Good For Your Heart & Everything Else – My Cross-Training Routine for Belly Dance
Bellydance is great exercise, but if you are a serious dancer cross-training is essential to your progress and longevity in dance. Even if you put in several hours of practice and performing each week, you may not hit up all the muscle groups you depend on for a solid performance with enough intensity to keep them at their peak. Also, cross-training – designed properly – will work a wider variety of muscles than your dance so you don’t over-train or develop imbalances that can lead to faulty movement patterns or injury.
No one workout is perfect for everyone, because each dancer comes to it from a different level of fitness and with different goals. These goals will certainly change over time and I find are often specific to what a dancer is working on stylistically. For example, if you are currently looking to improve or expand your floorwork skills, you may be concentrating on core and shoulder strength.
Here is one of my general workouts that I use as part of my own overall cross-training which also includes yoga, running and a weight lifting class that is geared for endurance rather than maximum strength or power. By alternating jump rope with lifting or other exercises in this workout, I get both a cardio and strength workout in what is known as a “high intensity interval training” or HIIT format.
How many reps you do of each exercise and which weight you use will be entirely unique to you. The “right” weight to start with is the one you can use with good form for about 8 reps. When your form goes bad, you should stop. With consistency, the amount of good reps you can do will increase. When you can do 15 with good form, it’s time to up the ante a bit (about 10% more weight is good) and go back down in reps again. Some of these exercises can be started without any weights at all and are noted as such. I’ve included some links for exercise descriptions as well.
Above all, listen to your body. It’s okay to feel like you are working hard, but not okay to feel sharp pain. If you have any pre-existing injuries or undiagnosed pain, you should consult your physician or physical therapist regarding any exercise that uses the body parts in question.
Start with 5 minutes of dynamic warm up such as walking with high knees and butt kicks, leg and arm swings or jumping jacks. No static stretching here!
- 60-90 seconds of jump rope as fast as you can
- Push ups (knees, toes or wall if you have to)
- Repeat jump rope
- Crunches on a physio ball or the floor (work up to 25)
- More jump rope
- Step ups (with or without a handheld weight) or lunges
- More jump rope
- Overhead shoulder press with dumbbells (standing or seated on your ball)
- Moooore jump rope!
- Side crunches on the ball or floor
- Keep jumping!
- Squats (with or without weights)
- Yes, jump again!
- Overhead triceps extension with dumbbell
- Jump some more!
- Prone pull-ins with the ball or mountain climbers
- Keep jumping!
- Single-leg Romanian dead lifts (with or without weights) or standard deadlift
- More jump rope!
- If you’re game – start at the top and do it all (or part of it) again!
- NOW is the time for a good stretch!
Yes, this is a challenging workout. Honor your body and start where you are – shorten the jump rope intervals, do the leg exercises without weights, go through just one series. Work hard and be patient with your body for best results for your dance and your health overall.