Getting the Most Out of Dance
You don’t have to be a pro hip hop dancer to dance your way to stronger abs, but it will take more than just dance to get you to the core of your dreams. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your dance moves routine.
- Learn your anatomy: Your core is more than just the six-pack abs you see on Instagram: it includes your transverse abdominis (the deep layer of the core), rectus abdominis (the six-pack), internal obliques, external obliques, and the muscles of your glutes and back. Dance is a killer core workout and full-body workout because you’ll be twisting and turning all over the place, working your core in a natural way rather than through repetitive motion. To make it work as efficiently as possible, you need to learn what moves target which areas. For example, if you’re looking to target specific core muscles, such as your obliques, 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.
- Eat right: You’ve heard the saying “strong abs are made in the kitchen,” right? Unfortunately, it’s true. If you want a visible six-pack, it will take a diet packed with whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and veggies to get there, and you’ll need to watch your intake. Make sure to eat properly to fuel your dancing!
- Work the small muscles: To prevent injury, work on stabilizing your core while performing whole-body movements like squats or overhead presses on unstable surfaces, like a Bosu or soft mat. This will make you a stronger dancer and work muscles you didn’t even know you had!
- Mix up your abdominal workouts: Although you’re welcome to add in other cardiovascular, ab exercises, midsection toning, or weight training exercises to your workout routine, you don’t have to sacrifice dance if that’s what you really love. Instead, practice several different styles of dance that work a variety of different muscles, like samba, belly dancing, line dancing, and ballroom dancing.
What to Expect When You Start Dancing
- Many local gyms or community centers have dance-based fitness classes for beginners, like Zumba, Figure8, line dancing, or even ballroom dancing. If you’d feel more comfortable having someone guide you through a routine to make sure you’re doing it correctly, sign up for a class! There are even options specifically for senior citizens and people who need to keep their impact low.
- If dancing in public isn’t your thing, you’ll find tons of great dance workout videos online. Some are geared towards beginners, while others offer complex choreography and are more advanced. Look for videos that specifically mention they’re targeted at beginners.
- Wear comfortable non-slip shoes. 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. Blisters are painful, so make sure they fit well, too! Wear comfortable clothing. Dancers might look glamorous on tv, but you don’t have to be wearing a leotard to get your boogie on. You can wear whatever you would normally wear to the gym.
- Drink plenty of water. As you’ll soon find out, dancing is a total body workout, and it will get you sweaty! Make sure you’re taking regular breaks to drink water and recover as needed. Remember, there’s no medal for who drinks the least water in class.
Is Dancing Right for Me?
If you’re looking for a great ab and total body workout, dance can be an excellent choice. 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 fitness and dance cardio, but depending on your health, some fast-paced and intense dances may not be right for you. Your doctor can help you decide which style of dance is right for you.
When practiced carefully, dancing is also an excellent option for people who struggle with lower back problems due to a weak core. Dancing is a total lower body and upper body workout, of course, but it’s an especially great core-strengthener thanks to all the twisting and turning that you’ll do out on the dance floor. If you have back problems, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about which type of movements you should avoid and what intensity would be best for you. You might be surprised to see yourself getting stronger in no time!
Dancing is also an excellent fitness option for people who are pregnant, although you should use caution in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy when balance can be an issue. Dancing while pregnant improves your cardiovascular fitness and strengthens your core when done correctly, which can help make delivery easier and recovery faster.
Of course, if you have any type of injury that will limit your ability to dance safely, make sure you let it heal completely before taking on a new dance routine. The last thing you want is to fall in love with dance, only to find yourself on the sidelines as soon as you start! Dancing will still be here when you get back, so take care of yourself and get healthy first.