Beat the Cheat: Combat Flailing Arms with These Targeted Fitness Exercises

April 15, 2021

As dancers, we all have our vices—those little technique cheats that we know are incorrect, and we try our best to fix whenever we can remember…but at the end of the day, we just can’t seem to banish them for good. After all, these cheats usually appear to help us: They can get our legs higher and our petit allégro a little faster, not to mention help us crank out that one extra rotation in a turn we dream about. Unfortunately, cheating proper technique also sets dancers up for a myriad injuries caused by improper alignment and undue stress on the body.

The good news: Every cheat can be beat. That is, when you know exactly what muscles and mobility pathways you need to strengthen in order to execute the step correctly. To help on that front, Amber Tacy, personal trainer and founder of the dancer-focused fitness community Dancers Who Lift, is here to guide you through a series of exercises designed to help you overcome the most common dancer cheats.

The Cheat: Flailing and winding arms for turns and leaps

Band Pull-Apart

Equipment You’ll Need: Mini loop, TheraBand or long loop

  1. Start with your arms straight and fully extended in front of you, holding a light-tension band. Contract and brace your abs. This brings your ribs closer to your pelvis, eliminating back extension.
  2. With your arms parallel to the floor, palms facing down, and your shoulders protracted, slowly pull the band apart by extending your arms to either side of your body.
  3. Pull the band apart until it makes contact with your chest, feeling tension in the back of your shoulders.
  4. Hold the fully contracted position for two seconds, then return to the starting position.
  5. Complete 10–12 repetitions.
Amber’s Note: Make sure to keep your rib cage closed and allow the movement to originate from the rear deltoids, back of the shoulder joint, and be aware that you’re not just protracting and retracting your scapula (which feels like opening and closing your rib cage).

Band Pull-Together

Equipment You’ll Need: TheraBand

  1. Wrap a band around your shoulders, holding one end in each hand.
  2. Straighten your arms out to the sides of your body, so palms are facing forward, and soften your elbows.
  3. Exhale, and bring your hands together toward the midline of your body, pausing when the hands are reaching forward and in line with the armpits. Focus on maintaining tension in the chest muscles.
  4. Inhale and open the arms to reset. Complete 10–12 repetitions.
Amber’s Note: You’re going to be SO GOOD at hugging…

Lowering-Only Push-Up

  1. Start in a high plank position, thumbs in line with your armpits, and chin tucked. Tilt your pelvis forward towards your rib cage to engage the abs.
  2. Begin to bend your elbows, maintaining a 45-degree angle between the upper arms and the sides of your torso.
  3. Go as low as you can, as slowly as possible, while maintaining the plank position.
  4. Once you’ve reached your lowest point, omit the push upward by dropping your knees and resetting to the high plank position.
  5. Repeat 5–8 times, moving with as much control as possible.
Amber’s Note: If lowering all the way to the floor feels too challenging, elevate your hands on a barre, chair or even the edge of a sofa. Lower until your chest touches the elevated height, then step one leg in to reset. As you get stronger, work your way to the floor.