Strength training for dancers has been a widely debated topic for decades now. And while the question,
seems like a no brainer to us here at Dancers Who Lift, it’s still worth answering every time it’s asked.
Strength training for dancers is an incredible way to resolve muscular imbalances in the body, build endurance, and increase mobility and range of motion.
However, because there has been a lot of misinformation about what strength training for dancers should look like, it can be challenging to get started.
But never fear!
Dancers Who Lift is here with a list of six do’s and don’ts of strength training for dancers!
Perform exercises that look and feel “like dance”. One of the most common things we see when dancers start to weight train are exercises that look like dance, but just add weights.
Maybe it’s ankle weights on your degágés and téndus. Or maybe it’s doing a shoulder press on a bosu ball while standing in passé or Arabesque.
Unfortunately, while these exercises are incredible feats of strength, they aren’t the best way for you to build strength.
According to the National Library of Medicine Cross-training is defined as the use of multiple modes of training to enhance performance in one particular sport.
This means order for cross training to be effective, it needs to work you out differently than dance does.Otherwise you’re putting yourself at risk for an overuse injury.
Perform both compound and isolation strengthening exercises. Weightlifting for dancers has endless benefits.
From increased mobility to preventing injury, and yes acheiving physique goals. Weightlifting is the perfect cross training tool for dancers.
However, starting your strength training journey can feel a little bit overwhelming. So, one plance we always tell our dancers to begin is with the basics.
Learning how to do these five functional strength training moves will not only jumpstart your training, but will give you the tools to build an effective strength workout – immediately.
Skip your rest days. And no, yoga class is not rest. A short jog is not rest.
I cannot say this enough: If you are taking a rest day. JUST REST!
Resting will actually get you further along in your fitness journey than you can ever imagine.
Why? Because resting gives your muscles time to recover and rebuild and that is when strengthening occurs. Infact, rest days are a great way to train your body to recover more quickly. In fact, according to the Nation Library of Medicine,
“Due to the symbiosis between sleep and recovery, it is clear from the current findings that athletes should have a detailed individualized and multifaceted recovery plan in place involving sleep, nutrition, hydration, and other physiological and psychological aspects (Sakkas).”
So, quit skipping rest day. You need it!
The best way to rest is to schedule it. Just like scheduling your workouts or dance clases, put your rest days in your calendar.
Plan something restorative for your mind or emotional healthy that day like a walk through the park, a lunch with your friends, or an afternoon reading your favorite book.
But remember, the more you do, the more you need to rest. Dancers are notorious for packing their weeks and then giving themselves one afternoon of rest.
That’s not going to cut it. Strength training for dancers should occur somewhere between three and for times a week. And, In between those sessions, are dance classes and auditions. That’s a lot of stress for your body to manage.
That means we need to be resting at LEAST one full day per week if not more.
And listen, resting is not just about sitting around. There are tons of ways to promote recovery as busy dancers.
So, next time you feel like your body might need a rest, take it knowing you are doing more good for your body than “pushing through it” ever could.
Forget to fuel yourself for strength building. There is this awful myth that healthy snacks for dancers consist of small handfuls of nuts and protein bars. And while those things aren’t bad for you, they are not nearly enough fuel for what dancers demand of their bodies.
Strength training for dancers, on top of training as a professional dancer, ups the ante for how much we need to consume. We are professional athletes, and it’s time we start eating like them.
Eat proper amounts of nutrients to fuel your body to build muscles and stay energized. As dancers we are professional athletes. This means that we share the same dietary needs as a professional athlete.
Strength training for dancers can only go so far without proper fuel! In order to build muscle we have to eat more protein and yes, more carbohydrates.
Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t get your brain in gear during a dance class or audition?
Do you ever feel like you can’t picking up choreography as quickly as usual?
Have you ever just felt lethargic after a long day of rehearsals?
All of these issues can be largely helped by simply consuming enough protein and carbs to adequately fuel your body. Dancers need to eat a balanced diet of protein, carbs and fats throughout their day in order to meet the demands of their job.
And if they want to get stronger? Well, then they need to eat even more. You can’t level up without fuel. It’s as simple as that.
Confuse quantity with quality. There is a long held belief that the longer you spend in the gym, the more work you’re doing.
Unfortunately, this just isn’t true.
Sure, you could spend an hour and half everyday in the gym and you’d see progress. But what if I told you that you could see the same amount of progress, and even more useful progress with a 45-minute workout?
This is because there is a distinct difference between training and working out.
Training is specified, to your unique needs and goals.
Working out is a general way to burn calories, increase heartrate, and increase aerobic capacity.
Longer is not better. Intentional and goal oriented is.
Focus on specific, intentional training to equalize imbalances, strengthen muscles, and increase endurance.
Strength training for dancers can be incredibly specific. We even created an entire workout dedicated to improving your pirouettes. Imagine how much your dance technique could be transformed by increasing the strength and power at your end range of motion? Hello sky high extensions and soaring leaps!
So stop lifting just for the sake of lifting and start training for your specific dance goals.
Need some inspiration? Here are 20 conditioning workouts for dancers!
Set unrealistic expectations and goals. Dancers tend to have an all or nothing mindset. That’s why strength training for dancers can be so challenging.
We often feel like, if we have to do a modification or if we can’t complete a workout, that the workout isn’t as good as if we could do the workout full out or to completion.
But the truth is, imperfect action is ALWAYS better than perfect inaction.
In fact, imperfect action adds up overtime to that magic word we all strive for: *consistency.*
Remain consistent despite setbacks. The more often you show up for yourself, the stronger you will become both mentally and physically.
Strength training for dancers is as much a mental reset as it as a physical one. Strength training takes time and consistency in both physical action and nutritional consumption and mental fortitude.
You’re on tour and the hotel doesn’t have a gym? That’s okay. Strength training can be done anywhere.
You don’t financial access to a gym with equipment? That’s okay! Bodyweight training is still an effective tool of strength training for dancers.
There will always be an excuse. But dedication will always win over motivation. So, unless your body is asking for rest. Choose to show up for yourself day after day in this fitness pursuit.
Do it on your own.
Strength training for dancers is still a relatively new idea in the dance world. What does that yield? A lot of misinformation about what it is and how to do it.
Think of it like dance.
You could teach yourself ballet via youtube videos and online articles. But your technique will improve and grow much faster if you work with a ballet teacher privately or in a class.
The same is true with strength training.
You can do it on your own. But your progress will move so much faster if you have someone to guide you through it.
Find a community that can support you in your journey. It’s scientifically proven that having accountability helps athletes reach their goals.
Not able to afford personal training? That’s okay!
There are tons of low-cost or free opportunities to strength train. Dancers Who Lift has tons of free tools, from the 5-day turn course, to the Mindset Reset, to the Energy Estimator.
And that doesn’t even mention the Dancers Who Lift Blog that’s chock of work outs, nutrition tips, and even mental health guides for professional dancers.
Strength training for dancers is so beneficial. I hope this list of dos and don’ts has helped you sort out a road map of success for your goals!
Let us know how your journey is going in the comments or give us a follow @dancerswholift on instagram and Tiktok. And if you find that you do want to work with a trainer, check out our Embodied Artist or Body Mechanics programs. We’d love to be a part of your community.