Summer is beginning to turn into fall, the “Dancing with the Stars” cast has officially been announced and if you’re not back in school already, you will be soon. All of these things add up to one goal: finding a workout plan that will help you attain the toned, lean, dancer body to rock in fall fashion and last the whole year! We’re all envious of a dancer’s strong, flexible body, and these workouts will have you leaving the gym feeling more graceful and toned than ever. It’s easier than you think to incorporate these exercises into your daily workout!
1. Do 30 minutes of cardio every day
Cardio workouts promote lean muscles and a healthy metabolism. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts keep your heart rate up and help you burn fat and build strength.
Do 45-second intervals of high knees, mountain climbers, burpees and jump squats with 10 seconds in between each exercise to work out your whole body and burn fat! Repeat these intervals two to three times per day.
2. Lift lighter weights
Collegiettes, if you’re striving for a dancer’s body, it’s important to tone muscles like a flexible, graceful ballerina. That means using lighter weights and longer reps in order to build strength without bulking.
Grab a weight light enough that it feels manageable to do 25 lifts. Doing so should be easier to maintain control and focus on toning your current muscles rather than bulking them up.
According to Cara Raines, a ballet instructor in Sacramento, CA, using lighter weights for longer repetitions will not only develop and tone muscles, but will also increase endurance and enhance a greater control of your body, which will translate into more graceful movement overall. She recommends that collegiettes start simple; use lighter weights in bicep curls, lunges and tricep kickbacks, for 25 - 30 reps at a time.
3. Try Pilates
Not only does Pilates develop long, lean muscles in your arms, legs and core, it also increases your flexibility to give you a more fluid, graceful manner. Doing Pilates a few times a week will strengthen your core, increase control and balance and leave you with a taut midsection, arms and legs, without bulking up. Melanie Ludwig, a personal trainer and owner of Prestige Fitness, Inc., stresses the importance of incorporating pilates for balanced musculature. Ludwig also noted that in combination with cardio and resistence training, Pilates will keep your workout routine varied, and, "by varying what you do, your body has to respond to more stimuli which keeps it guessing and reacting."
Typical Pilates routines include core-strengthening workouts along with a focus on stretching and toning your arms and legs. Pilates is great for squeezing exercise into a busy day, because it’s high intensity, quick and can be done at home without gym equipment! Pilates Anytime, a YouTube dedicated to creating a community of Pilates lovers, has several videos that make Pilates easy to do at home while the instructor gives encouragement and motivation – there are no excuses!
4. Strengthen your core with sit-ups, planks and pullups
According to Rae Michaud, a Dance major at UC Irvine, it’s important to do sets of regular sit-ups, crossed leg sit ups and planks to increase core strength and balance. She suggests that you try to do sit-ups every morning and evening in order to maintain a routine and continue the strength building; it’s easy to get into the habit, and will also boost your energy in the morning!
Ludwig also notes that to appear longer and leaner, like a dancer, it's important to carry yourself tall and workout your arms. During core exercises, incorporate reps of pullups and push-ups in order to tone your shoulders and upper arms, which will improve your posture while developing your core and arm muscles. Ludwig recommends that collegiettes, with varying schedules and classes, should be sure to work out at least twice a week - once in the week and once on the weekend - and set continually managable goals. As your ability increases, it will be easier to find time throughout the day to keep working out, and eventually you'll see the results you've been working towards!
5. Do some sumo squats
Sumo squats are a variation of regular squats that will increase flexibility as well as toning more than your thighs and back region. Raines incorporates sumo squats into every warm-up routine to simultaneously stretch and workout her dancer’s legs and back.
A sumo squat is demonstrated here, and it’s essentially a regular squat with your legs shoulder-width apart, and knees and toes pointed outward instead of straight. This position increases the areas of your legs and back to stretch by increasing resistance, so the rewards will also increased! Like sit-ups, these can be made more challenging by holding some light dumbbells close to your chest during the squat.
Every collegiette dancer knows the importance of stretching, and it is the #1 recommended tip when trying to achieve a dancer’s body. Michaud suggests that you begin and end every workout with relaxing, long stretches, including the butterfly stretch (holding your feet together, knees to the floor, and resting your head as far forward to your feet as possible), the cat stretch (lying down, hands under your shoulders, and stretching your back slowly up to the ceiling) and hurdle stretches (sitting down, one leg stretched out, the other tucked in as you reach towards your outstretched foot). Stretching will prevent injury, make any workouts more manageable, and save you soreness for the next day’s workout. These stretches will also increase flexibility as you’ll notice you can stretch farther and farther each time!
Of course, if you want to get a body like a dancer … dance! Take classes at your college rec center, or find a Groupon to try a new dance class, or start dancing it out like Cristina and Meredith. Dancing burns calories, uses a multitude of muscles, and is a fun way to take a break any day!
Monique Conant, a fourth year Chapman student, recommends Zumba. According to Conant, she has been taking Zumba classes since freshman year because it's a, “fun, energy-boosting workout that not only keeps me in shape but has helped me work through stress during the week!”
Zumba has gained popularity in the last few years because it combines dance and interval training workouts without pushing you too hard. According to the national Zumba website, “Zumba is a total workout, combining all elements of fitness-cardio, muscle conditioning, balance and flexibility … We take the ‘work’ out of working out!”
If you want a dancer’s body, of course you're going to have to dance!
With these seven additions to your routine, you’ll be flaunting a dancer’s body in no time. Lots of these workouts can be done at home, used as a break in a busy day and can oftentimes alleviate any stress by boosting your energy. It’s fun and will help with any fitness goals – so step to it, collegiettes! It can be easy and exciting to work toward a dancer’s body, and like Cristina Yang says, “Shut up. Dance it out.”