthen.

Mobility is the degree to which a joint can move through its range of motion without any outside influence or momentum” (Emily Dadmun, DWL Blog).

You can be as flexible as you want. But if the end range of motion in your joints is not strong, you will not be able to support the extensions you’re training for in those over-splits. How can you work on this? Well, weightlifting helps. But mobility flows are fantastic at requiring strength while releasing your muscles. Mobility flows gradually move you into deeper and deeper stretches all while incorporating your breath. Coach Kierstin just posted a great mobility flow, here. Give it a try next recovery day!





Don’t roll your eyes at this. Rest is one of the most important exercises for dancers. And yes, it is an exercise because dancers tend to need to practice resting well. Our lives are full and we love being active, but our bodies need time to reset and recover. In fact, resting is one of the best tools a dancer has to promote faster recovery between workouts, shows, and rehearsals. Proper rest prevents injury and can actually help us break plateaus by getting our bodies out of stress-mode. So next time you’re feeling like you’re working SO hard but not seeing any progress, ask yourself when the last time you truly rested was.

And there you have it, the 10 best exercises for dancers! Which do you think you’ll be trying first? If you’re intimidated by this list, remember you only have to try one at a time. And if you’re worried about building a workout with these in them, check out this list of 20 conditioning workouts for dancers, it will definitely give you training a jumpstar

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