Summer’s long days and warm nights can make us feel just a little more like dancing, and U-Jam Fitness co-founder and choreographer Susy C answers the burning question that’s top of mind for anyone who’s feeling shy about it. “I think everyone can dance. Some people have God-given rhythm, and other people love music — and it doesn’t matter if they’re a little off the beat [when] they have a beautiful smile and they’re having a great time.”
Susy and her husband, Matt Marks, launched U-Jam — an athletic, urban dance fitness program — in 2010. The format combines dance and high-energy world beats to get your heart rate up, tone your body and have a blast with your classmates. The “U” in U-Jam? That stands for unity, and that’s what Susy says is the essence of the program. Instructors coach students not only on the movements and choreography but also “to show love to the person next to you,” she says. New participants always get a warm welcome, high fives are a regular feature of any class, and everyone leaves with glowing smiles and dripping with sweat.
Susy C says these four body-weight movements are ones that you can do just about anywhere. They help with overall toning that’s a great foundation for dance — and anyone who needs a little boost before walking into class for the first time. Here, she’s leveled two of those movements for the beginner.
Targets core, legs and glutes
Level 1: Parallel squats
- Stand tall with your feet planted hip-width apart and toes pointing forward.
- Draw your abdominal muscles in toward your spine and stack your forearms in front of chest.
- Keep your posture and your feet firmly planted on the ground as you sit back and down into a comfortable squat position. Be sure to keep your chest lifted, neck in alignment and knees tracking over the center of your feet.
- Push down into your feet and press the ground away, contracting your glutes to return to stand. Simultaneously contract your upper back and arms to open arms straight out to the side as if you are slicing the air open.
- Return your arms to start position and repeat the motion.
Level 2: Plié squats
- Stand tall with excellent posture and take a wide stance with your feet turned out slightly to a comfortable range. Maintain your pelvis in a neutral position with hip bones level and core engaged.
- Bend your knees to track over the center of your feet and lower your hips straight down, working to keep torso lifted and maintaining your pelvis in a neutral position.
- For extra challenge, as you come up, rise onto the balls of your feet. Lower your heels to the ground as you come down into your squat.
Level 3: Jump (plyometric) squats
Start with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart.
Perform a plié squat and then push strongly off the ground to propel yourself into the air. Land gently with soft knees to return to your standing, starting position.
2. Plank With Rotation
Targets shoulders, chest, core and glutes
Reps: 10–12 (one rotation to each side = one rep)
Level 1: Dropped knees plank
- Start on your hands and knees.
- Walk your hands out and lower yourself to your elbows until your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Keep elbows directly under your shoulders and fold arms to stack side by side, with your fists firmly anchored into ground.
- With core engaged, push your forearms into the ground to engage your shoulder blades firmly against your back. Avoid contracting your shoulders; keep them relaxed, with your neck long and aligned with your spine.
- Keep left arm anchored, and roll to your right to balance on the outside of your thigh, keeping hips and shoulders aligned and opening and extending your arm up to the ceiling.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat to your left.
Level 2: Straight leg plank
- Start in a push-up position and lower yourself to your forearms so that your weight is resting on the balls of your feet and your forearms. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders.
- Engage your abs, making a long straight line from head to heels to create a neutral spine.
- Holding your hips and shoulders in alignment, open and extend your arm to the ceiling as you rotate to your right, balancing on your left forearm and outside of your left foot, with your right foot stacked on your left. Keep your fist and forearm firm, and work to lift your hips high.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat to your left.
3. Reverse Lunge
Targets core, legs and glutes.
Reps: 10–12 per leg
- Stand with your feet together, with excellent posture and core engaged. Hold your arms next to your side in ready position.
- Take a big step back with your right foot.
- Bring your right forearm up as you lower your hips until your left knee is bent at 90 degrees and your left thigh is parallel to the ground. Track your knees with the center of your foot and be sure your stride is wide, so you can maintain your hips and spine in a neutral position.
- Keep your posture aligned as you engage your core. Push through your feet and down into the ground, contracting your glutes. In one continuous movement, push to standing and lift your left forearm and right knee forward and up until your right thigh is parallel with the ground.
- Return to starting position.
Targets glutes, core and hamstrings.
Reps: 10–12 (one leg raise per side = one rep)
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, hip-width apart.
- Engage your abs and create a neutral spine and pelvis, with hip bones pointing to the ceiling.
- Keep your knees parallel as you push down into your feet and contract your glutes to lift your hips as high as you can.
- Keeping your hips lifted, raise one bent knee toward your chest as if marching in the sky, and then extend your leg, kicking to the ceiling.
- With hips still lifted, bend your knee and lower your foot to the ground.
- Repeat with the other leg, and then lower your hips to the ground to return to the starting position.
Watch this video and get a taste of what U-Jam is all about.