Updated: Feb 12
In part 1 of the blow, we focused on the importance of your core muscles to help support good Irish dance posture. Stabilizing your core to maintain a neutral spine and pelvis is essential to posture but it’s also just the beginning. Another key focus area for Irish dance posture are your shoulders. Like any technique, there are two parts to improving your shoulders: the mobility of the joints and the strength and stabilization of the surrounding muscles.
While it may seem like you don’t need mobile shoulders for Irish dancing - we just hold our arms at our sides anyways, right? - improving the mobility of both your shoulders and thoracic spine (your mid and upper back) can have huge effects on your posture. Have you ever seen a dancer get the correction to “pull their shoulders back”? But instead of opening and lengthening the front of their chest and dropping their shoulder blades down, they fight their shoulders back which elevates their shoulders closer to their ears, their back goes into an extreme arch (losing core connection), and then their arms stick behind them. You’ve probably seen this hundreds of times. And although the dancer is technically pushing their shoulders "back", they're compensating to pull them back instead of working on the shoulder mobility which allow them to maintain proper alignment elsewhere.
Shoulder Mobility Exercises
Two great exercises to help improve your shoulder and spine mobility are over-the-backs and cat-cows.
Grab a resistance band, a scarf, a t-shirt, or really anything you can hold onto–then while keeping your core connected (no arching in the back) and head over your shoulders (no jutting your chin forward) bring your arms up and over your head and bring the band behind you.
Start on all 4’s. As you inhale, look up at the ceiling as you also tip your tailbone towards the ceiling to arch your back. As you exhale, drop your head down, push your hands into the ground to protract your shoulders and tuck your tailbone under - rounding your back like a cat.
SHOULDER STRENGTH & STABILITY
When it comes to pulling your shoulders “back”, there are several muscles that help to stabilize the joint but two we’re going to focus on in this blog: your rhomboids and lower trapezius. These muscles run from your spine to the edge of your shoulder blade and when they contract (shorten), they act to pull your shoulders back. You may have heard your dance teacher tell you to “squeeze your shoulder blades together” –they want you to engage these muscles! To strengthen these muscles, add posture pulls to your training!
Shoulder Strength Exercises
Start by holding a resistance band in your hands like you’re holding a tray of your favorite snack, then open your hands out to the sides to share that snack with your friends!
ADDITIONAL POSTURE EXERCISES
Want to learn more about keeping your shoulders back? Head to the Target Training Online Institute! This on-demand, subscription based training platform has everything you need for Irish dance strength and conditioning, including a 30 Day Posture Challenge! And…a new release coming later this week to help your posture! Get a FREE 14 day trial of the Trainer subscription, no code needed! Get started HERE.
And be sure to stay tuned for tomorrow’s newsletter where we’ll dive deeper into our next topic of Irish dance posture: ARMS IN!