Should Dancers Lift Weights?

Why should dancers lift weights- Dancers Who Lift Blog

For years it has been implied and even taught outright that weight training is something dancers should avoid.

Unfortunately, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

From fears of getting “bulky” to worries of becoming rigid and losing flexibility, myths about weight training have discouraged dancers from lifting for a long time.

However, if you’ve been watching the dance and fitness world closely over the last ten years, you’ll know that strength and fitness have become something casting directors and choreographers look for in dancers; a contrast to previous years when “thinness” was the main feature sought after by dancers and choreographers alike.

This leaves dancers searching for a form of cross-training that will give them this physique without picking up the dumbbells and coming up frustrated when they don’t get the results they’re looking for.

So, should dancers lift weights after all?

Now, don’t jump the gun, dancers should not be lifting weights *simply* to fit the trending “look” in casting offices. So, why should dancers lift weights? There are LOADS of reasons to weight train beyond physique changes that range from injury prevention to increased mobility to joint health. Let’s get into it. 

One of the most important benefits of weight training is injury prevention.

Due to overuse, dancers are most susceptible to stress fractures, tendon injuries, strains, and sprains. But weightlifting is one of the best ways to prevent these exact types of injuries.

Well, did you know that weightlifting helps to increase bone density which in turn prevents stress fractures? And, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance training increases the amount of collagen in connective tissues (like tendons and ligaments) resulting in stronger, thicker connective tissues that are more resistant to injury.

But one of the most compelling injury prevention cases for dancers specifically was also found in that same study. The ACSM found that, 

“Resistance training also has an important role in reducing the risk for musculoskeletal injuries related to muscle imbalance, expressed as either an agonist-to-antagonist ratio (i.e., knee flexors/ knee extensors) or as a bilateral comparison (i.e., right and left knee flexors). Correction of the existing imbalance through a resistance training program is important to reducing the individual’s risk for muscle injury(Hoffman, J. Resistance Training and Injury Prevention. Indianapolis, IN: American College of Sports Medicine; 2017.)” 

So, should dancers lift weights to prevent injury?

Bottom line: Yes.

Resistance training, whether it’s weighted or not, will be a big help in preventing injury and therefore increasing the longevity of your dance career.

personal training for dancers



Okay, so injury prevention sounds good, but why else should dancers lift weights?

I might ruffle some feathers with this one considering the myths floating around, but dancers should lift weights to increase their range of motion and joint mobility.

I know, it’s the exact opposite of what we’ve been told. However, studies have shown that resistance training increases athletes’ range of motion and mobility. In fact, this study published by the International Journal of Exercise Science shows that resistance training had zero negative impact on flexibility and, in most cases, increased flexibility for participants in the study.

These findings were true for every age group and each type of athlete studied.

For maximum benefit, when you lift, go to your deepest range of motion without compromising your form. Over time, this end range of motion will get stronger and stronger, resulting in a deeper range of motion.

Why might dancers want more range of motion?

Deeper plies and more powerful pirouette and jump preparations. 

 Have we convinced you that dancers should lift weights yet?


That’s okay, I’ve got more information for you.

Did you know that building muscle increases your metabolic rate?

That’s right.  Weightlifting, unlike cardio, can result in an elevated metabolic rate up to 72 hours after your workout (MacKenzie-Shalders K, Kelly JT, So D, Coffey VG, Byrne NM. The effect of exercise interventions on resting metabolic rate: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sports Sci. 2020 Jul;38(14):1635-1649. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2020.1754716. Epub 2020 May 12. PMID: 32397898.)

As dancers, we lead incredibly full lives. So if you can burn the same number of calories in one 30-45 minute lifting session as you could in three cardio workouts why wouldn’t you?

Additionally, if building muscle increases your metabolic rate, this means, over time your body will begin burning fat more efficiently, making the maintenance of your physique goals easier.


The other benefit of weight training is how personalized it can be.

Targeting specific muscle groups to help with muscle imbalances (which every professional athlete has) will only deepen your stability and further help in preventing injury.

That’s why here at Dancers Who Lift, we specifically hire coaches who have a background in dance. Do you struggle with turns? Weightlifting can help with that. Do you want higher jumps? The squat rack is calling! Training with a lifting coach who understands dance ensures that you aren’t just “working out” to stay in shape. Instead, you’ll be training to be the best dancer you can be.

Amber actually said once,


As an elite level athlete, a professional dancer, simply working out, or moving your body in an unspecified manner, MAY better your physique but it will not improve your dancing or help you become a better, stronger athlete. Training takes skill, precision, and focus. Working out is a broad, vague, cover-all term (Amber Tacy, DWL Blog).”


If I told you that lifting weights could give you higher extensions, more explosive jumps, and controlled turns, it’d be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, despite all of those things being true, we are taught that dancers shouldn’t lift weights.

That’s why there are so many myths out there about the gym and we work hard to debunk them here at Dancers Who Lift.

Weightlifting is used across most professional sports as a form of cross training, injury prevention, and weight management.

So, to answer your question: “Should dancers lift weights?”

YES. Dancers who lift weights will see goal achievements that reach far beyond their aesthetic desires.


Still not convinced?

Check out these articles to read even more about how weight training can transform the way you dance AND the way you look:

Meet the Artist Behind #DancersWhoLift, a Movement to Build Strong, Confident Dancers

Gym Myths and Misconceptions: The Dancer Edition

Raising the barre: how science is saving ballet dancers




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