Updated: Feb 2, 2020
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. The more time you spend in this posture, the tighter these muscles become, and it gets harder and harder for you to maintain proper shoulder alignment when you dance. So 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 and the tight muscles in our chest. Add this shoulder mobility exercise to your daily routine to loosen those tight muscles and see major results in your posture! Click the below image to see the video.
2. Arm Adductor Strength
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, and focus on squeezing the backs of your armpits while you dance to engage your lats. Click the below image to see the video.
3. Hip Flexor & Hamstring Flexibility
Clicks, kicks, and swings are the #1 move in which dancers say they struggle to keep their arms in. If you lack the flexibility and strength required to get your kicks up to your face and try to force them there, your body will have to cut corners somewhere - and is almost always by throwing your arms. Try this exercise to work on your hamstring and hip flexor flexibility, so you can achieve the picturesque high kick without moving your arms! Click the below image to see the video.
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!
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