How to build up your core strength for Irish dance – Part 1
Now you know that core strength is crucial for Irish dancing, you need to know how to get it. Our experts have some beginner level and intermediate level exercises that will help you strengthen your torso, improve your posture, and take your dancing to new heights.
As with all our advice, please consult a doctor, TCRG, parent, or physiotherapist before starting any new exercises. This is meant as a guide only.
TCRG and Accredited Exercise Physiologist (ESSA) Suzanne Cox points out that “the core muscles in the human body wrap around our mid section like a corset so it is important that we think of strengthening the core from the front and the back.
“Let’s take a look at the front first. In simple terms the front side of our core contains 4 layers of muscles. The layer that we can see on the surface (our ‘6 pack’) plays an important role in helping us to bend and move our torso but is not as important in stabilising our spine. An exercise that helps to strengthen this muscle would be an abdominal curl. It’s important to remember that strengthening your core and strengthening your abdominals is not always the same thing, and performing hundreds of crunches per day will not give you a stronger core! Our deep core muscles that stabilise our spine are the main muscle group we need to strengthen when work on our core. One of the main muscles is called the transverse abdominis.
“On the back side of our body are core muscles that act to hold our spine upright and stabilise it at each segment as well as stabilising the pelvis. Some of these muscles track all the way from the pelvis to the base of our skull. If these muscles aren’t strong enough a dancer may be hunched over or will have too much curvature in their upper or lower back.
“When starting core strengthening work it is usually best to begin work in a lying position. Once this is mastered you can move on to exercises that are in standing, which is obviously more similar to your position when you are dancing, so more beneficial!
“There are many exercises you can do to work on your core but here are a few to help get you started. Remember that being concise and controlled is your focus, not speed.”
This exercise focuses on lowering each foot to the floor while maintaining the position of your spine. Lie on your back with hands by your side, keeping legs bent, feet straight and hip width apart. Aim to stop your back from arching as you lower and keep a controlled, slow movement for best results. Raise one foot off the floor as high as can be controlled, hold for 1-2 seconds and bring back to original position now do the same movement with the opposite leg. Perform the extension of each leg 5 times each side to begin with and gradually progress to perform 10-15 on each side.
Plank or Hover
Lie with your belly on the floor and forearms under your chest while placing your feet together. Start with the hover (on your knees) focusing on maintaining a solid set position. Lift your torso off the ground by pushing up with your arms and abdominals until it forms a straight line from head to knee. Make sure your hips don’t drop too low or sit too high and your head doesn’t drop. Once you can hold this position for 1-2 minutes you are ready to move to the plank – the same exercise, but on your toes.
Lie on your side with your forearm slightly propping you up, place the other hand on your hip or by your side with feet on top of each other. Tighten your core and use it to lift off the floor, while pushing with your arm. This exercise can also be performed on the knees as a starting option. Begin with 30 seconds and progress to 1-2 minutes. Your aim is to keep your body nice and straight without allowing your hips or head to drop. Repeat on both sides. Challenge yourself by raising your top arm up to the ceiling.
Download our handy pdf by clicking here, print it out, and add these core exercises to your weekly routine!