Warm-ups can be boring and are often overlooked because we can hardly wait to teach that brand-new combination or hot new move! But with a little time and effort, a really good warm-up can create amazing energy and set the tone for the rest of class. So how do you take something that seems so mundane and add a little soul and spice to it? Why not add some hip-shaking, finger-snapping, shoulder-shimmying movement to your next warm-up and get your students fired up from the very first beat?

Before we begin, let’s review and make sure we understand what the warm-up is intended to do—prepare the body to move. It’s also an opportunity to become present and connect with your body. If you’ve ever taken a class from a dance studio, you know the warm-up is very thorough, sometimes lasting 20 minutes or more. Dancers know that a proper warm-up can prevent injury and allow them to dance with full range of motion and extension. Let’s look at a really fun, dynamic warm-up that incorporates the element of dance and can be used in almost any situation.

Big and Graceful

Get your students moving with simple movements and really good music.

  • Stand with legs apart and roll shoulders back.
  • Reach up and out to sides; repeat before starting over with shoulders rolls.
  • Repeat series at least 4 times.
  • Next, alternate side-to-side reaches in big, graceful sweeping motion (intention is to “lengthen” the muscles).
  • After 4 alternating reaches, shake hips side to side for 4 counts and then walk to one side on counts 5, 6, 7 and 8 (depending on your participants, you can really shake those hips or do more of an athletic-jog stance).
  • Step out to opposite side and repeat, going the other way (that’s one block).
  • Repeat pattern at least 4 times and have fun!

Stretching, Energy and Attitude

Now that you’ve created some warmth in the body with big movements, bring it down and continue with “lengthening” exercises.

  • Step out into wide second position with arms stretched out to sides.
  • Lunge to one side, reach one arm up and across in direction you’re reaching and then return to starting position.
  • Repeat in opposite direction.
  • Continue with this pattern a minimum of 4 times, twice each way.
  • Once you’ve completed the last move, you’ll be in second position with arms out to sides.
  • Pli├® down with arms following and then up with arms extended above head. Repeat 8 times.
  • Pull both arms down to one side and tap in with opposite leg. Tap out, tap in and return to start with arms extended above head.
  • Repeat on opposite side and then once more each way for a total of 4 repetitions.

Once this sequence is complete, step-touch or march with attitude and keep the energy going right into class. This warm-up should take no longer than 8–10 minutes. While the movements are simple and not overly choreographed, they serve the desired goal, which is to create body awareness and a sense of fun.

For more information, please see the full article in the April issue of IDEA Fitness Journal or read it online in the IDEA Library.