Updated: May 4
This weekend while watching dancers compete at a feis, I was noticing a few common trends that set the top competitors apart from their competition. From the beginning grade levels through the championship competitions, the dancers with excellent toe height stand out. Specifically, the ability to keep the back heel up off the ground.
If you’re a dancer who is constantly getting the comment of “heels up” or “higher on toes”, it’s time to begin engaging your gluteal muscles when you train and dance.
The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles, (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) that make up the bum and are commonly referred to as the glutes. They are responsible for rotating the hip and extending and abducting the leg. When we are doing an Irish dance run across the floor. one leg is extended out in front of you as the other is stretched behind the center of the body. Here is where glute activation comes in to play. In order to keep the back leg extended with power and strength, you must engage your glutes.
“Baby Got Back” foot toe height!
Try this progression of exercises to integrate glute engagement into your dancing.
STEP 1: Stand on your toes and walk forward one foot at a time, focusing on engaging your glutes the entire time (especially with your BACK LEG).
STEP 2: Once you have a good understanding of stepping on your toes while engaging your glutes, take it to the next level by changing the steps into single skips. Again, focus on continuous engagement of the glutes especially when that leg is in the back.
STEP 3: If you’re able to perform basic skips while engaging your glutes, challenge yourself further by performing the runs in your soft shoe dances…all while keeping your glutes engaged.
In addition to applying glute activation to your dance steps, work at home on strengthening this group of muscles. Follow along with the below video for two glute exercises for Irish dancers.
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Two Exercises To Improve Back Foot Toe Height