When I started my journey with fitness, I wanted as much information as I could get my hands on.
I read journals, blogs, magazines, watched YouTube videos, and everything in between. But something so frustrating was the conflicting information from what I had been told in my years of dance training with what I was learning about the body and strength training.
My college professors had preached one thing but sports medicine experts declared the opposite… and in fact, those scientists had the data to prove and debunk what I had been told in the studio.
When I started coaching other performers I realized I wasn’t alone.
In fact, it seemed there were several “myths” that dancers have heard over the years.
So today I’d like to take a moment and clarify the
7 myths dancers should stop believing.
Myth 1: Lifting Weights Makes You “Bulky”
“I don’t wanna get buuuuulky”
I’ve written about this before…
You won’t get bulky from regular resistance training.
You may, however, find a more efficient metabolism, increased bone density, confidence boost, ability to jump higher, increased extensions, more pirouettes, and new curves, cuts, and edges on your body.
It takes years to build muscles. That woman, the body builder you’re picturing in your head right now, she’s spent YEAAAAARS. Literally hundreds and hundreds of hours TRYING to look that way.
You, my dear dancer, will not be training the same way or with the same goals as that woman. (PS this is why it’s important to follow a specific strength+ conditioning program, like mine)
So like I said, there a countless benefits of weight lifting.
But bulk? No, you won’t get bulky.
Myth 2: Light weights mean “long, lean” muscles
“I mean, *insert celebrity trainer* says that’s the only way to get tone muscles. *insert celebrity* only uses 2pound weights.”
Along those same lines… I hear women talk about lifting. They agree with the above mentioned benefits but because they read in some women’s magazine that this celebrity or that celebrity trainer never lifts more than 2-5 pounds, they need to do likewise.
For one thing, what?
Literally every dancer I know has a dance bag that easily weighs 10-40pounds and they lug that sucker around ALL OVER the city. So that’s debunked right there.
Furthermore, whether you’re aiming to lose fat or build muscle or improve your dancing, 100 bicep curls with a 2lbs weight will do
exactly nothing to help you.
Unfortunately, using lighter weights won’t get you “long, lean” muscles.
Genetics determines what’s “long and lean”.
Sometimes even genetics aren’t fair.
This is my cousin, he’s literally 7′ tall and I’m not even 5′ tall.
Who looks longer and leaner?
Example? I’m under 5 feet tall, I will NEVER look as long and lean as a girl who is 5’7″.
Her femur is 5-6″ inches longer than mine, even if we’re both 16% body fat, and have the same amount of muscle on our bodies she will always look “longer” because she is!
It took me too long to grasp this concept.
You gotta own what you’re working with. I try to rock my 4’11” stature and I know full well, I will never be a Rockette. But that’s okay! I have the same body fat as those girls and I’m perfect IN MY SKIN.
Just like you are.
Myth 3: Carbs Make You Fat
“Do carbs make you fat? For awhile I limited carbs because I thought they were ‘bad’…”
I’ve heard it all. Instructors telling dancers they can’t eat a banana because it’s too “fattening”. The “I cut out all sugar and lost 1,000,000 pounds!” girls.
A mentor I had, a former principle ballerina, never ate pizza until she was 27.
This is no way to live!
Firstly, your body neeeeeds carbs. They provide us with energy for our muscles and the only energy source for our brains.
Ever notice how forgetful and stupid you get if you don’t eat carbs for a few days? Yeah, that’s glucose. It comes from carbs. That’s what your brain needs to function. Secondly, we live in NYC. We are in the food capital of the WORLD. You better believe I already have my ticket for Desert Fest 2020!
Life is about balance.
Once you understand that carbs are used to fuel your body, help repair and rebuild muscles, and can actually help you LOSE weight, you can rest easy. (*More on this in a later post, stay tuned*)
There’s no need to demonize one food.
But no. Eating carbs, in a proportional amount, and expending the energy they provide does not make you fat.
Myth 4: Fat Makes You Fat
…it just makes sense. ‘You are what you eat’. Plus look at all the fat free foods and diets, I just thought that’s how it worked…
Ooookay. I’m guilty of eating fat free yogurt, egg whites, and reduced fat PB.
But that’s only so I can put it back in my diet in another way (more on macro balance later).
If you eat fats, in moderation, you will not store fat.
Fats and oils are essential for hormone regulation within the body. They give us that “glow”. Happy hair, skin, nails, etc. comes from eating enough fats.
Fats keep us full and satiated.
They help regulate body temperature.
We. Need. Fats.
“Good Fats” like coconut oil and avocados are great and “bad fats” like… idk? Butter? Heavy cream? They’re ALSO GREAT.
But you should know that “Good” and “Bad” are relative terms, often used as a marketing ploy.
Is it ideal that you take in foods with more micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) yes, sure! Please do! But your body, while being super-extra-ultra-smart, doesn’t actually know the difference between olive oil or canola oil. #EarthShattering I know.
But no. Just like carbs, eating fats, in a proportional amount does not make you fat.
Myth 5: Protein Makes You Fat and/or Bulky
“My college nutrition class told me I only need 30-50g of protein a day, any more than that I’ll bulk up and/or gain weight…”
The RDA, Recommended Dietary Allowance, literally just changed. There’s a good chance your college textbook is out dated or the material was not dance/ athlete specific.
I think I have two other posts saying this, but it’s so important I’ll say it again for the girls in the back.
As an athlete, you need .8-2.5grams of protein per pound of (lean) body weight.
Eating that much protein may seem intimidating, but let’s look at it this way. If you’re eating more protein, you’re building your muscles.
More muscles means a faster metabolism.
A faster metabolism means less body fat (and ultimately more food… YAY!).
Additionally, protein is the hardest form of energy for our bodies to use.
It takes a lot of energy to break it down, digest it, and put it to work. Leaving you feeling fuller, longer.
This is called the thermic effect, btw*.
(*The thermic effect of food is the energy required for digestion, absorption, and disposal of ingested nutrients. Its magnitude depends on the composition of the food consumed. Just to put this in perspective, Carbohydrates: 5 to 15% of the energy consumed. Protein: 20 to 35%)
Staying fuller, longer means less mindless snacking or binging.
There’s this misconception that eating any amount of protein instantly turns you into the aforementioned bodybuilder woman or some hulk-like man.
Like I said, look that way takes A LOT of time. Very specific training. And a hormone that YOU DON’T HAVE. That’s right.
Testosterone. The reason men look like men, is because they have a lot more testosterone than women do. So unless you’re on T, actually even if you are, it’s still very hard to look that way.
My point? Protein is your friend, eat it up.
Myth 6: Cardio Blasts Body Fat
“Does cardio make you skinny? I thought for the longest time if I wanted to be lean I just had to do lots and lots of cardio…”
To be completely honest cardio DOES help lose body fat. But it’s most effective in combination with lifting (and well rounded diet).
Lifting weights should be the base of your fat loss program.
Cardio is super important, but it should just be a piece in your fitness puzzle, not the entire picture.
Real Quick, Some Science
- A study from Penn State looked at 3 groups: diet only, diet + cardio, diet + cardio + weights.
- It took 12 weeks to see results in these groups. But what researchers found was pretty cool.
- The diet group lost an average 14.6lbs. Awesome!
- The diet + cardio group lost 15.6lbs. An additional pound of fat. Good!
- The diet +cardio + weights group lost the most fat at 21.1lbs. Wuh-whaaaat!
- The researchers concluded that cardio contributed very little.
- These subjects in the diet + cardio group performed 36 cardio sessions (up to 50 minutes each) during the 12 weeks, but only lost 1 pound more on average than those who focused on diet alone.
To see the best results, in fat loss/ building muscle/ building strength,
there has to be a beautiful trifecta of diet+ weights and cardio.
The good news about this is, that as dancers, we’re already doing A LOT of cardio on the reg. Every ballet/jazz/tap class, rehearsals, running to catch the bus, all counts as cardio!
If you love running, by all means run!
But if you hate the elliptical, don’t waste your precious hours on it!
Crush the weights for 30-60 minutes take a dance class, and go enjoy your day and your hot bod!
Myth 7: Lifting Weights (squatting in particular) will make you tight and less flexible.
My dance teacher told me if I lift weights I’ll lose my flexibility and get too stiff…
This myth, quite frankly, is garbage.
Not only is false that weight lifting will impair your flexibility, but in fact, it’s been shown that weight lifting will improve one’s mobility!
A short anecdote…
I was coaching a male dancer in his mid-twenties. Let’s call him Bryce.
Bryce was (is) and incredible ballroom dancer but was working toward transitioning into more commercial work meaning he needed to add muscle to his frame and also improve the height of his lines. In his nearly two decades of dance training, Bryce had never once been able to do split in any direction.
He usually hovered, uncomfortably, 6” off the ground with a bent back leg or propping himself up on his elbows.
Fast forward to 8 weeks of training with DWL, not only was Bryce’s bum on the floor he could lay his entire torso over his right and left leg and even roll through his center split. His developes passed 90* and his jumps we higher off the ground and making picturesque lines.
His program had focused on deep squats, working the hips from their end range of motion to their deepest flexion. Isolating his glutes with bridges and hip thrusts. Strengthening his hamstrings with deadlift variations. And adductor and abductor focus with lunges in all plains and banded exercises.
By strengthening all of the muscles in his hip complex, the previously “tight” muscles in his splits and extensions were able to focus on doing their singular jobs, like the hip flexors lifting the hip, or relaxing into a position such as a split because the muscles around them were doing the stabilizing.
(Bryce is now working a national tour, FYI)
So no, weightlifting will not impair your flexibility and will likely improve your extensions and lines.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about weight training and nutrition.
But the moral of this post is simply, do your research or follow someone (like me!) who is actively doing the research for you, with your best interest in mind.
What’s the craziest fitness or dance myth you’ve ever heard? Comment below.