How These Everyday Exercises Help World Class Dancers Do the Impossible

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Photo credit: Carlo Cruz - Red Bull Content Pool
Photo credit: Carlo Cruz - Red Bull Content Pool

Yes, professional dancers move as if they’re above the laws of physics, but they’re more like you and me than you may realize. Every bone-breaking maneuver, elastic muscle flex, and air bending acrobatic that has amazed you in dance competition shows and TikTok videos start with exercises you’ve probably been doing for years. And we have world-class dancers ready to prove it.

Red Bull’s annual dance competitions have been likened to the Super Bowl of dance for how they attract the best of the best to battle it out for dance supremacy. Its Dance Your Style competition is no different and held its national finals earlier this year in New Orleans, the home of the bounce. Dozens of rhythmic contortionists and muscle magicians who have choreographed music videos for Kendrick Lamar and H.E.R competed on NBC’s Americas Got Talent and NBC’s World of Dance and gave you the routine for your favorite TikTok challenges competed with moves that defy description. Dancers like the winner of the national final David “The Crown” Stalter developed their talents with exercises easily accessible at fitness centers around the country.

Shadowboxing helps with my cardio and speed of my movements. I used to do Muy Thai. So having that background with the elbows, kicks, and the hands, helps with me making the sharpness of my moves,” Stalter told Men’s Health.

Photo credit: Jesus Presinal - Red Bull Content Pool
Photo credit: Jesus Presinal - Red Bull Content Pool

Remember, these are world-class athletes, so we can’t guarantee these exercises will make you be able to walk backward on your hands or drop into a split at the next office party. But, these athletes have let us in on the exercises you’re likely already doing that help them achieve dance impossibilities.

Yung Phil

Photo credit: Jesus Presinal / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo credit: Jesus Presinal / Red Bull Content Pool

As a TURF (Take Up Room on the Floor) dancer, you can catch Oakland, California-bred Yung Phil gliding across every inch of any dance floor, contorting his body in ways that would break most humans. If you’ve ever seen H.E.R.’s most-watched music video for her song “Slide,” you’ll see rows of dancers doing the moves Phil choreographed. He’s also the only dancer part of a unique hip-hop orchestra called Ensemble Mik Nawooj (EMN) where he mixes the creativity of turf dancing with the methodical beauty of contemporary dance. So, it was no surprise when he unleashed a move in one of his battles that would break most ankles trying and drop every jaw watching.

To be able to spin his entire body around on just the tips of his toes while simultaneously mimicking the protruded lean of someone about to fall off a cliff his calf muscles have to support a lot of the movements. He also flexes his abdominal muscles to maintain a firm posture for a statuesque form. To achieve this, he does the same sit-ups and curl-ups you’ve been doing to strengthen his core. As dreadful as leg days may be for most of us, they’re essential for dancers like Phil whose moves largely depend on how much weight his calves can support. That’s why he does a workout called “killers” where he stands up straight with his feet flat on the floor as he then proceeds to press down onto the balls of his feet and raise his heels up. Repeating this helps him strengthen his calves to do moves most of us wouldn’t even dream of, but it can also help you look like a pro at your next spin class.

Hazmat

Photo credit: Jesus Presinal / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo credit: Jesus Presinal / Red Bull Content Pool

Since Hazmat was a pre-teen, he’s been practicing his dance moves. With over 26 years of dancing experience, Hazmat has done nearly all there is to do on the dance floor. He’s competed on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crews and NBC’s Americas Got Talent, choreographed dances for multiple crews on NBC’s World of Dance, and Red Bull’s Dance Your Style competition in his home of Hawaii in 2019. When it came time to show off his skills in battle he strung together enough dancing styles for three different performers before unleashing a classic move that traces back to hip-hop’s breakdancing beginnings.

The continuous headspin is a move older than Hazmat himself. While his mentor first taught him the move at the age of eight, it was his late father, former wrestler Braulio Florencio Ulep Sr., who taught him the wrestling exercise he’d do that would make the move possible. To strengthen his neck for the move, he exercises by putting himself into a bridge with his head on the ground, and while keeping his head on the ground, he walks his feet around in a circle. The bridge exercise helps Hazmat’s body understand how to recover if spinning on his head goes wrong.

KrowTheGod

Photo credit: Jesus Presinal / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo credit: Jesus Presinal / Red Bull Content Pool

How well do you know your body? KrowTheGod knows how to flex parts of his body you may not know exist. With a style based on flexing, Krow is known for treating his limbs like Play-Doh, twisting and stretching them into forms that make him look less like a dancer and more like an abstract painting. He’s balanced his entire body on one bent leg while extending his other leg out and wrapping his arms around the back of his head in opposite directions to the incredulous zeal of the crowd. This results from endless hours sitting around and testing which small part of his body he can flex. When you see a young man twisting his arms behind his back in Kendrick Lamar’s music video for his song “Alright,” you’re looking at one of the people Krow taught bone-breaking techniques to.

To twist his arms around his body as if his bone sockets are merely optional, he exercises with something we all have: belts. For an expert dancer like Krow, he places his wrists in a belt loop with the belt buckle set in the last possible hole he can get it in, while still being able to fit his wrists inside until it looks like his wrists are bound together. Sometimes he stops mid-stretch and breathes so the muscle memory can kick in, and it no longer hurts when he pushes the elasticity of his limbs to their limits. He works out 3 to 4 times a week for as short as 45 minutes to as long as two hours and suggests everyone should aim to work out healthily and at a comfortable weight.

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