Why Your Students Need to Build Upper-Body Strength

Sebastian Grubb runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

Fitness trainer, professional dancer and cross-training expert Sebastian Grubb weighs in on why it's essential for dancers to build their upper-body strength.


A balanced body is a healthy body.

When a dancer maintains equilibrium between her upper and lower halves, she increases her athleticism and physical adaptability.

"Most dancers have strong legs and strong balance," says Grubb. "So, what's missing would be upper-body strength." Grubb, who works with dancers to develop individualized cross-training routines, has noticed that those who train primarily in ballet, modern and jazz tend to have strong legs and feet and gain greatly from devoting extra attention to their arms, shoulders, chest and back. "Most of them benefit from more upper-body training, especially pulling exercises," he says.

He mentions pulling because, "even those who are strong in the upper body tend to be strong from doing things like push-ups. But pushing is only one of the things that arms can do." Grubb recommends including exercises, like rowing, pull-ups and climbing, to create a more balanced exercise plan and access different muscle groups.

Weak muscles can lead to weak bones.

"If you don't do strength-training in the upper body, you will not only have weak muscles in the upper body, you'll have weak bones. When muscles are strained, their corresponding bones are, so bone strength is proportional to muscle strength," says Grubb. "With women, especially, over time there is more of a concern for osteoporosis and for having things like forearm fractures later in life." He says that aside from maintaining good balance and nutrition, upper-body training can help mitigate that.

For some upper-body exercise ideas, click here.

For the past 17 years, the Martha Hill Fund has been honoring the commitment to dance education and international performance embodied by its namesake. Previous award winners have included Carla Maxwell, former artistic director of Limón Dance Company, former Ailey II dancer Frederick Earl Mosley and Mark DeGarmo of Mark DeGarmo Dance.

This year's awards gala takes place tonight at the Manhattan Penthouse in New York City. Check out who's being honored.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health

The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic technique created by Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1950s. The method has two parts: hands-on sessions with a Feldenkrais teacher (Functional Integration) or group classes comprised of verbal cues (Awareness Through Movement).

Mary Armentrout, a dance teacher, choreographer and Feldenkrais practitioner, shares three ways that this somatic practice can bolster your students' training.

Keep reading... Show less
Your Studio

Oversexualizing young kids has been a hot topic among dance teachers in recent years. It's arguably the most controversial topic teachers and studio owners are faced with. Deciding which choreography, music or costumes are appropriate—or not—isn't always black and white and can be easily overlooked. Is showing the midriff too much for minis? Is this choreography too provocative? Is this popular song too suggestive for a competition piece? The questions can seem endless with no clear objective answers. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

Keep reading... Show less
Erdmann (left) on set for "Hairspray Live" (courtesy of Erdmann)

When Wicked ensemble member Kelli Erdman was training at Westlake Dance Center in Seattle, Washington, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focussed transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, she applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers & Role Models
Khobdeh dancing Taylor's Speaking In Tongues. Photo courtesy of PTDC

For Parisa Khobdeh, music does more than set the tone for a piece—it's enabled her to connect with movement. And once she joined Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003, Taylor's body of work deepened this connection. "His choreography showed me the music, the architecture and the space," she says. "I now see the music."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Buzz

We haven't been able to stop watching Lil' Mushroom since she popped and locked her way into Ellen's heart last week. We know you've got a long night of teaching ahead, and this is the dance inspiration you need to get you through. Check it out and tell us what you think about her killer moves over on our Facebook page! (She starts blowing minds at about 2:16.)

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored