As most of you know before reading this, core stability training is a must for Irish dancers. All movements used in Irish dancing are highly dependent on the core. As I explained in my training book for Irish dancer’s ‘Upping Your Step’ your core is your foundation.
To enable you to dance using challenging movements with ease, you need to have a strong foundation which will create good spinal stability and postural awareness. One of our first steps as Irish dancer’s was to learn how to perform ‘an over’ or ‘a lift’ as some of you may call it. To create this movement it requires core strength. When you lift or jump you must use your core to brace the spine for protection, to prevent it from collapsing. Again, putting it in simple terms, a strong core foundation allows for more control of your movements.
I have assessed many dancer’s in the past who have had various issues with their hips and back. When I ask these dancer’s to show me what they have been doing to strengthen their core, it turns out the exercises they were completing were of very little benefit to them. The most common exercise was ‘the plank’. Although this exercise still has its purpose, ‘The Plank’ is only one of many exercises that need to be added to your training schedule.
Core stability is the ability to control the spine dynamically, with movement. It is the combination of all the muscles that play a role to control the trunk including the ability to adjust the level of control. While everyone needs good core stability, Irish dancer’s need more than your average person to allow controlled mobility of the pelvis and spine with movement, rather than bracing in one spot. It does not matter if you dance to compete, dance for fun or if you do not dance at all, core training can improve posture, increase balance and stability and reduce or prevent lower back pain.
So what do we do?
Although Irish dance steps require almost constant engagement of the core, many dancers do not know how to use these muscles to their benefit. As a trainer, I would advise you to complete a series of pelvic floor exercises before and during dance class. When you do this, you need to learn how to contract your core muscles effectively whilst breathing regularly. This sounds like an easy task, but I think you will surprised how difficult it can be. When you can do this comfortably lying down, then you can try a similar method standing up using specific body movement and again trying to breathe regularly at the same time.
If you are new to exercise and have sustained an injury or have an existing health condition then I recommend getting advice from a professional before starting any program.
If you need guidance or advice, feel free to contact me.
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Thank you for reading.
By Peter O’ Grady
The Author of ‘Upping Your Step’. A training book for Irish dance.
A full-time Irish Dancing Coach!
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