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Dance and Sports Performance

Strength training and conditioning approaches for dancers

Incorporate Bands to Elicit Glute Connection

We’ve written before about how the dance population seems to struggle with hip extension, and specifically with tapping into the power of their glutes. Today I’ll talk to you about two ways we tackle this issue.

One of the things that’s important from a coaching standpoint is putting dancers and athletes into positions in which they can succeed. I’ll test their ability to do something like a Romanian deadlift when I first meet them, but many dancers struggle, either because of hyper-mobility or basic unfamiliarity with hinging as a biomechanics concept.

When it’s time to train rather than assess, we’ll use a progression over weeks and months that might look something like this.

Hip extension progression

1.) Glute bridge from floor

2.) Unweighted hip thrust

3.) Barbell hip thrust

4.) Barbell Romanian deadlift

5.) Trap-bar deadlift

You can mix in the single leg variations of the first three movements as well, but the point here is that four and five are likely to be the most difficult hip extension variations. Proceed with caution and a conservative approach before loading a dancer with a barbell and asking her to control the weight eccentrically while avoiding shearing forces on her lumbar spine.

One tactic I’ve begun using that has helped push dancers along that continuum more quickly is bands. The physiotherapy type bands will work, but I like the added force of the type of bands that powerlifters or weightlifters might use.

Below are three examples of how the bands enhance the mind-muscle connection between dancers and, well, their butts. The banded hip thrust is maybe the more obvious of the three, but we’ll also use the bands on something like the Romanian deadlift and the bent barbell row. Remember, your glutes play multiple important roles: they are powerful hip extensors, they are powerful hip external rotators, they are powerful hip abductors (moving legs away from the body—here we’re talking specifically glute medius and glute minimus), and they keep the femur in the acetabulum of the hip. Given the extraordinary mobility dancers often have in their hips, it makes sense in a training sense to also give them a bit of the stability they can lose over the course of a performance season.


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