How to do high kicks in dance

Teaching & Developing High Kick Technique — SHOWMAKERS OF AMERICA

Audiences truly appreciate viewing a well-crafted high kick routine with skilled kickers performing. And there is nothing better than a routine centered on intricate kick sequences, show-stopping synchronization with solid jazz technique incorporated into the visuals. When I was director/choreographer of the Texas State University Strutters, I often would end their routine by having the team execute a traveling airborne split leap (connected) and landing in a perfect split. This was their signature trademark, and at the time it was always a big crowd-pleaser. A lot of hard work goes into training and perfecting high kicks. It is important to ensure dancers are not only “powering up” their kicks and “whipping” their legs down in sync, but also safely using the correct muscles to sustain them through physically demanding rehearsals and performances.  

By increasing flexibility and technique, both will give individuals the solid foundation needed to integrate with the team and to become an accomplished kicker. To be able to kick without pressing down on the teammate next to them, it is most important for the dancer to maintain a strong core by incorporating planks, sit-ups, (even Pilates) into their workout. Begin students on a training program that will enable them to develop muscular strength, endurance and develop core strength and flexibility. By doing so, individuals will have far less injuries and will develop enough strength to perform advanced skills and high kicks. Teach students proper stretch technique to include static stretching of the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, calves, low back and groin muscles. Static stretching helps loosen muscles, removes lactic acid, and prevents the muscle tissues from healing at a shorter length after a heavy workout. Incorporate squats, lunges, and push-ups to help build core strength. This program is necessary for the development of skills, kick combinations, and for attaining height goals. As the core strengthens, your dancers will find it easier to perform their skills. You will also notice improved posture, a stronger back, and overall sense of muscle support.  

Finally, I recommend a new training method (Water Pilates) that is sure to assist in your teams’ desire to become accomplished kickers. As a dancer and coach, I have taken this technique to a higher level by incorporating the Pilates method of conditioning in the water, and included dance technique into the training regime. When coaching precision dancers and dance teams, I have found this method most effective in developing precise placement of movement and body alignment concepts.  As a coach, you must decide if you are willing to commit to the time that is necessary to develop your teams’ strength, flexibility, technique, and endurance. Many of today’s students do not possess the work ethic to train on their own.

Why Stretch?

Stretching improves physical efficiency, postural alignment, increases ones’ range of motion, and promotes endurance and healthy joints. Stretching hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and low back muscles regularly, enhances relaxation in the tissues thus reducing the strain on one’s back. Dynamic warm-up exercises (before stretching) loosen tendons, increase blood circulation, and help prevent injuries during workouts or any activity.  ALWAYS warm-up muscles before stretching (never stretch cold muscles). Muscles need a certain amount of oxygen before they will accept an appropriate stretch. Cool-down stretching helps relieve muscle soreness and tightness. Be sure to teach ALL stretches correctly as to prevent injury. The core is an area of the body that if well-conditioned, will make your dancers stronger athletes. When teaching proper high kick technique, many think that working the hamstrings are the most important muscle to condition, but in reality, your leg is pushed by the hamstring, pulled by the quads and held up there by your abdominals and gluts. All of those muscles need to be conditioned in sync. It is VERY important to incorporate a good stretch routine into your program. Note:  If you are not familiar with proper core training technique, see your school athletic trainer for help.

Before Stretching:

It is very important to warm up the muscles and joints through dynamic warm-ups.  Stretching cold, tight muscles can lead to injury, so have your dancers first perform some gentle joint rotation exercises and an easy aerobic exercise. Warm-up stretching exercises loosen tendons, increase blood circulation, and help prevent injuries during workouts or any activity.  ALWAYS warm up their muscles before they stretch!  Joint rotations are done by working head to toe using small, slow circles (clockwise and counterclockwise) at every joint until they all move smoothly and easily. You can also have the dancers execute some jumping jacks to raise their core temperature and increase circulation before they stretch.  

Example: I recommend easing into stretching with this safety-first routine.  Personalize it with movement, music, and stretches that your students enjoy.  

  • 5 to 10 minutes of warm-up to raise core temperature (try jumping jacks or jogging around the studio/gym). Students should be sweaty but not tired. 

  • 5 to 8 minutes of general dynamic stretching (leg swings, walking lunges, etc.). 

  • 3 to 5 minutes of dance-specific stretching of the dancers’ choice, including static stretches held for up to 15 seconds.

Do Not Overstretch 

If muscles start to quiver at any point during stretching, back off a little. Quivering means the muscles are being overworked. Overstretching can involve muscles, joints or both. It occurs when the muscle or joint is pushed well beyond its normal limits. Muscles that are overstretched will appear lax instead of toned and can cause instability issues within a joint, creating problems ranging from microscopic tears in the tissues to full tears of muscles, tendons or ligaments. Joints are also more likely to become hyperextended. Do not allow your students to overstretch! To develop long-term improvements in flexibility, stretch every other day for at least six weeks.  Keep in mind that when you stop using or stretching this new flexibility, you are likely to lose the gains you made. Incorporate balanced stretches into your routine is a must. For dancers who want to kick higher, it is not only important to stretch hamstrings, but equally important to stretch muscles like the hip flexor and quads.  Finally, help students seek a balance between strength, stability and flexibility. If you notice that a dancer is extremely flexible by nature, still have them stretch, but also add in strengthening exercises to help maintain their muscle stability.  

Warm Up/ Cool Down

Preventing Soreness: Although it is just as important as warming up, cooling down often gets overlooked. Including dynamic warm-ups is critical for warming up and cooling down. Before your group begins running or stretching, do a few gentle exercises to bring oxygen and blood to their muscles and joints (a few jumping jacks and gentle jogging very slowly before they increase their pace). If running, do not allow your students to stop their run abruptly. Spend the last 3 to 5 minutes backing off the pace until they are walking. A cool down stretch flushes out lactic acid and helps prevent soreness. If you need your team to be at their best and over the soreness, consider an ice bath.


  • While on a core training program, work on good form and proper technique. Technique must be developed first! Height will develop after good habits are instilled.

  • POOR HABITS DIE HARD! It is important to begin teaching proper form, carriage, footwork, leg alignment, and landings before executing precision kicks. 

    ►Determine the proper alignment and style of the kick that your team will be trained in.  

  • Example: Straight leg alignment (natural extension: brush the leg up from a tendu, to a dégagé, to a full grand battement in NATURAL leg alignment coming towards your shoulder) or kicks out of alignment and aimed at the nose.  

  • The student must be familiar with all details of kick technique to become an accomplished kicker.  

  • Directors/officers should always detail and demonstrate to a beginner prior to a trial run-through.  

  • Create various kick technique exercises and teach them to the group. Incorporate the exercises into the daily workout.

  • Teach your team or pre-drill class a technique/control routine. Leg control and proper extension is a must! This will also help in muscle development and strength. Create an exercise that requires extension from knee to toe, from a parallel level, hold, then slowly lower to parallel first.

  • Example:  Passé rt. forward on (1), extend rt. forward on (2), hold (3-4), slowly lower to parallel first (5-8).  Reverse and repeat on left. You can increase repetitions as the student begins to develop muscle control. Put together a complete technique warm-up routine.

Kick Drills Across the Floor

  • Incorporate kick drills into your daily workout to ensure development in technique, strength, alignment, and precision. These drills will help them achieve their goals if they remain focused on executing all parts of the drill correctly.  

  • Walk Kicks: Include detail of “foot articulation” in the transitional movement and encourage them to be mindful of working on the footwork. Always remind your team to point and stretch their feet the second their foot leaves the ground. Step forward on left in turnout (ct. 1), swing kick R leg forward (ct. 2), walk forward in turnout R, L, R (cts. 3-5), kick L forward (ct. 6), walk forward in turnout L, R (cts. 7-8) Repeat.  *Make sure heel remains down while kicking, bring the leg to the upper torso (do not allow the back to bend).  Keep ribcage lifted, arms straight (and barely touch hookups), focus up. Do not let the head hunch or meet the kick!  Make sure your team is working together to keep lines straight! Kick line precision MUST be mastered in the beginning!

  • Power Kicks: This particular drill will assist in developing timing and whipping down recoveries. Chassé forward on L (1&2), swing kick R forward (ct.3), whip leg down and touch point (ct. 4), repeat same down the floor working R leg, then work L on return.  *Make sure your team is working together to keep lines straight! Train them to “power up” and power down” the leg. This will assist with timing. Again…kick line precision is a MUST!

  • Fan Drills: as with walk kicks, include detail of “foot articulation” in the transitional movement and encourage them to be mindful of working on the footwork. This drill will assist with developing the complete rotation of the fan kick.  I trained my team to “power up” the first kick of the fan and allow it to carry the rotation…I’ve found the technique to be an effective teaching tool.   Step L to L in turnout (ct. 1), power fan R to R (from the L) (ct. 2), walk in turn out to the R front diagonal R, L, R (cts. 3-5), fan L to L (ct. 6), walk in turnout to L front diagonal L, R, L (cts. 7-1) Repeat.  *Make sure your team is working to keep their line straight, focus up and back straight.

How often do you notice that your students do NOT point their feet? And do you wonder why telling them to do so, doesn’t always work? Training your team to develop strength in their feet and ankles should start when you pull the new team together at training camp. When I directed the Texas State Strutters, drills were incorporated into their workout to develop clean transitional movement by articulating the feet. Articulation of the foot has to be over emphasized in order for it to be an “automatic response” when moving (and to develop muscle memory). This is one of the most difficult exercises for students to connect with movement, AND it takes time to achieve this technique. The end result…pointed feet!

Building the Foundation
Preparatory connecting steps require precision in order to appear smooth and ensure that what follows works well for the performers (and is visually pleasing to any audience). Teach common transitions and incorporate the basic movement fundamentals into your warm-up exercises and across-the-floor combinations. These fundamental footwork elements can be developed and perfected if they are worked on daily. (In an ideal world, it would be terrific to start practices with technique exercises every day. Unfortunately, most teams are on a “time crunch”.) Be sure to alternate between those emphasizing quick movement patterns and exercises that use the floor’s resistance to articulate the feet. (I have used this phrase often with my team to emphasize the importance of footwork.) Teaching combinations as a series of understandable units or relating them to everyday motions like walking, will enable your students to progress to the finished movement.

Improving High Kick Foot Points

Incorporate kick drills into your daily workout to ensure development in technique, strength, alignment, and precision.  These drills will help them achieve their goals if they remain focused on executing all parts of the drill correctly. Include detail of “foot articulation” in the transitional movement and encourage them to be mindful of working the footwork. And always remind your team to point and stretch their feet the second their foot leaves the ground. Emphasizing the importance of clean transitional movement, will become an “automatic response” when moving. If you follow these teaching techniques, your students are sure to develop the quality and artistry of each transitional movement. 

Work Your Feet Through Transitions
For the most part, dancers are trained to point their feet and turn out when executing an extension, pirouette or any position where the foot is off the floor. But many times, I find dancers are not paying enough attention to their feet when they are actually on the floor. For instance, when stepping out of an extension or battement, the foot or leg should be turned out as it is placed back on the floor. This attention to detail during transitional movement is the true mark of a dancer who is aware of her technique. Feet are like hands in their expressive capability, but they are not often used to their full potential. ALWAYS train your dancers to “articulate” their feet and show expression through transitional movement.


There are a variety of exercises to help strengthen ankles including rising to the balls of the feet to drawing each letter of the alphabet with pointed feet. Your students need to develop an understanding of what they need to feel and accomplish while executing ALL strengthening exercises.  

In closing, it is imperative that your team develop muscle memory through the development of articulating their feet through combinations across the floor and transitional movement.  Articulation of the foot has to be over emphasized in order for it to be an “automatic response” when moving (and to develop muscle memory). This is one of the most difficult exercises for students to connect with movement, AND it takes time to achieve this technique. The end result…pointed feet!


  • Posture/Bending backs – Must have good body alignment (vertical back), shoulders down, ribcage lifted, focus up, and tighten abdominals.  Hips should remain square to the front.  A strong tight core will aid in keeping backs straight while kicking (tightening the core needs to be an automatic response)

  • Lack of spring on a jump kick

  • Leg alignment *Determine placement

  • Developpé kicks *Legs should be straight

  • Foot turnout on kick *Entire foot should be straight

  • Lifting hip / leaning & sitting into kicks *Hips remain squared front (not rotated)

  • Shoulders lifting

  • Pulling & bending arms while kicking *Arms should be straight with no pressure placed on connections

  • Hands spread on hook-up *Fingers should be closed

  • Over jumping

  • Dropping kick past proper placement during transition

  • Timing (power up & power down)

  • Keeping heel down on swing kicks

  • Recoveries and “finish-off” *Whip leg down for timing and determine recovery position

  • Preps prior to kick (feet together, then kick)

  • Line whipping 

  • Bent legs and flexed feet *Legs must be straight

  • Lunge kicks

  • Endurance * Incorporate a cardiovascular program to help promote cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility.  

  • Straight backs / lifted rib cage

  • Head hunching *Head should not meet leg…leg comes to you!

  • Kick line precision (keeping line straight while kicking and moving)

  • Clean foot articulation! Always remind your dancers to point and stretch their feet the second their foot leaves the ground.

  • Remember…bring the leg to YOU, do not meet the kick by bending to it.

High Kick Exercises for Dance Teams | Live Healthy

By T. Marice Huggins

High kicks may be the most recognizable move done by dance teams. In fact, high kicks are the signature move of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. While the performers doing high kicks appear to do so effortlessly, the move takes a lot of hand work and practice. Achieving the perfect high kicks requires exercises that improve posture, balance and flexibility.


High kicks require flexible hamstrings, quadriceps and hips. Performing kicks also involves the use of back muscles. As a result, it is essential that you are warm and that you stretch out the high-kick muscles to avoid injury when doing high kicks for your dance team. To stretch out your back and leg muscles, sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and then bend forward from the hips in an attempt to make your rib cage touch your thighs. You can also stretch by extending your legs to each side and then leaning your torso as far as you can in each direction.

Core Exercises

Having flexible muscles is only part of the physical requirements for achieving a high kick. A strong core is necessary so you can keep your back straight when kicking. A weak core and slouched back can make a high kick look sloppy and cause injuries. To improve core strength, lie flat on your back with your legs extended upward. Curl your shoulders and head up while lifting your arms slightly off the ground. With your head and shoulders up and your legs extended, pump your arms 10 times. Take a break by releasing from the position and then repeat ten times for a total of 100 arm pumps.

Balance Exercise

If you don't have good balance, you will have a hard time mastering high kicks. After all, kicking does involve the ability to balance on one foot for a period of time. Ballet barre exercises are great for working on balance. With one hand resting on the bar, firmly plant one foot into the ground while lifting the opposite leg. Bend the knee of the lifted leg with the foot touching the knee of the standing leg and stay in place. This is known as passé in ballet. Once you are stable, remove your hand from the barre and try balancing on the leg for as long as possible. Repeat on the other side.


In addition to core strength, balance and flexibility, high kicks require impeccable technique. Unpointed toes and other technical issues can ruin the aesthetics of a high kick. Proper technique includes having your toes pointed, legs straight, heels on the floor and back straight. Technique can be practiced in a traveling-kick exercise, in which you step forward on your right foot and then kick your left leg up. Next, you step on your left foot and kick your right leg up. This should be done with your arms extended straight out to each side.

Writer Bio

T. Marice Huggins has been published several times in both the New York and New Jersey editions of "Contemporary Bride Magazine." She has also been published in national publications such as "Redbook," Dance Magazine" and "Caribbean Travel and Life." Thanks to extensive dance training in college, she is very well-versed in the areas of health and fitness.

HIGH KICK. Fundamentals of Personal Security



A high kick is designed to hit an opponent in front of you. This technique is used as a sudden preemptive attack, as well as in situations where an attack with the hands is impossible or impractical (for example, when the enemy has covered his head with his hands, having gone into a dead defense, or, for example, when your hands are busy with something).

High kick is only used if the opponent's hands are full or he is otherwise unable to grab your leg or otherwise defend himself.

A kick can reach an opponent who is at a distance that excludes a kick from a place. That is why one of the typical situations for the use of this technique is the moment when the enemy recoiled from you, receiving a blow to the head or trying to evade it.


The blow is directed to the area of ​​the groin and lower abdomen, since this area of ​​the human body is densely saturated with nerve endings. When hit in the scrotum, this attack has the potential to render the enemy incapacitated by overloading their central nervous system with pain signals. A blow of considerable force inflicted on the lower abdomen can be fatal, causing cardiac arrest [10].


The blow is applied with a swinging whip motion along an arcuate upward trajectory with the toe of the boot in the groin, genitals or lower abdomen (Fig. 31). The kick starts as a normal but very fast forward step. Only you raise your hip higher than in everyday walking, as if you want to step onto a high step or chair in front of you. As your hip rises, your leg flexes at the knee and strikes with the toe of your boot.

When performing a kick, the supporting leg should be slightly bent at the knee in order to make it easier to balance.

The movement must be continuous, without prior high knee extension. You simply throw your booted foot off the floor and into your opponent's groin. In fact, the mechanics of this attack resembles how the edge of the palm strikes, the knee plays the role of the elbow joint, and the hip joint plays the role of the shoulder joint.

When delivering this blow, the British commandos were taught: "When aiming at the groin, hit at the chin", in other words, when aiming at the groin, you must strike as if you want to cut the enemy with your foot to the chin.

It is very important that the trajectory of the blow be upward, since the maximum pain when exposed to the scrotum occurs when the blow flattens the testicles located in it against the pubic bone.

After a strike, the leg does not come back, but is placed near the opponent. You transfer your mass to it, simultaneously attacking with your hands on the approach.

When making a strike, it is important to keep your hands in front of you (fig. 32), not only to protect against counterattacks, but also so that the enemy, bending over from the received blow, does not accidentally headbutt you in the face.

Surprise, speed and accuracy are of paramount importance. Don't swing or do anything that might tell your opponent that you're about to kick. A convenient method of disguising the initial phase of the strike is a small step on the opponent with the other foot. This movement will leave the foot you want to attack with behind, creating a slight swing, and its movement towards the opponent in the initial phase of the strike will most likely be perceived as a step.

If this strike is delivered as a surprise preemptive attack from a speaking position, do not look where you want to strike. It is advisable to divert the enemy's attention with gestures, for example, by waving your arms up.


The impact is designed for closed-toe shoes. Kicking with a bare foot in this manner can result in injury to the toes.

Possible continuation

Following a kick, you must immediately attack the opponent with your hands to the head.

Alternative execution

At arm's length or less, this blow may not be delivered with the toe, but with the instep of the foot or the lower part of the shin. This technique is also recommended if you are barefoot or wearing open-toed shoes such as sandals or beach flip-flops.

Brief historical background

In general, in the Fairbairn system, kicks above knee level are not recommended. That is why this blow, which is an exception to this rule, is called high.

SOE agents, OSS agents and British commandos were taught to use this technique also to finish off a prone opponent, inflicting this blow to the kidneys, neck, back of the head or temple. At the same time, it was recommended to avoid blows to the top of the head. Obviously, the use of such an attack is beyond the scope of a self-defense situation, since such a kick to the head with a high degree of probability will be fatal.

Possible origin

An identical toe strike is found in the traditional savate (coup de pied pointe) [11] and may well have been borrowed by Fairbairn from there. Moreover, some SOE agents in their memoirs write that they were shown a "high kick with a savate leg." On the other hand, Fairbairn himself in a number of sources indicates that all kicks in his system are taken from "Chinese boxing" (obviously, from the baguazhang style, which he studied in Shanghai).

In any case, Fairbairn did not take as a model the technique of kicking from atemiwaza tenjin sinyo ryu, since in this style a similar kick is applied with the ball of the foot under the toes, and the leg after the kick abruptly withdraws and returns to its original position [4].

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CRUSHING IMPACT (SMASH DOWN KICK) PurposeThe crushing kick is used to strike an enemy in front of you or to your side at a very close range. The technique is used as a surprise preemptive attack or in situations where an attack with the hands

Capoeiro Basic Strokes: Basic Technique Elements

© studioflara /

In this article, we will consider how the technique of kicks, hands, and head is performed in capoeira. We will talk about the basic simple techniques, because this is the first thing students learn in this martial art.


The philosophy of capoeira is a rather complex and voluminous system, which has a considerable influence on the techniques used in this martial art. Rhythm and harmony are of no small importance in this philosophy, which can be seen in the rhythm, smoothness of most movements and elements of the martial dance. Therefore, capoeira is not only dances, music and movements, but something much more. Many historical and cultural factors, including both Brazilian and African roots, had a great influence on the creation, development and formation of this doctrine.

Basic movements

Basic strokes are mastered by a fighter only after he comprehends the style of movement characteristic only for capoeira, called jinga. This movement technique makes it possible not only to advantageously change positions in a duel, but also to leave the opponent's line of attack in a timely manner. From the movements incorporated in this technique, other basic movements and basic strikes follow. Movements in ginga resemble a pendulum in their principle, while a person moves along three points, changing position by alternately moving forward with each foot. Ginga consists of two phases, the successful application of which allows you to make the strike fast and strong.

©val_th /

Among other basic movements in capoeira there are several main groups:

  • strikes;
  • defense and evasion;
  • movement;
  • acrobatic elements.

Each of these groups includes both basic, basic movements, as well as more advanced and complex techniques and elements. In a group of blows, the blow is applied with the head, hands or feet, depending on the situation and the tactics chosen by the fighter. Defense and evasion require dexterity and reaction speed in order to get away from the blow in time. Movement is one of the most important elements in capoeira, as it is the basis of all other groups, sometimes movements can be performed at high speed, which makes the fight dynamic. Acrobatic elements are one of the unique aspects of capoeira, they are not only effective but also spectacular.

Basic strokes

In capoeira, the percussion technique strongly resembles movements from some other martial arts, as numerous techniques were copied during the development of the martial dance discipline. Many strokes in capoeira have different variants of execution, often they are highly effective. In most cases, the division of basic strikes is carried out into two main categories: circular and direct strikes. Each category is represented by a whole set of strokes, consider the main ones. It is worth remembering that the names in capoeira are in Portuguese, and most of them were invented by commoners.


Among the main types of circular blows are the following:

  1. Habu ji ahhaya. This is a circular heel strike performed in a horizontal position. In this case, the fighter uses support on his hands or only one hand.
  2. Keyshada. A semi-circular and swinging blow applied by the outer surface of the foot directly in the frontal plane. In order to strike, you need to lean back.
  3. Ponteira. The blow is a swing kick with the heel in the head area from top to bottom.
  4. Mia lua keda. This is the name of the swinging semi-circular blow, delivered with a straight leg. In this case, the fighter simultaneously leans on the lower back.
  5. Mia lua di Frenchie. This is the name of a circular heel strike directly in the horizontal plane. At the same time, the fighter uses support on one leg or arm.
  6. Armada. Roundhouse kick, performed with a turn of the entire body. The blow itself is applied by the outer surface of the foot to the upper zone of the opponent's body.


The main direct blows include:

  1. Martelu. High direct kick delivered with the ankle to the side of the head.
  2. Ganchu. High heel strike to the head, delivered from the side.
  3. Spatula. This is a high straight forward kick directly to the head.
  4. Cabezada. This is, respectively, a headbutt applied to the opponent in the head or in the body.
  5. Bensu. Push kick with foot forward.

Fundamentals of Correct Striking

In order to correctly perform strikes and other movements, elements, techniques, it is necessary to use the following basic positions accordingly: