Core Training Through Dance: Does it Really Work?

If you happened to catch the Super Bowl LIV halftime show featuring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, you know that it was impossible not to marvel at the incredible abs those 50- and 43-year-old mamas were showing off. While being international superstars with their own personal trainers and chefs certainly helps, their favorite workout – dance – is a huge part of the secret behind those amazing abs. Core training through dance is not a myth; it really works if you learn how to properly activate and target your core muscles for toning while you dance. There are plenty of great core blasting dance workouts out there, but rather than sticking to one worn out DVD, consider joining an online community that provides hundreds of hours of streaming workouts, daily coaching, and detailed nutritional suggestions, like Body FX. No matter how you choose to get moving, it’s possible to see huge benefits by core training through dance. 

Don’t get us wrong, dancing isn’t limited to core exercises- It’s a full-body workout that’s guaranteed to get your heart rate up and target all muscle groups.  This includes upper body, lower body, glutes, and more. You can incorporate resistance bands or simply use your body weight within the dance routines to take it up a notch. Doing so can help you lose weight, increase muscle mass, and improve your overall health.    

Why is Dancing Great For Your Core?

Dancing is one of those sneaky activities that strengthens your core without you even knowing it’s happening. All of the twisting, turning, reaching, and stretching associated with different dance movements thoroughly works all of the layers of your core, helping to strengthen these abdominal muscles. Your core’s job is to stabilize the entire body, so a strong core means a strong back and less pain. Dancing can improve your posture by helping to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, so you might find that you stand up straighter and feel better as you continue to dance.

How Can I Learn to Target My Core?

Before you learn how to target and engage your core muscles, you first need to understand which muscles make up your core! Spoiler alert: it’s not just the six-pack abs we usually think of. The core includes your transverse abdominis (the deep layer of the core), rectus abdominis (the six-pack), internal obliques, external obliques, and your back. The first step towards effective core training through dance is to learn where each of the core muscles is located and how to activate them. Your instructor (either online, with an exercise program like Figure 8,  or in-person) will lead you through a series of dance moves that help improve spinal flexibility and allow you to feel specific core muscles working. Once you know what it feels like to engage and activate individual muscles, you’ll be able to recognize when this is happening in workouts.

How Can I Get the Best Core Results From Dance?

You already know that dancing is a killer core workout, but just like J. Lo and Shakira didn’t get six-pack abs from dance alone, neither will you. When you’re beginning core training through dance, it’s important not only to get a great workout, but also to take care of your body and strengthen it in other ways, too.

  • Eat right: They say “abs are made in the kitchen” for a reason – it’s true! While dance is a great way to strengthen your core, you won’t see the definition that you’re looking for unless you clean up your diet. That means eating meals packed with whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and veggies, and cutting out the junk food and excess sugar. In addition to reducing stubborn belly fat, eating right will also help you to properly fuel your workouts and make sure that you have enough energy to get through the day. If you’re not sure where to start on cleaning up your nutrition, consider joining an online fitness community like Body FX. You’ll not only get tons of great dance workouts that you can do at home, you’ll also get detailed nutritional suggestions, daily coaching, and be able to connect with other people just like you who are working on their fitness.
  • Mix it up: One of the best things about dance workouts is that they are a total body workout, which means that you’ll tone your core day in and day out. However, variety is still important in helping you to maximize your results. Although you’re welcome to try other styles of exercise, like running or weight training, you can also get the variety you need by trying different styles of dance. This is where having access to tons of dance videos comes in handy, and part of what makes fitness communities like Body FX so popular.
  • Know your anatomy: As we already mentioned, knowing your anatomy is critical if you want to get the maximum results when core training through dance. Everyone has trouble spots and some areas that are weaker than others, so identifying these areas will help you to choose exercises that target them specifically. For example, if you’re looking to target your obliques because you’re concerned about “love handles,” you’ll want to do a lot of belly dancing, pilates, and hip-shaking, while your transverse abdominis will engage when you lift your arms up and out to the side. Knowledge is power, so the more you know about your body, the more effective you will be at training it.
  • Don’t forget the little guys: In order to become a stronger dancer and continuously improve, don’t forget to spend time stabilizing your core while performing whole-body movements like squats or overhead presses on unstable surfaces, like a Bosu or soft mat. We know, we know – it’s not as much fun as dancing, but even five minutes a few times a week will yield big results and help you prevent injury.

I’ve Never Danced Before, but I Want to Strengthen My Core. What Should I Expect?

Dancing for fitness isn’t exactly like dancing at your wedding, although it can be just as much fun. Fortunately, you don’t have to be Britney Spears on the dance floor to get a great workout. It may take some time to find the style of dance that works best for you, but dancing for fitness doesn’t have to be intimidating.  Here’s what to expect. 

  • If you’re uncomfortable dancing in front of other people or just prefer to work out at home, you have plenty of great options when it comes to core training through dance. Services like Body FX offer hundreds of hours of coaching and workout sessions that you can stream at home, in addition to email and nutritional coaching,  a thriving online community, and new challenges each month. You’ll be able to search for dance videos that intentionally target your core, too! If you’d feel more comfortable with personal instruction, you’ll be able to find tons of dance fitness classes at many local gyms or community centers. You don’t have to be a dance pro to go – there are tons of beginner options, and some classes are even designed specifically for senior citizens and people who need to keep their impact low.
  • You won’t need a whole lot of gear to get started. Make sure you wear comfortable non-slip shoes that won’t slide on a hard surface. Regardless of where you’re dancing, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes that won’t slip around on the floor. Make sure your shoes don’t rub any part of your foot enough to cause a blister, because you’re going to be moving around a lot! Also, try to dress in comfortable moisture-wicking clothing that allows you to move freely. You’ll be sweating up a storm, so don’t worry too much about glamour!
  • Make sure to hydrate by drinking lots of water. Dancing is a tough workout, and you’ll definitely get sweaty. Make sure you’re taking regular breaks to drink water and recover as needed, especially when you’re first getting started.

Will Dancing Help My Core Get Stronger?

Dancing is the ultimate core trainer and total body workout, and best of all, it’s fun! Certain styles of dance can be a great option for people with low back pain resulting from a weak core, because getting up and moving loosens up the muscles while strengthening them at the same time. Dancing is a total body workout, of course, but it really shines at core strengthening due to  all the twisting and turning that happens on the dance floor. However, people with back problems should speak to a doctor or physical therapist about which movements should be avoided and which level of intensity is most suitable. You may need to look for classes and videos that offer modification options if you have a history of injury. 

Dance isn’t just great for your core. It’s a great cardio workout too! People with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes can benefit tremendously from the cardiovascular element of dance, but only when done at the appropriate level. Your doctor can help you decide which style of dance is right for you and give you guidance about how many times a week you should try to incorporate activity into your daily routine.

If you’re pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or have recently had a baby, dancing can be an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular fitness and strengthen your core before and after delivery. You’ll be able to dance well into your pregnancy, but make sure to use extra caution during the second and third trimesters when balance can be an issue.

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