Dances That Replace Your Gym Workout

From the WebMD Archives

By Sara Cheshire

You go to the gym five times a week, and it's always the same routine: You run 30 minutes on the treadmill, lift weights for another 20 minutes, then stretch for 10. Snore. If you find yourself practicing all kinds of avoidance because you're locked into that kind of regimen, maybe it's time to switch things up. According to upwave board members and certified trainers Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames (aka The Nutrition Twins), trying something new -- such as dance -- can be a great way to breathe new life into an old workout routine. And yes, even hula dancing counts!

Here are some dance moves to try:

Ballet For The Lower Body

Bored with calf raises and leg presses -- or just want to avoid the glute machines that put you into awkward positions in the middle of the gym? Look no further than ballet for a great lower-body workout. "Depending on what you do, you can work it all," says fitness and dance professional Aaron Hooper, a personal trainer at NYC's Crunch Gym. Don't want to take a ballet class? Hooper suggests doing small arabesque lifts to work your glutes and lower back, élevés to work your calves and battement kicks (to the front or the side) to work your quads and hamstrings. He also says that if you put your arms into so-called "second position" (i.e., out to the side and parallel to the floor) while you work your legs and pull your shoulders back as you squeeze your mid-back, you can fight bad posture and target "the computer muscles" -- the spot where our back hunches after too many hours in front of the screen.

Tap For Cardio

If you're a fan of the classic movie Singin' in the Rain, we don’t need to tell you how some of the high-energy tap scenes almost make you lose calories just by watching. So it didn't surprise us when Hooper told us a fad called "cardio tap" was on the rise. "[Tap] works the cardiovascular system and the calves," he notes. Don't worry if you have two left feet: Classes typically involve repeating just one or two moves, so you can leave the fancy footwork to the professionals.

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Hip-Hop For Core And Glutes

This dance swap might surprise you, but it's the ultimate get-ready-for-swim-season workout because it targets your core and backside. "Hip-hop rarely moves straight forward and back, so it's great for your obliques," explains Hooper. "[It also involves] a deep bend in the knees, squats, speed and glute activation."

Afro-Cuban For Back And Shoulders

Afro-Cuban movements can liven up the back and shoulder muscles that often get neglected. Allen Germaine, owner and lead dancer of the Proyecto Barrio Dance Company in Atlanta, has been studying the dance form for the past five years. "A lot of the movement comes from moving your arms... while performing shoulder and chest isolations," he says. "I'm usually extremely sore afterwards."

Social Dance For Endurance And Weight Loss

Marathon sessions on a treadmill can get a little samey -- not to mention lonely. Enter social dances such as ballroom, swing and salsa, which boost your endurance as you shed pounds. "The weight just comes off," says Matthew Johnson, an Atlanta-based swing-dance teacher. "The ability to get into other cardio exercises outside of dancing is also easier, because your endurance improves." Plus, participating in social dance is... well, social (so it can give your heart a lift, too).

Pole-Dancing For A Full-Body Workout

Though this tends to be a female-dominant dance form, men can -- and do -- get down (and around). "It's easily an entire workout from day one," says instructor Brynlyn Loomis, owner of Southwest Pole Dancing in Albuquerque. "If done properly, the back muscles are fully engaged and so, in turn, are your abdominals. Your biceps assist your back muscles in any pull-up-related action. And you work your calf muscles in the beginning of your pole practice just by walking around on the balls of your feet." Advanced moves target the inner thighs, glutes and hamstrings. Loomis recommends pole dancing for anyone who's looking to alleviate lower-back pain, decrease body fat, increase muscle definition, improve stamina, boost energy and build confidence -- or just have fun!

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