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Straight Leg on Leaps

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Irish dance strength and conditioning, exercises for Irish dancers, quad strength in Irish dance, Irish dance extension

We were discussing a recent feis in class this week and what adjustments we can make from a strength and conditioning standpoint to address any corrections. One of the common issues dancers are struggling with is keeping their top leg straight when they are performing a leap or bird.

Commonly when this happens, dancers are utilizing momentum to throw their top leg up then focusing on the back leg to push off the ground. But when they hit the peak of their leap or bird, their knee bends. To effectively straighten the knee, we must focus on the quadriceps femoris muscle (aka quadriceps or quads).

Irish dance strength and conditioning, quad strength for Irish dance, extension for Irish dancers

Quadraceps Femoris Muscle - see image to the right:

rectus femoris - blue

vastus lateralis - yellow

vastus intermedius - green

vastus medialis - red

The quads are responsible for extending your knee and straightening your leg. We strengthen your quads by doing a variety of exercises like squats, and lunges. But we must also train our body (and mind), to engage the quads with an extended (straight) knee. (Note - be careful not to hyperextend your knee).

STRAIGHT LEG LIFTS are one of my all time favorites to work on straightening your leg for leaps. Check out the notes and video below and add the STRAIGHT LEG LIFT in to your weekly training routine.

  • Begin by placing one leg on top of a chair, bench or stool.

  • Back leg should be completely straight and your hips square to the front. If you are not able to do this, use a lower chair until you have gained more flexibility and mobility.

  • Take a breathe in and on the exhale, engage your belly by drawing your belly button in and engage your top leg’s quad. Lift your leg off the chair and hold for 3-4 seconds. Repeat.


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