Updated: May 15, 2022
Guide to Dance Warmups: 9 Essential Dance Warm-Ups
Article written by MasterClass
You should always warm up when you get to the dance studio before class because it lowers your risk of injury and improves your movement. When you warm up, you loosen up your body, keeping your muscles pliable. The colder you enter a physical activity, the more tense your muscles are, and the higher the risk of injury and soreness. Dancing is a full-body activity that relies on your own body strength and flexibility. Warming up by loosening your muscles increases your range of motion, enhancing the quality of your dancing by allowing you to perform more moves at your full range of stretching.
9 Essential Dance Warm-Ups
Here are some great ways to warm up before you start dancing:
Jumping jacks: Starting with a dynamic exercise— a series of small movements—is the best way to increase your heart rate, blood flow, and prepare your muscles for static stretching. Perform two sets of 20 jumping jacks to kickoff your warm-up routine.
Leg swings: Isolation exercises like leg swings allow you to focus on one body part at a time, isolating the body movement to increase your flexibility and range of motion. To do a leg swing, stand with one leg facing forward, lift the other leg, bend it just a little as you swing it toward the front of the room and then toward the back of the room. Repeat this motion at least 10 times for each leg. If you’re having a hard time staying balanced, hold on to a chair or ballet barre to remain upright.
Lunges: Lunge stretches are a great way to stretch many of the muscles in your lower body, from your quads to your glutes. To do a lunge stretch, stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, then slide one foot back behind you so that your front knee is bent (directly above your front foot) and your back leg is as straight as possible. Continue to deepen the stretch, lowering yourself as much as you can—place your palms on the floor for balance, if necessary. Repeat this 10 times on both sides, deepening the stretch each time.
Heel raises: Heel raises combine a hamstring stretch and calf stretch, making you more limber. To do a heel raise, stand with your feet together facing forward, then lift your heels off the ground so that you’re standing just on your toes, then lower yourself back to the starting position. Repeat at least 10 times.
Hip swings: To warm up your hip joints, stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, then alternate moving your hips from left to right, repeating at least 10 times per side.
Neck turns: You can pull your neck muscles if they are not adequately warmed up. To do neck isolation exercises, stand upright with your hands on your hips, then look to the right for a beat and the left for a beat. Repeat several times. You can also roll your neck clockwise and counterclockwise to increase the stretch.
Shoulder rolls: Shoulder rolls help lower your risk of neck and back injuries while you dance because they stretch the tendons and muscles in the shoulder area. To do a shoulder roll, stand upright with your head facing forward, lift your shoulders toward the ceiling, and lower them again. Do at least 10 repetitions to get the full stretch.
Breathing exercises: Deep breathing can help improve your blood circulation and lung capacity while also enhancing your muscles’ performance. When you exhale, allow your muscles to relax to dilate your blood vessels and help oxygen reach your muscles. Practice deep breathing during and between stretches for the best results. Learn more essential breathing techniques here.
Choreography: Once you’ve warmed up your body with dynamic movements and static stretches, it can also help to gently perform a few of the moves in the choreography you’ll be working on that day. Replicating these moves will activate the muscles you’ll use during the dance routine, making your warm-up even more effective.