Updated: Feb 24
After a dancer lays the groundwork for attack, stamina and power (ASP) through stability and balance training, it's time to turn to strength training and plyometric training. These two areas have been shown to increase movement speed and power production. Yes, please!
Simply put, strength training is a mode of training to make muscles stronger. Variations in exercises, repetition count, set count, or resistance or weights used, can all impact a strength training set.
Bilateral Strength Training
Bilateral (both legs) training is important during your first phase of strength training for ASP where your intention is to improve your overall strength and power. This includes developing the strength in such muscles as the four major muscles groups of the legs - the quadricep muscles, gluteal muscles, hamstring muscles, and calf muscles. Once this foundation of strength is in place, is it important to train specific to the needs of each individual dancer and Irish dancers in general by emphasizes unilateral training.
Unilateral Strength Training
In three steps of a reel, an Irish dancer jumps off and lands on one foot almost 200 times on average! To safely push off and land on one foot that many times, it requires a ton of single leg stability and strength. This is an often overlooked area of training but one that is quintessential for an Irish dancer.
Why unilateral training is crucial to Irish dancers:
Core Engagement - Unilateral training stresses only one side of the body forcing you to stabilize your core and compensate for the uneven distribution of weight. Strong core = improved stabilization = more power and reduced risk of injuries.
Improved balance and proprioception - When an Irish dancer is performing they are flying around the floor, turning and jumping. Unilateral training allows a dancer to improve their balance and proprioception which translates to improved movement in all directions and reduces their risk of injuries.
Correct imbalances - Because you are training each leg individually, it allows you to correct imbalances between legs (right/left) and within one leg (posterior/anterior - front/back). Correcting imbalances will lead to an increase in power and decrease in injuries.
Weights & resistance bands - Tools that provide more resistance, like weights and band, are beneficial for athletes once they've laid the groundwork phase and can complete exercises with optimal form. Don't have weights at home? Use your heavy backpack!
Speed - If you want to move faster, you need to, well, move faster! Instead of doing a squat going 2 counts down and 2 counts up, try going slow on the way down for 3 counts. Then at the bottom, exhale and press up with as much force and speed as you can. This is an important element when working on attack.
We've laid the groundwork with balance and stability training, then moved along to strength training, now we focus on plyometric training. Plyometric training are exercises that include jumping, hopping and bounding movements. This type of training has shown to have a positive increase in movement speed and power production. For Irish dancing, we can work through plyometric training with a few different training systems.
Power Training - High intensity, explosive training of less than 10 seconds. For example, five all out squat jumps.
Power Endurance - 20 second high intensity bouts of exercise with a 10 second rest between (Tabata style training). See more on this in the next part of this series.
Timed Endurance - High intensity training specifically timed to the length of your championship rounds.
1:20 for Hornpipe
1:15 for Treble Jig
1:10 for Slip Jig
0:50 for Reel
TT Online Institute recommendations
If you're a member of the TT Online Institute, there are several strength, speed and plyometric training videos I recommend.
Core & Hip Strength
Power & Vertical Jump
Single Leg Power & Leaps
NEW! Attack (coming this week!)
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