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Preventative Exercises for the Acro Dancer

Written By: Dr. Brianne M Dwyer, PT, DPT

Acro over the years has been gaining in popularity, specifically with the competition dancers I see. Acro requires strength, flexibility, coordination, and agility in order to perform the complex progressive “tricks”. With the increasing popularity of acro, just like with other forms, if foundational skills are missed the risk of injury increases. Just like ballet, these fundamental components need to be engrained for future gains in the art form to occur without injury.

Acro comes with its own set of injuries. Often due to poor strength and control with an emphasis on over stretching. The often young very flexible dancer then repeatedly attempts movements such as a back walk over to achieve his/her back handspring. The repetitive practice mixed with reduced control, coordination and strength can result in injury. As a physical therapist, I often see an increase in back, shoulder and wrist injuries in the acro dancers I treat.

The following exercises target the aforementioned body regions, focusing on increasing mobility, strengthening and providing stability at end-ranges.

Dynamic Wrist Stretches: Rock Backs

  • First position start with hands in neutral. Rock torso back and forth 10x.

  • Second position start with fingers pointing outwards. Rock torso back and forth 10x.

  • Third position point fingers towards knees. Rock torso back and forth 10x. TIP: Try not to hyperextend elbows.

Dynamic Wrist Stretches: Circles

  • Fingers pointing forward under shoulders. Perform large circle clockwise 10x and large circle counter clockwise 10x.

  • Fingers pointing outwards with heel of hand together. Large circle clockwise 10x. Large circle counter clockwise 10x.

Wrist Plyometrics

  • Fingers pointing forward under shoulders. Bounce through hands, rolling through finger to heel of hand 10x.

Wrist Strengthening with Theraband

  • Position 1: Grasp theraband in hand with palms facing thighs. Curl wrist backwards towards shoulder10x.

  • Position 2: Grasp theraband in hand with palms facing thighs. Curl wrist forward towards shoulder 10x.

  • Position 3: Grasp theraband in hand with palms facing forward. Curl wrist forward and upwards 10x.

  • Position 4: Grasp theraband in hand with palms facing backward. Curl wrist forward and upwards 10x.

End-Range Shoulder Stretching

  • Start in child's pose. Lift one hand 10x. Repeat on other side 10x. Repeat lifting both hands off floor 10x.

Spinal Mobility: Cat Cow

  • Start on all fours. Slowly arch your back by drawing your belly button up towards your spine and then the ceiling. Slowly reverse by drawing the belly button towards the floor. TIP: Try not to hinge the back.

End-Range Hip Strengthening

  • Start in child's pose. Extend one leg out behind you without rotating the leg. Without shifting, slowly lift the leg and gently place back down.

Lower Abdominal Strengthening and Stability: Heel Slides

  • Start in a hook-lying position (flat on back with knees bent hip width apart). Place hands on hip bones. Press lower back into floor. Slide one heel out without shifting the pelvis or lifting low back. Return to starting position and repeat on other side. Perform 10x each.

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