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Pilates exercises for dancers

August 14th, 2017

pilates for dancersMany dance schools and professional dancers recognise the value of Pilates as a training method for developing core strength, technique and connection with their bodies.

Practising Pilates builds strong, flexible muscles with the strength to move fast and the endurance to sustain slow moves.

It’s also complimentary in style to dance, with a precise and mindful focus on making the resistance of your body weight look effortless as you flow from move to move.

Why is a strong core important for dancers?

Your ‘core’ essentially joins your upper body to your lower body, so it’s about far more than just strong abdominals. Pilates exercises teach the muscles of your lower back, pelvis, abdominals and hips to work together in a balanced way. These deep muscles are often underdeveloped in dance classes and the patterns of movement within the pilates repertoire will enhance your technique and performance.

Avoid injuries with pilates

Cross training to strengthen and condition your muscles is vital, so you are able to withstand intense training periods. Cross training also helps build resilience in your ligaments, tendons, muscles (soft tissues) to reduce your risk of injury. Pilates exercises ‘strengthen and lengthen’ your muscles, so they’re an ideal way for dancers to reap the benefits of cross training, without bulking up.

Dancers regularly dance a combination of movements only on one side, especially in the corps de ballet, this can result in asymmetrical muscle development that may set you up for injury in the future. Practising Pilates exercises using equipment, like a reformer bed, is particularly helpful for dancers as the resistance of the equipment means that it’s far more difficult (and obvious) when stronger muscle groups on one side of your body try to take over, forcing you to move in a more balanced, symmetrical way.

Pilates exercises for dancers

Dancers spend a lot of time in very extended positions, so the ‘roll up’ is a great exercise to target the deep abdominal muscles that are often quite weak:

Sit with your legs out straight and your arms in front of you.

Breathe out and slide your tailbone underneath, so your lower back curves and lower your spine down to the floor bone by bone.

Breathe in and lift your arms to 90 degrees, breathe out to lift your head and reach through your fingers tips to peel your spine off the floor, one bone at a time.

Tips: Keep your legs on the floor and keep your thighs tight to the bone. Don’t swing your arms or use momentum to get up again, it’s better to work on a variation of this exercise at a lower level to establish the control first.

Pilates is a great way for dancers to exercise and avoid or rehab from injury. Many professionals attribute a longer career with their pilates practice and go on to teach pilates themselves when they retire from dance. At this level is strongly advised to have a private session before going into a class to ensure you have a bespoke program of exercises specifically to complement your dance style and individual issues.

Get in touch if you have any questions at all,

The Pilatesfit Team!