On the dance floor, what you do isn’t nearly as important as how you do it. 

At the Latin clubs, capturing the sexy Latino rhythm means using Cuban motion. Lets be clear: both men and women use Cuban motion, although women tend to be more noticeable in their movement due to their wider hips and narrower waist. Here’s five exercises to get you started.

1.   Push the shopping cart

Next time you’re at the grocery store, fill a shopping cart so it doesn’t roll easily. While you walk, lean in to give the cart a constant gentle pressure. This will shift your weight to the balls of your feet. You’ll also notice your knees will start alternately bending and straightening. You will apply these concepts in the next exercises.

2.   The knees move the hips

Most people trying Cuban motion for the first time focus on moving their hips as much as possible and end up hurting themselves.

In fact, what gives the hips their natural look and feel is the bending and straightening of the knees. Try this: place your hands on a wall with feet hip width apart, toes turned out. Lean into the wall so your weight shifts to the balls of your feet. Slowly bend your right knee, keeping the left knee straight. You should see your right hip rotate forward with the knee. Switch to the left knee, and the hip will rotate the opposite direction. Practice alternating knees until you can do it without your head bobbing up and down. At this point, your hips should be rotating back and forth, like a top loading washing machine.

3.   Marching to the tune

Continue with your wall exercise, but begin lifting and placing each foot to ensure your weight is shifting from one to the other. Let the knee bend as the weight comes down to ‘sink’ into each step, like you’re dancing on the sand. Remember to keep the toes turned out. Feeling good? Try closing the heels together, so your feet make a v-shape. This will help you get comfortable with more subtle weight changes.

4.   Let’s get moving!

Forward Cuban motion is like climbing a flight of stairs: each step is taken with a bent knee, which straightens as you move forward to take the next step. Start with toes turned out and heels together, weight on your right foot, right knee bent. Now, as you straighten the right knee and bend the left, push the left foot forward and transfer your weight. Continue with the right foot, letting the heel brush by the left foot as it passes. Try and keep your shoulders facing the direction you’re traveling – if you are moving correctly, you’ll feel a twisting action in your stomach as your hips rotate.

5.   Add the other directions

This time, step to the side from your starting position with your left foot. Close the right heel to the left, remembering to bend the right knee and straighten the left as you do, and repeat. When you reach the end of the room, reverse direction, stepping side with the right foot and closing with the left. Finally, travel backwards by sliding the left foot back and bending the left knee, straightening the right as you do. Repeat with the right foot, brushing past the left heel like you did with the forward walks. Careful not to lean into the movement with your body: keep the weight forward on the ball of the foot.