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What should a dance warm up include?


As a dancer, one of the most important ways to look after your body to make sure it is fully prepared for your dance class.


I know, I know, a warm up can seems like a drag at times - especially when you’ve been looking forward to your class all day. But warming up is crucial to protecting your muscles and joints. Trust me, after dancing competitively for 15 years, I’ve been injured multiple times from not warming up properly. And it’s not fun.


Believe it or not, research shows that static stretching (stretching a muscle as far as it can go, and then holding it there for an extended period) can actually make you perform worse. This used to be my go to warm up (after some quick cardio), so it’s not surprising I was susceptible to injuries.


Static stretching can temporarily hinder your endurance, speed, strength and balance. Not ideal for a dancer. Because of this, it’s best to save static stretching for your cool down - when you’re already warm.


So, what is the best way to warm up for dance class?


Get your heart rate up

The best way to start your warm up is to get your heart rate up and literally warm your body from the inside. Personally, I’m was always a big fan of spending a few minutes jogging or skipping. But anything that gets your blood pumping is a good place to start. Think star jumps, lunges or even a bit of freestyle dancing for about 5-10 minutes.


Not only does this help to warm your muscles, but also helps to loosen them, making them more elastic and less stiff – something every dancer wants. Plus, getting your heart rate up will help to build your endurance, which is particularly important for fast-paced classes like hip hop.


Prep Your Joints

After getting your heart rate up, you want to make sure all of your joints are prepared for a full range of motion. This is especially crucial for a class like contemporary dance or ballet classes. These classes tend to put a lot of strain on the joints, as they utilise a wide range of motion and often include a lot of jumping.


Protecting and preparing your joints is as simple as repetitively drawing circles with them – about 15-20 times per joint should be good. This can easily be done with all of the major joints – wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, hips and ankles.


For your neck and spine, simply looking up and down, and from side to side will help to prepare your joints.


Small, dynamic stretches

Now that your body is warm, and your joints are prepped, it’s the perfect time to wake your muscles up a little bit. Dynamic stretching is stretching through movement and helps to slowly warm the muscles.


A few lunges, heel raises, leg swings (perfect if you’re doing a ballet class) and hamstrings stretches are the perfect way to finish warming up your lower body.


For your back, consider utilising some yoga poses like cat-cow and soft twists to help to wake up your spine. Arms will benefit from a mix of strengthening and lengthening movements.  Consider moving between a downward-face dog into a high plank and back again to both stretch and strengthen.