mat workout, workout for dancers

Workout Wednesday: The Mat Workout

Having one of those days when going to the gym feels impossible?  You  know you want to work out, moving your body sounds nice, but standing up to do so? Terrible. Sounds like it’s a perfect day for this mat workout!

The only piece of “equipment” you’ll need is a yoga mat-although you don’t even really need that- and something to act as a single weight. This could be an actual dumbbell or a gallon of milk or a heavy book!

And don’t worry, even though you’ll be laying down, you’ll still be sweating by the end of this, and it just might energize you enough to double its length! Clocking in at just 13 minutes, this mat workout packs a punch — especially if you opt to do it twice through!

Want to give it a try? Lie down on your back and let’s get started. 

 

The Mat Workout

You’ll perform each of these exercises for 30 seconds with no rest in between. At the end of the circuit do not rest. Instead, start over again at the top. 

Repeat the circuit 5 times without rest. 

If you’re feeling brave, at the end you can rest for three minutes, then do it all over again.

Reverse Crunch

Okay, I lied. For this exercise, you will need to find something stable to hold onto while you’re lying on the floor; this could be a couch or bed frame, something that wont move as you do these.

Once you’ve found it, lay down and grab hold of it with your arms above your head.

In this position, use your lower abdominals to pull your knees into your chest, then extend them straight out (hovering about an inch above the floor.) 

Go for 3o seconds, then move on to the next exercise immediately!

Bicycle Crunch

Bicycle crunches may seem basic. In fact, I bet you already know how to do them. 

But, just in case, let’s make sure you’re doing them correctly. After all, we want you to get the most out of this mat workout. 

So, lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your hands behind your head. 

From here, lift your your shoulders off the ground while keeping your neck long. 

Now, twist from your waist and try to touch your left elbow to your right knee. As you do this, extend the left leg straight out so it’s hovering above the floor. 

Switch sides. 

As you get tired it will be tempting to crunch your neck and simply flap your elbows to your knees. Resist! 

Moving slowly with good form will build more strength and, ultimately, burn more calories than simply moving as fast as you can.

Go for 30 intentional seconds, then immediately move on to the next exercise!

Weighted Hollow body Hold

Next up in our mat workout is the weighted hollow hold! For this exercise you will need whatever you’ve chosen to use as your weight.

Lay on your back with your arms extended by your ears holding your weight and extend your legs straight. Brace your core then, Martha Graham style, scoop your core to contract letting your shoulders come off the ground and legs lift. 

Hold this position for 30 seconds then move on to the final exercise in our mat workout!

Weighted Russian Twist

Finally we reach the final exercise in our mat workout circuit!

Russian Twists are probably something you’ve encountered in core workouts  before. For this workout, you’ll be holding whatever you’ve chosen as your weight in your hands. 

Begin in a sitting position with your knees bent, feet flat on the mat. 

From this position, brace your core and lean back as if your body is a solid board, arms holding the weight close to your chest.

Now, float your feet up one at a time so your shins are parallel to the ceiling. Good!

While maintaining this solid core position and keeping your knees even, gently rotate your spine so your chest faces to the right, go as far as you can until you are tempted to begin twisting from your shoulder. 

Then, slowly and gently twist the opposite direction. 

Repeat for 30 seconds then immediately go back to the top to repeat it all again!

Finishing it up!

To complete this workout, perform this circuit 5 times through with no rests.

It’s nice and short, but this mat workout is 10 minutes of solid work.

Have you gotten to the end and want more? Wait 3 minutes then do it all again!

 

Did you like today’s workout? Check out these winners on the Dancers Who Lift Blog: Training Tip Tuesday: Three Point Row, Follow Your Heart? Everything You Need to Know About Heart Rate Variability Training, Workout Wednesday: A Circuit Workout

heart rate variability training

Follow Your Heart? Everything You Need to Know About Heart Rate Variability Training

When you hear the phrase “heart rate variability training” you might (understandably) assume that it has to do with tracking your heart rate during your workouts. 

However, heart rate variability training is not used during your workout. But it might be a tool you can use to inform your workout. 

While heart rate refers to the amount of heartbeats per minute, heart rate variability refers to the variable amount of time in between each of your heartbeats. 

For example, some heartbeats may be 1 second apart.  The next may be .8 seconds apart. And the next after that might be 1.3.

The average of these “gaps” is your heart rate variability or HRV.

This heart rate variability is regulated by your autonomic nervous system and is impacted by many factors such as: Gender, age, hormones, sleep, stress, core body temperature, and metabolism. 

Your HRV is an indicator of  how your body handles stress; whether that’s stress from physical exertion, emotional stress, or illness. 

A longer time between heartbeats (or a higher HRV) indicates that your body can recover from stress faster and that your heart rate will return to normal more quickly after exertion.

 

How Can I Measure My Heart Rate Variability?

The most accurate way to measure your heart rate variability is to have your doctor run an EKG. 

But there are a lot of fitness trackers (like the apple watch!) that allow you to measure your HRV at home!

It’s worth mentioning that chest worn heart rate trackers tend to be more accurate than wrist worn trackers. It’s also worth noting that not all heart rate monitors track HRV as well.  

That said, trackers like the Apple Watch and the Oura Ring aren’t a bad place to begin. 

If you’ll only be measuring your HRV for a 5 minute window, it’s best to measure your HRV right when you wake up. This ensures you’ll be rested, relaxed and your heart rate won’t be affected by blood sugar spikes, or caffeine intake. 

However, if you wear your monitor (as you might a chest, wrist, or finger tracker) giving it the entire 24 hour day to track gives it even more information to determine an accurate HRV. 

Just like tracking your cycle, tracking your HRV varies person to person. So, to find your baseline, track your HRV for a week.

  

Okay, I Don’t Understand. Aren’t Heart Rate and HRV Linked?

Yes and no.

Obviously during times of exercise or stress when your heart rate rises, your HRV will lower. That is, the gaps between heartbeats will get smaller. 

However, unlike heart rate, if your body is feeling stressed, your heart rate variability will lower even if you’re not exercising or experiencing any sort of immediate stress. 

Let me use an example.

At DWL we have a dancer who uses her apple watch daily. It tracks her cycle, her sleep patterns, and yes, her HRV. 

Recently, this dancer underwent a minor surgery.

Leading up to surgery her HRV readings were around 48 milliseconds per minute.

However, the week after surgery her HRV dropped to about 33 milliseconds per minute. 

The week after surgery she wasn’t working out. In other words, her heart rate was not elevated like it would be during exercise.  

But her HRV was affected. And her experience is in line with this study that followed HRV before and after hip surgery!

Isn’t that awesome?! Despite feeling “normal” only a couple days post-op, her body was still responding to the stress of undergoing a surgical process. 

 

What Is Heart Rate Variability Training?

Lower than normal HRV in athletes is an indication that the body is under stress and might need a break. 

Heart rate variability training is the structuring of your workouts based on this biofeedback.

Athletes who consistently track their HRV will push themselves on days when their HRV is a higher number (longer time between heartbeats) because this means their bodies are primed to handle and recover from stress. 

Conversely, on days when their HRV is abnormally low, they will choose to rest or participate in active recovery activities. 

Does That Work?

Heart rate variability training has been shown to increase strength and VO2Max (aerobic capacity). 

However, keep in mind that this type of highly focused training requires reliable heart rate trackers. 

That said, the Apple Watch and Oura Ring have been tested and found to be accurate enough to track stress levels. 

In other words, if you’re using one of the above fitness trackers (or something like them) they are a great tool for those days when you’re trying to decided “to gym or not to gym.” 

But if you really want to create a training program completely based on HRV levels, using a chest monitor will provide you the most accurate information. 

mindfulness for self-care, mental health support for injury recovery

 

What if My HRV is Low? How Can I Fix That?

Most people who have low HRV increase their HRV by exercising more

Think about it, the more short windows of stress you place your body under, the better your body gets at recovering from stress. 

But exercise is just one piece of the puzzle. 

A high HRV means that your body recovers from stress well, and to recover from stress well you need to give it the tools to do so!

If you are a person who works out regularly in both aerobic and anaerobic methods (cardio/not cardio) and your HRV is still low, you might want to take a look at these other factors:

Hydrate:

You can survive one week without food. You can only survive three days without water. 

Water is one of the most efficient ways to support your body. Your body needs water to work and exercise, stress, illness, even breathing all utilize water.

Give your body adequate water to recover from workouts, long walks, warm weather, auditions, rehearsals, illness, etc and you will greatly increase your body’s ability to recover. 

 

Fuel Yourself: 

The type and amount of fuel your body receives will greatly impact both your performance and your recovery from workouts and other stressors.

Make sure you are eating enough carbohydrates and proteins to support muscle recovery and energy levels!

Fats are important too, but more on those in just a minute!

Not only do you need to consume to right types of food, but you need to eat enough of it. Fueling your body means consuming enough for it to not only run, but thrive and grow.

 

Don’t Ignore Your Hormones:

Remember when I talked about the importance of consuming fats in your diet? 

Dietary fats play an important part in the hormone production and balance of our bodies. 

Culturally we are told to avoid them. And while we don’t need to consume as many fats as we do carbs and protein, it does serve us to ensure we’re consuming enough of them regularly. 

While we’re chatting about hormones, let’s talk about caffeine intake. 

Drinking copious amounts of caffein will impact the hormone production of cortisol. 

Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone.  

Remember what heart rate variability detects? Our bodies perception of stress. 

When we consume coffee after coffee – or a coffee followed by a green tea followed by a pre-show celsius – our bodies produce more cortisol. 

This increases the amount of “stress” your body thinks it’s under and can impact your sleep and, in turn, your HRV levels. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Plenty of Quality Sleep

With late night performances it can be challenging to wind your body down. But learning how to support quality sleep in your life will greatly impact how your body handles all kinds of stress. 

Make sure you wind yourself down with a consistent bedtime routine. 

Try and avoid screens 30 minutes before you go to bed. 

You might even want to evaluate what position you sleep in so you can wake up free of any aches and pains from poor sleeping positions. 

 

Bottom Line

Heart Rate Variability Training has shown to lead to significant fitness gains. 

Once again we are learning that listening to the biofeedback from our bodies can drive use closer to our goals than ever. 

Even if you don’t have a chest monitor, you can still use the biofeedback from whatever fitness tracker you use to help you make wise decisions about your training. 

Having one of those days where you aren’t sure if you’re just unmotivated or if you genuinely need to rest? Take a look at you HRV.

Maybe your body is needing some time to recover from the hard work you’ve put in lately. 

And remember, biofeedback is specific to your body.

If you’ve been working out consistently for a few months and your HRV is low, it might mean that instead of exercising more, you might need to look into ways to support faster recovery. 

If you haven’t been great about your workouts or you haven’t been incorporating much cardio into your routine, your low HRV might be telling you to exercise more. 

And if you’re feeling lost after learning about all of this, feel free to reach out to us. Whether we are your coaches or not, we want to see you succeed! Drop us a DM on instagram @dancerswholift or send us an email at dancerswholift@gmail.com

 

 

Want to learn more about what your body is telling you and how to support it? Give these blogs a read: Overcoming Plateaus and Setbacks, Let’s Talk About Stress, Ba-by! Stress Management For Dancers, 7 Epic At Home Core Exercises (That Aren’t Crunches!)

bodyweight cardio exercises for dancers

8 Fast and Effective Bodyweight Cardio Exercises for Dancers

Most dancers lead extremely active lifestyles. Which is why we don’t often discuss alternative bodyweight cardio exercises to dance.

You see, many dancers struggle with cutting back their activity level to allow their bodies adequate rest and recovery time.

But that doesn’t mean that a reminder of alternative bodyweight cardio exercises isn’t in order. Because engaging in cardio that isn’t dance or career related can be incredibly freeing. 

So, if you’re feeling like you want a break from class or need an outlet other than dance that gets your heart rate up, follow along. 

Plyometrics

The first category of bodyweight cardio exercises is plyometrics. Plyometric exercises not only increase your heart rate but they help train you explosive power. 

Plyometric exercises increase neuromuscular coordination by training the nervous system and making movements more automatic. This improves neural efficiency and increases neuromuscular performance. A.K.A makes moving easier and more efficient. 

Using plyometrics as cardio not only helps with heart health and endurance, but it increases muscle power. 

Unlike jogging on the treadmill, plyometrics have an anaerobic component to them.

This means that (just like when you lift weights) after you complete your plyometric exercises you’ll have a higher resting metabolic rate as your body uses energy to repair your muscles. 

 

Vertical Jumps 

Amber always says “If you want to jump higher, you have to actually practicing jumping higher.”

Vertical jumps are a great bodyweight cardio exercise that will not only get your heart rate up, but will help you get those jumps soaring to new heights!

Check out this video Amber dropped describing how to perform and get the most out of this exercise!

 

Skater Hops 

When asked about bodyweight cardio exercises that would benefit our dance athletes the most, skater hops came to mind immediately. 

Remember earlier when I told you that plyometric training helps train your neural pathways, making movement more efficient?

Think of all the times in dance when you are landing on one leg and need to stabilize (not sink into your hip). That is precisely what skater hops train your body for!

To perform the skater hop, Start by standing with your feet together. 

Then, leap to the side onto one leg, then hop on the leg you landed on. 

Use your landing from that hop to springboard you back into a leap onto the other leg. 

Try to keep your chest up, letting your hips shift back as if you were sitting in a chair.

Check this form video if you’re feeling lost!

 

Squat Jumps

Squat jumps might seem basic. But I promise, a few AMRAP sets (as many reps as possible) of squat jumps for 30 seconds will have your heart racing…and your legs will be noodles the next day! 

Like the other plyometric bodyweight cardio exercises in this group, squat jumps are a good way to amp up your heart rate and still get the strengthening benefits of bodyweight squats. 

These might look similar to vertical jumps, and they are!

The main difference is, while vertical jumps emphasize using your upper body to thrust you upward, squat jumps try to stay as true to squat form as possible. 

This means, you’ll perform a squat with good form. Then, from the base of your squat, jump as high as you can. As you land, try to maintain your chest and get into your full range of motion. 

Unlike the vertical jump, your arms will throw downward as you jump up.

 

Power Skips

Power skips might be the most fun out of this list of bodyweight cardio exercises. 

You know the power drive we sometimes tack on to the end of lunges or step ups? This is an entire skipping session made solely of those power drives!

The mechanic of performing these are the same as skipping, the only difference being form and intention. 

Unlike the classic skip-to-my-lou, these power skips require you to drive your knee upward into the highest possible passe you can muster.

Use your lower abdominals to really drive that knee upward and give you as much airtime as possible.   

Do these for timed intervals to train your power and vertical jumps!

 

Jump Rope/Pogo Hop

The last of our plyometric bodyweight cardio exercises is jump rope.

That’s right, Brooke Wyndham really was onto something with “Whipped into Shape.”

Practice sustained intervals of jumping rope to increase your cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance. 

Add jump rope into your cross training sessions and you’ll likely see your petite allegro coordination and endurance improve!

**Don’t have a jump rope? Try the pogo hop!**

Simply jump straight up and down letting the knees bend only enough to cushion your fall.  

When in the air flex your feet as hard as possible, pulling your toes toward your shins. 

Trust me, it’s way harder than it looks!

 

 

Free 5 Day Turn Course dance workout

 

 

Non-Plyometric Bodyweight Cardio Exercises

Running

I know what you’re thinking.

“But I’ve always been told that dancers shouldn’t run!” 

Well, let me be the one to tell you, this common belief is false. In fact, running can be quite beneficial for dancers.

Don’t believe me? We broke it all the science down, here for you.  

Running, is a fantastic tool for increasing cardio endurance (if running long distances) and it’s a great tool for training power (when running short sprints). 

The best part about running is you can do it pretty much anywhere as long as you have the appropriate footwear.

If you’re new to running, try this run walk workout! It’s the perfect way to dip your toes in to the running pond!

 

Walking

I know you’re rolling your eyes at me right now, and I get it!

Compared to the other exercises on this list, walking might feel a bit…wimpy (?) in comparison. 

But in actuality, there are tons of benefits of walking for dancers. 

Like I said earlier, a lot of dancers put excessive amounts of stress on their bodies and walking is one of the few bodyweight cardio exercises that actually promotes recovery. 

Walking has been shown to decrease mortality rates and it boosts mental health. Sounds like a win win to me!

 

Swimming

Technically swimming is a bodyweight cardio exercise. However, you obviously can only do this one if you are near a pool or a swimmable body of water. 

Like walking, swimming is a cardio exercise that also promotes recover in the muscles.  

Swimming, however, can have a steeper learning curve. 

If you’re a beginner at swimming for exercise, I recommend first using a kick-board. 

Place the kick-board in your hands and extend your arms straight in front of you. Do a few laps just kicking to propel yourself.

While you do this, make sure your core is engaging, so you’re not arching into that lower back for support in the water. 

Once you feel that your spine is fully supported, you can ditch the kick-board and go for as many laps as you can with good form. 

 

That’s not all!

Obviously there are many alternative forms of cardio for dancers. 

But these bodyweight cardio exercises ensure that you’ll be able to get your cardio in anytime, anywhere. 

And as for the plyometrics, you don’t have to an entire plyometric workout to get the benefits!

For a challenge, mix in sets of plyometrics between lifting sets. This is called complex training and has been shown to be very beneficial for increasing power and vertical jump height.

So, which of these bodyweight cardio exercises will you add into your training? Might you try a few? Let us know if you do! 

 

 

Want some more workout ideas? Here are a few freebies just for you: Workout Wednesday: The Floor Workout, Exceed Your Own Expectations: How to Use the Principle of Progression to Overcome Plateaus, The Pros and Cons of Creatine: Busting the Myths and Revealing the Facts

pre pro and postbiotics

A Gut Feeling: Breaking Down the Facts on Pre Pro and Postbiotics

Pre pro and postbiotics seem to be top of the newsfeed lately.

Prebiotic sodas like Poppi and Olipop becoming more more popular.

Kombucha has become so popular for its probiotic effect that it’s now even sold in cans at bodegas.

And now, the supplement industry has started talking about postbiotics. 

It’s getting hard to discern what is necessary, what is helpful, and what is…well, maybe not worth the investment. 

And listen, at the end of the day, what supplements you choose to take are mostly between you and your doctors. 

However if you, like many other fitness fanatics, are curious about pre pro and postbioitics, you’re going to want to give this article a read. 

To fully understand pre pro and postbiotics, you first need to understand what each of them are and what they do for you. 

 

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. These microorganisms are what we call “good bacteria” and they aide in food digestion, attacking disease-causing cells, and producing vitamins. 

Probiotics are found in foods like yogurt, cheese, and buttermilk. They are also found in fermented foods  like sauerkraut, miso, pickles, kombucha, kimchi, and raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar. 

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that promote the growth and activity of good gut bacteria.  In other words, if probiotics are the live “good bacteria” then prebiotics are food for these live bacteria. 

Prebiotics are most often dietary fibers. They can be found in whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans, artichokes, and beans. 

That’s why consuming enough fiber is so important. Without the prebiotic benefits of dietary fiber, the probiotics don’t get enough “food” to fuel themselves to digest food efficiently, fight disease, and produce vitamins. 

This can increase bloating and inflammation, cause IBS, and begin to breakdown your immune system


Postbiotics

Just like their name implies, postbiotics are the active substances produced by the probiotics during their growth. In other words, if prebiotics feed the probiotics, then postbiotics are what the probiotics produce as a result of being fed. 

No, not like waste.

Rather, the postbiotics are what probiotics build because they have been feed by the prebiotics. These substances include vitamin B12, vitamin K, folate, and several amino acids. 

 

 

personal training for dancers,online personal training, resistance training for dancers

 

 

So, Do I Need to Take a Postbiotic Supplement?

The short answer, as with many things is, it depends. 

By and large, the little research we have on postbiotic supplements is that if you’re consuming enough probiotics and fiber, then you don’t need a postbiotic supplement because your body will naturally produce them. 

And if you aren’t consuming probiotics and fiber in your diet currently, it’s definitely something to think about striving for. 

Because while some studies have shown that postbiotic supplements can be marginally helpful. It’s more efficient for the body to produce it’s own through consumption of pre and probiotics. 

 

Pre Pro and Postbiotics and You

Pre pro and postbiotics are a very important part of your gut health. Your gut health is an important part of your immune system, your digestive system, and the production of necessary vitamins you need to feel energized and healthy!

And while you can take a supplement for pre, pro, and postbiotics, those supplements are generally not enough to rely on.

You’ll still need to ensure that you are consuming pre and probiotic foods regularly in order for your body to produce the beneficial postbiotics needed to fuel a healthy body.

Want to learn more about how your body works and ways to fuel it? Here are a few blogs discussing just that: A Dancer’s Guide to the Best Supplements for Muscle Recovery,Leaping For Joy: A Dancer’s Guide on How to Jump Higher, The ABCs of BCAAS: The Science-Based Facts Revealed

knee and ankle pain management and prevention for dancers

A Dancer’s Guide to Managing and Preventing Knee and Ankle Pain

Knee and ankle pain can be worrisome for dancers (or any athlete!) 

As dancers it’s important to know that we ask a lot of our knees and ankles. Giving them the attention they need will go a long way in preventing knee and ankle pain from starting. 

Now, listen. I want to stress that if you’re experiencing knee or ankle pain, you have not failed and you are not doomed!

But there are a few things you should know about managing and preventing knee and ankle pain as a dancer. 

 

When To See a Doc and When to Self-Manage

There are number of things that could cause knee and ankle pain in dancers. 

From sprains and strains to muscle imbalances and more, the reasons you might experience knee or ankle pain are numerous. 

But before we dive into how to prevent and manage pain when it arises, I want to stress that there are signs for when it’s time to see a doctor. 

Generally speaking, if you hear a pop at the time of injury, if your knee or ankle swells suddenly, or if they are red or warm, those are indicators that it’s time to see a doctor. 

If you heard a pop and you can’t bear weight, it’s a good idea to seek urgent medical attention

However, if you’re experiencing knee or ankle pain with mild swelling or none of the above symptoms, there are a few things you can do to manage the pain – or prevent it from happening in the first place. 

Please note that if any of these exercises increase your pain, stop doing them right away and talk to a physical therapist or your doctor. 

 

Strengthen the Hips

If you’ve ever been to the physical therapist, you might know that where the pain is isn’t always the place that needs to be worked on. 

Strengthening your hips (abductors, adductors, psoas, and range of motion) has been shown in clinical trials to quickly reduce knee pain. In fact, athletes who focused on hip strengthening saw a resolution in their pain faster than athletes who didn’t!

And this makes sense because more studies have shown that weak hips are strongly correlated with knee pain.

Exercises like clamshells, lateral band walks, single-leg hip bridges, and single-leg deadlifts are all great for strengthening your hips. 

And don’t forget to add in some hip mobility exercises like these,  or these, from Coach Amber to bullet proof your training!

Check this video from Coach Mel for more hip strengthening inspiration!

 

Strengthen the Posterior

A strong posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, and calves) helps you perform activities like, running, jumping, and changing directions. 

Many knee injuries occur during these types of activities. So, having a strong posterior chain is a fantastic way to prevent and manage knee pain. 

Deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, squats, glute bridges, hip thrusts, and roman chair extensions, are fantastic at kicking on those glutes and hammies!

 

Strengthen the Quads

Strengthening the quads has been shown to decrease knee pain. 

So get those quads working with heel elevated squats, leg extensions, lying leg lifts, and terminal knee extensions (TKEs). 

Check out this video of Coach Amber doing her favorite “Happy Knees” exercises for inspo!

Notice how she incorporates both strength and mobility for a well rounded approach to knee health. 

 

 

Free 5 Day Turn Course dance workout

 

 

Strengthen the Calves

As mentioned earlier, the calves are part of your posterior chain. But when discussing knee and ankle pain the calves pull double duty. 

Strong and flexible calves support both healthy knees and healthy ankles and are a fantastic way to prevent and manage knee and ankle pain.

Now, as a dancer, you likely have spent most of your life doing heel raises.

So, to increase the intensity and benefit to your ankles and knees, I recommend that you do these heel raises rom a negative position. 

What does this mean? It means you’ll set up the balls of your feet on the edge of a stair or yoga block, and let your heels hang down. 

Make sure you keep your knees straight throughout this entire exercise without pushing into your hyper extension. (Harder than it sounds!)

This should give you a nice calf stretch. Then, from this extended position, perform your heel raises. 

This extended range of motion will increase the intensity of your heel raises and help strengthen the entire range of motion of your ankles. 

 

Practice Perfectly

One of the best ways to prevent knee and ankle pain is to ensure that you practice perfect practice. 

Say what?

Just like when you are dancing, when you are lifting or exercising, it’s important to ensure that you are practicing perfect form. 

Now, I don’t mean you have to be perfect. You are allowed to be a beginner. 

What I mean is, honoring where your body is each day and ensuring that everything you’re doing is being done with proper form and appropriate weight. 

As dancers we love to excel at things right away. But sometimes, to excel at something means to be wise about how you progress. 

Practicing this level of intentionality – even during your HIIT training- will help protect you from injuries that could lead to knee and ankle pain.

So, make sure your knees are tracking in a straight line over your toes (not pushing outward or inward).

Keep your core engaged to support your spine.

Choose an appropriate weight. 

And for Heaven’s sake, WARM UP!

 

Give the Joints a Break (Low Impact is a Friend)

If you are experiencing knee or ankle pain, it might be a good idea to cut back on your high-impact activities. (Just until you get your pain under control!)

Swap your run for a cycling or swimming work out. Trade in your HIIT training for a lifting session. 

Or, and this is really a crazy thought, add another rest day to your week. You might be surprised at how your body responds. 

 

Don’t Forget

The most important thing to remember about knee and ankle pain is: if it persists despite rest, ice, and these suggestions, it’s time to see a doctor. 

Seeing a doctor is not something to be afraid of- especially if your doctor can refer you to a good physical therapist who can help you!

Ultimately, seeing a doctor or PT will help you resolve the issue faster and prevent you from possibly doing more damage by ignoring the pain. 

And I promise, DWL will be here for you as you recover!

Want more from the Dancers Who Lift Blog? Check out these reads selected just for you: 9 Things Physical Therapists Want Dance Athletes to Know, What Not to Do With Plantar Fasciitis: Expert Advice for Dancers, Oh My, Quad! A Quad Workout for Dancers

circuit workout

Workout Wednesday: A Circuit Workout

A circuit workout is a great way to simultaneously build strength and increase your cardiorespiratory fitness.

Circuit workouts are also a great way to pack a lot into one workout as they call for less rest time as you move through your exercises. 

Today we have a killer circuit workout for you. Five exercises, completely scalable, with a 60 second rest time between circuits. 

Grab a water bottle and a towel; this one is bound to be sweaty!

Today’s Circuit Workout

 

 

personal training for dancers

 

 

Pull-ups x10

We are starting this circuit workout off strong with pull-ups.

You can perform these with a band for assistance or use a pull-up machine that offers assistance- whatever is the best option for where you are in your pull-up journey. 

You can perform these with a traditional grip, or, bring your elbows forward and parallel with one another to perform neutral grip pull ups. The choice is completely up to you. 

Engage your core, activate your lats, and with control, perform 10 pull-ups. 

*After your reps, immediately move on to the next exercise.*

 Reverse Lunges x12/side

Grab yourself a challenging weight (either one dumbbell in each hand or a kettlebell in a goblet hold).

Stand with your feet hip width apart. 

Lengthen your spine and brace your core. 

Then, step backward into a lunge. 

To return to standing, drive through your front heel and bring the feet together. 

Switch legs. 

Continue switching until you’ve performed 12 reps per side. 

*Once reps are completed, immediately move on to the next exercise.*

Push-ups x15

Next up in our circuit workout is push-ups. Now, if you’ve always struggled with push-ups, and you often find yourself with very little range of motion, I want you to pause and read this form breakdown

Choose any of the modifications in the above form break down to accomplish these. 

And hey, if halfway through your set you need to make a modification, that’s okay! We want as solid form as possible through this circuit workout.

So choose something challenging but sustainable.

*Once you’ve completed 15 reps, immediately move on to the next exercise.*

Single-leg Hip Thrusts x20/side

We are almost done with our first circuit!

If you don’t have a bench handy, feel free to adapt this by doing single-leg bridges on the floor!

Lean against a bench or block so your sports bra line is on the edge of the bench/block. 

Legs should be around 90 degrees when tush is lifted and engaged. 

Focus your eyes on your belly button and brace your core, by knitting those ribs together. 

Lower your hips toward the ground and place a barbell or dumbbells on your hips. (Choose a challenging weight!) 

Lift one leg off the ground and without letting your hips tip, exhale and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Again, keep your focus on your belly button. 

Slowly lower your hips down, keeping your leg lifted.

During this exercise don’t let your hips tip from side to side!

*Perform 20 reps per side, then move on to the final exercise in the circuit.*

Stir the Pot Planks x8/side

You’ve heard of planks, but stir the pot planks bring them to a whole new level!

Put yourself in a plank position on your forearms. Ribcage and hip bones are pulling toward each other, tush is in line with shoulders and engaged, shoulders are pressing down and back.

Now, imagine your hip joint is cemented in this extended position. 

Using your lower abdominals, move your hips in an circle: right, forward, left, and up.

Careful not to arch your lower back or hinge in your hips on the “forward” and “up” portions of the circle!

Instead, think of contracting your lower abdominals to control your hips. And don’t let yourself sink into your shoulders as you get tired!

Each “circle” is one rep. 

*Perform 8 reps in each direction, then take a 60 second rest.*

 

Completing the Workout

To complete today’s circuit workout, perform anywhere between 3-5 rounds dependent on how much time you have. 

I guarantee you this workout will have you a bit wobbly the next day!

Besides, who doesn’t love a workout that gives you cardio benefits without technically doing cardio?!

 

 

Want more workouts? Follow us here for weekly workouts, training tips, and more!

But for now, here are a few reads we think you’ll want right now: Eight Ways to Promote Faster Recovery, No Gym, No Equipment, No BS: The Best Workouts for Dancers That Can Be Done Anywhere, Should I Be Sore After Every Workout?: The Surprising Truth Most Dancers Don’t Know