Developing The “It Factor” With Hills and (Plyometric) Drills!

Several of the more advanced dancers that come to Feis Fit have beautiful technique, but we are still working on the “It-Factor” in their dancing. The It-Factor is that “thing” that makes everyone stop in the practice room before a competition and go “oh my gosh, watch that girl, she’s so good!!!” The “It-factor” is sometimes referred to as “attack” or “power” and is seen at the championship level. Consistently generating quick movement across the floor (aka speed) is absolutely essential to standing out once every dancer in your level has good technique.

Plyometrics (jumping movements) and hill sprints are 2 of the most effective ways to build the more power in one’s dancing. Here’s WHY!

Your muscles are made up of what we call “muscle fibers” a fancy term for muscle cells. Every time your muscle contracts, it “recruits” these fibers. You have 3 main types of fibers and the type of fibers your body recruits depends on the amount of FORCE needed!

Let’s go over the types and what they are good at!

Type 1: Slow Twitch Fibers

Slow twitch muscle fibers utilize oxygen (they are aerobic) to create their own energy so they can last a while, but they don’t produce a whole lot of power. These muscles fibers can last for HOURS! If you’ve ever gone out for a jog or half heartedly walked through your dances, type 1 muscle fibers are at play. When we think about going through a dance, it requires a CRAZY amount of force…more force than type 1 fibers can generate. When dancing, you are either jumping up and down, running on your toes, or pounding your feet into the ground. Therefore, your body calls for the help of type 2A and type 2X fibers. Since the human body wants to do the least amount of work possible, type 2 muscle fibers are only called AFTER the type 1 fibers aren’t enough help. Your muscles aren’t smart enough to all have a meeting before you start dancing regarding how you really should use your type 2 fibers if you want more power, they just use what they need. They respond to the force demanded of them! 🙂

2. Type 2A: Intermediate Twitch Fibers

These muscle fibers produce more power but are quicker to fatigue than type 1. When I think of dance stamina training, I equate it to 400-800m run… you can’t rely solely on your anaerobic system (without oxygen) because it’s too long, but you also need speed to outrun the competition. This is where type 2A muscle fibers come into play! After you recruit your type 1 fibers and you need more help to produce power in your dancing, your type 2A fibers kick in! They are fast and powerful but not quite as fast as their close relative Type 2X fibers… but they can last longer a little longer.

2. Type 2X: Fast Twitch Fibers

These muscle fibers generate the MOST force but are quickest to fatigue. Think quick, sharp, movements such as a single drill across the floor. These fibers require a super intense but short burst of energy that will leave you far more breathless than skip 2-3’s in a ceili dance.

So here’s why doing hill sprints, plyometrics, and COMBINING them are so important…Like I said earlier, your muscles are kind of dumb. When you go out for a long run to “build stamina for dance,” your muscles don’t know that they are training for dance. All they know is that they will need to use type 1 muscle fibers so you can last long enough for that long run. If they don’t need to start pushing the limits with bringing in type 2 fibers, they won’t…why work that hard when they can just casually get by with type 1 fibers?! Now, if you go into a hill run, sprint, or plyometric movement, your muscles quickly realize that type 1 fibers aren’t going to get the job done so they bring in the more powerful type 2 fibers. The more you use these type 2 fibers the stronger they become. If you spend the majority of your training time relying mostly on type 1 slow twitch fibers by long distance running or doing 30 minutes of another type of cardio training, you aren’t increasing the strength of your type 2 muscle fibers….the same type 2 fibers you need to generate powerful dancing!

Remember: Your body only recruits what it needs so train the way you need your body to perform! Stay tuned because we are going to be covering some Feis Fit favorites that we’ll be doing in our OPEN Hills, Skills, and Drills workshop!