Optimize your workouts with five functional exercises.
Whether you head to the gym on your days off at the studio or squeeze in an at-home workout, these exercises are versatile and will increase your strength when consistently incorporated in your exercise routine. They can be performed anywhere and can be progressed as you build strength.
The squat is a full body exercise that targets a series of muscles in the lower body as well as core and postural muscles. The squat, or the distant cousin of the plie, is a functional movement pattern that is repetitively performed throughout daily activities. Incorporating squats in your exercise regimen can help build lower body strength, increase core stability, improve total body function and increase muscle efficiency as a dancer.
How to perform a squat:
Stand tall with your feet about hip distance apart. While keeping a neutral spine, descend in a full squat position without breaking form in your posture. At the bottom of your squat position, make sure that your knees track the path of your toes and your hips break parallel. Drive your feet through the ground as you squeeze your leg muscles and return to the starting position. Repeat the squat making sure that the depth of every repetition is the same. Once you are confident with your form, load your squat with weight.
Fit Tip: Everyone’s squat looks different depending on their anatomy and mobility. Find the squat stance that suits you! A great way to find your form is holding the bottom of the squat position and slowly coming up with control without compensating your posture.
#2 Lateral Lunge
One great way to challenge single leg strength and balance are lateral lunges. Building strength in single limb movements is especially important when it comes to building a balanced body. Pay attention to any imbalances when lunging. Identify your less dominant side and work towards building total body efficiency.
How to perform lateral lunges:
Stand tall while keeping your feet shoulder distance apart. Step out to the side in a wide position with your right leg as you bend the knee and send both hips behind you. The right ankle, knee and hip stay stacked in the bottom of the lunge position and the left leg stays straight and active. Push through your right leg as you squeeze your leg muscles and return to your starting position. Practice both sides.
Fit Tip: Form is key! Master lateral lunges with bodyweight first, then maybe grab a weight and start building more strength!
#3 Hip Bridge
Feel your buns burn as you hip bridge. The hip bridge is an efficient exercise that targets the backside of the legs including the glutes and hamstrings. The glutes are one of the most important muscles for total body strength, power and balance.
How to perform a hip bridge:
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, your feet about hip distance apart and flat on the floor. Keep your shoulder blades and arms actively pushing through the ground. Tuck your hips and create a stable core as you drive your hips up to the ceiling while pushing your body weight through your feet. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings at the top of the bridge position and slowly descend to the starting position. Not feeling your glutes in the hip bridge? Try to position your feet right under your knees so that at the top of the hip bridge, the knees form a 90 degree angle. Once you’ve mastered the body weight hip bridge, add weight to the hips or attach a band around the knees for additional resistance.
Fit Tip: Physically squeezing your booty muscles with the hip bridge will help you not only engage the muscles that are working, it’ll help your body awareness identify the backside of your legs.
#4 Push Up
The ultimate test for upper body and core strength; the push up.
Push ups may seem like one of the most challenging exercises, but with modifications and practice over time, they are extremely rewarding and beneficial for total-body strength.
How to perform a push up:
Start in a plank position with your hands about shoulder distance apart and your feet together. Make sure to maintain a neutral posture while keeping the rest of your body engaged. Initiate by bending through the elbows as you keep your arms close to your body at a 45 degree angle. Lower your body in unison until your elbows reach a 90 degree bend, right when the shoulders and elbows are in line. Push back to your starting position while maintaining a stiff, neutral posture. If you feel that your hips are either dropping or hiking upwards during the push up, set your knees on the ground and focus on core engagement through the full range of motion.
Fit Tip: Core stability can be hard to maintain throughout the push up. The good news is, there is a way to help keep your core stay engaged! Splay out your fingers as you push your hands through the ground. Tuck your hips and squeeze your booty with straight knees and active leg muscles. Drive the feet through the ground and viola, you’re actively supporting core stability during the push up!
#5 Beast Hold
Are you getting bored of holding a plank? The beast hold is a variation of the classic plank position which will challenge your core strength in a different way. The beast hold incorporates upper and lower body activation as well as core stability. The beast directly translates to building a stronger push up. Get your timer ready and unleash your inner beast!
How to perform a beast hold:
Start in a quadruped position. Keep your shoulders, elbows and wrists stacked along with your hips and knees. Spread your fingers and grip your hands to the ground. Tuck your toes to the ground and push off as you lift your knees about 2 inches off of the ground. Similar to the push up position, maintain a neutral spine position as you hold the beast. Breathe through the belly as your create tension through the rest of your body, especially your abdominal muscles.
Fit Tip: Breathing is your best friend when it comes to holding various positions. Big inhales through the nose and powerful exhales through the mouth will keep you up in your beast hold for longer than expected!
Paulina Kairys @paulinakairys