Strengthening Exercises for Dancers

dancing

The following exercises will help build strength and stability in your feet and ankles and better prepare you for the strenuous performance season ahead.

  1. Ankle Plantar Flexion (Kneeling). Kneel on the floor on your right knee, with your left foot flat on the floor. Point your right foot, tucking it under, and put your hands on your left knee. Slowly press your upper body down and back, until you are sitting on your right heel (or as close as possible without pain). You should feel this stretch on the top of your right foot and ankle. Hold the stretch position for five seconds, and repeat the exercise on your other leg.
  2. Toe Extension/Ankle Dorsiflexion (Kneeling). Kneel on the floor on your right knee, with your left foot flat on the floor. This time, instead of pointing your right foot, keep your foot flexed with your heel up and toes flexed on the floor. Put your hands on your left knee, and press your upper body down and back, until you are sitting on your right heel (or as close as possible without pain). You should feel this stretch in the arch of your right foot. Hold the stretch position for five seconds, and repeat the exercise on your other leg.
  3. Dorsiflexion (Crouching). Kneel on the floor on your right knee, with your left foot flat on the floor. Point your right foot, tucking it under. This time, put your hands on the floor in front of you, on either side of your left knee. Lean forward over your knee until a gentle stretch is felt. Hold this position for five seconds, and repeat the exercise on your other leg.
  4. Balance/Forward Lean. Stand on your right foot, with your left leg bent. Keeping your knees together, put your hands on your hips and bend forward. Try to keep your hips level, and bend only at the waist, keeping your upper body flat. Hold this bent position for three seconds, and then return to standing position. Repeat this exercise five times on each leg.
  5. Balance/Reach. Stand on your right foot, with your left leg bent. Bend your right knee, lowering your body forward. Reach your left arm across toward your right leg, and twist your upper body to the right. Hold this position for three seconds, and then return to standing position. Repeat this exercise five times on each leg. For additional strengthening, hold a five-pound weight in the hand that is reaching across and down.
  6. Plantar Flexion/Knee Flexed. Lie on your stomach with your left leg straight behind you, and your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Flex your right foot, directing your toes behind you and pushing your heel up to the ceiling. Hold this position for five seconds. Then, point your right foot, pushing your toes up to the ceiling. Hold this position for five seconds. Repeat this exercise five more times with the right foot, and then switch legs. For additional strenghtening, use a five-pound weight around the foot that is pointing and flexing.

By performing these sets of exercises between your dance class schedule, you will be able to build strength in your feet and ankles. For more exercises like these, please see the articles “Strengthening Exercises for Dancers” and “More Strengthening Exercises for Dancers”.