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3 Steps to Get Your ARMS IN for Irish dance

Updated: Mar 16


irish dance training, irish dance exercises, stretches for Irish dance, Irish dance workout, Irish dance training program, exercises for Irish dancers, Irish dance fitness

Do your dance teachers constantly tell you to keep your arms in? Have you gone to feis after feis only to see 'arms in' written from every judge?


Posture - including arms - can be tricky for many Irish dancers to fix. We spend so much time focusing on every last detail when it comes to our feet and legs that we often forget about our upper body. To make matters more complicated, fixing your posture doesn't always mean focusing on the strength of your arms alone - the strength and mobility of your lower body can have a huge impact on what happens with your arms while you dance.


When dancers come to us at Target Training looking for help with keeping their arms in, we typically find limitations in three areas inhibiting them from keeping their arms in

- shoulder mobility

- arm adductor strength

- hamstring and hip flexor flexibility


Let's take a closer look at each of those areas and break down how it relates to keeping your arms in - and what you can do to finally fix it!


1. Shoulder Mobility

Think about how many hours you spend slouched over each day (at your desk, on your phone, driving, etc). When you slouch, the muscles on the front of your shoulders shorten and become tight and the muscles on the back of your body lengthen and become weak. In addition, Irish dancers tend to have limited mobility in their shoulder joint due to lack of arm movements as seen in other dance forms. So to get our shoulders "back", we overcompensate by arching our low backs and flaring our ribs forward but not actually doing anything about the lack of mobility in our shoulders, the tight muscles in our chest and the weakness through our back. Increasing shoulder mobility allows your shoulders to be in an ideal spot to then utilize the arm adductors to keep arms in (see below!) To start opening up the range of motion in your shoulder joint, add this shoulder mobility exercise to your daily routine. Click the below image to see the video.

irish dance training, irish dance exercises, stretches for Irish dance, Irish dance workout, Irish dance training program, exercises for Irish dancers, Irish dance fitness

2. Arm Adductor Strength

irish dance training, irish dance exercises, stretches for Irish dance, Irish dance workout, Irish dance training program, exercises for Irish dancers, Irish dance fitness

Adduction is any motion that moves towards the midline of your body - so arm adduction means pulling your arms in to 'add' them to your torso. One of the major arm adductor muscles is the latissimus dorsi, also known as the lats. This broad, triangular muscle covers most of your back and attaches to your upper arm. Strengthening this muscle is critical for Irish dancers looking to lock their arms in at their sides.

Try this exercise to work on the lat strength.

  • Place a ball or pillow under one arm.

  • Reach the arm long, punching down towards the ground.

  • While keeping the arm long, engage the back of your armpit to squeeze the ball or pillow.


3. Hip Flexor & Hamstring Flexibility

Clicks, kicks, and swings are some of the top moves in which dancers say they struggle to keep their arms in. If you lack the flexibility and strength required to get your kicks high and you try to force them, your body will have to cut corners somewhere - and it's almost always by throwing your arms back or to the side. Try this exercise to work on your hip flexor flexibility, so you can achieve the picturesque high kick without moving your arms! Click the below image to see the video.

irish dance training, irish dance exercises, stretches for Irish dance, Irish dance workout, Irish dance training program, exercises for Irish dancers, Irish dance fitness

What about holding paper under my arms while I dance?

We hear this question a lot here at TT - and on paper (no pun intended!), it makes sense. Holding paper between your arms and torso while you practice should train your body to adduct your arms and keep them there through your entire dance. However, if you don't have the strength and mobility required to perform this technique, your body will cut corners. In this case, when you hold something between your arms and body, we typically see dancers' shoulders pulling forward trying to keep the item held close to their side.


So what does that mean? Should I avoid holding paper in my arms when dancing? Not necessarily - it is a great way to practice adducting your arms while dancing. But if you do try this, be sure to be mindful of where your shoulders are, so you can hold the paper with proper alignment of your shoulders.


Looking for more exercises to keep your arms in while you dance? Check out the newest release on the Target Training Online Institute: ARMS IN!


Not yet subscribed to the Online Institute? Get a FREE 14-day trial of the Trainer subscription, no code needed. Get started at institute.targettrainingdance.com.


HAPPY TRAINING!


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