Dancers need strength training in their classes to support the demands of long rehearsals, varying styles of dance and dancer’s personal desire to push themselves past their limits. Dancers are a unique type of athlete, they perform movements that take them in the air, to the floor and display an incredible amount of strength and endurance in every performance. We’re asking so much more of our dancers so it’s only fair we provide them with the tools they need to succeed.
See the three reasons to add strength training to your class below to help you graduate past a few jumping jacks and relevés, and consider adding 10 to 15 minutes of designated strength training into your next technique class.
1. Increase Strength and Endurance
Strength and muscles, these are no longer scary words forbidden in the dance community. It’s expected that your dancers jump with ease, lift another dancer and execute acro movements with grace. When you add strength training to your dance classes, your dancers build muscle which leads to more body control and stability. The best part about body control? Cleaner routines and increased difficulty!
Technique is beautiful, but imagine having clean technique through the entire routine and having dancers finish the routine with as much energy and cleanliness as when it began.
A strength training routine can do that.
Think of the possibilities and increased strength with just 3 days a week of devoted training. Being able to focus on and connect with specific muscles in the body will have your dancers showing up with more control and more power in their skills. There are many options that would work well for your class but I highly recommend strength training in the form of a circuit for 8 - 10 minutes after stretching.
Choose 2 exercises for core, upper body and 2 for lower body. Alternate each exercise doing each for 40 seconds and resting for 20. Repeat as many times as desired.
2. Muscle Balance
All season long, your dancers are turning and leaping on their “good side” or the side that’s been choreographed into the routine. The other side which may be weaker, never gets its chance to shine. The other issue with this, is that one side gets used more than the other and that can lead to overuse injuries. Dancers who do strength training in class can do unilateral exercises like lunges. These work one side at a time so you can see where the weaknesses are and improve from there. Giving both sides an equal amount of work will help your dancers strengthen their body proportionately and have more consistency with more skills.
3. Decrease injury
Dancers getting hurt used to just be part of the deal, but not anymore. The more we respect our dancer’s bodies for the athletic instrument that they are, the less injuries we’ll see. Specifically, ankle, foot and hamstring injuries can be greatly reduced with a regular strength training routine.
Strengthening both sides of the body, focusing on proper engagement of certain muscles can help the body kick, jump and turn with ease while using the correct muscles.
Ankles and feet are often forgotten as we focus on pointed toes and lifted knees. They don’t get the attention they deserve for how much support they can offer. Much like a game of Jenga, keeping the bottom stacked and secure is the best way to keep the tower from crumbling. This applies to your dancers. Taking the time to work on ankle strength is going to give them more consistency in their turns and skills, and keep their ankles safe from the impact of their dancing.
Ankle exercises are easy to incorporate, even when brushing your teeth.
Hamstring and hip injuries are often caused by dancers throwing their legs in the air without engaging the correct muscles in the correct order. They complain about lacking flexibility, back pain and hip pain but continue to use the same muscles over and over again.
Most don’t know how to activate their glutes (butt muscles) or train their core (which includes your low back) and so, those poor hamstrings are being overworked while your dancer’s butts and backs are on vacation.
Strength training with the correct guidance and exercise can help your dancers learn how to activate the muscles they’ve never worked before and help those muscles work as a team for jumps, leaps and turns.
They’ll feel their booty after performing this exercise 20 times, three times through.
For inspiration and ideas, log onto www.dancer-fitness.com to view our new collection of exercises and training plans. Easy to incorporate into any practice or at home workout.
Author: Katie groven
Katie Groven is an ACSM certified personal trainer, holistic health coach and two time world champion dancer. She is the creator of dancer-fitness.com an online exercise database designed to transform competitive dancers into athletic powerhouses. she has combined her 25 years of dance and her expertise in fitness to empower dancers of all ages to view themselves as athletes and gives them the tools to increase their strength, endurance, injury prevention, and overall performance. Katie travels the country cross training teams and studios including Larkin Dance Studio, home to World of Dance finalists Eva Igo, Ellie and Ava Wagner and The Trilogy. When she’s not training individual dancers or teams she’s spending quality time with her husband Chris, 1 year old daughter Hazel or growing her collection of Converse shoes.