Written By Dr. Meagan Robichaud, PT, DPT
The ideas behind weight training as a dancer have certainly come a long way over the years and it is most definitely not a new concept in the dance world. But, with that being said, many dancers are still fearful and unsure where to begin when it comes to swapping the pointe shoes for dumbbells and kettle bells every once in awhile. In the past, dance conditioning and cross training programs include methods like Pilates, yoga, and body weight exercises. These are still valued options for a dancer’s repertoire BUT they are missing the key benefits that weight training can provide. We all know that weight training is an integral part of an athlete’s career and since dancers are athletes, why should the stigma be any different. Let’s change the name of the game for dancers…read on to find out why your physical therapist is so passionate about picking up those weights.
Why Should a Dancer Lift Weights?
Some will say weight training is not “specific” to dance; however, weight training can create the foundation needed for improving all aspects of your performance that have been lacking. Weight training isn’t all about building bulk in the muscles. Lifting weights can improve both muscle power and endurance which can improve fatigue and prevent injuries during those longer classes, rehearsals, and performances. Weight training provides the base for a dancer to then build upon the aesthetics and heighten their overall performance capacity.
Barriers and Myths of Weight Training in Dance
1. “Bulking up”
We’ve heard it before….dancers can’t lift weights because they will get too bulky and no longer look beautiful on stage. WRONG! It is actually harder than you would think to build bulk as it takes a very specific and strict exercise and nutrition program. Weight training for dancers coupled with their normal dance schedule would only enhance their physique and create the appropriate strength needed for better performance.
2. Fear of getting started
When it comes to weight training there is very little guidance given to dancers on how to begin this journey. It can be intimidating knowing where to even start. It makes sense that most dancers chose to not lift weights all together for fear of looking like they don’t know what they are doing at the gym. As with any type of cross training, it is extremely important that you take the time to learn how to do it properly to avoid injuring yourself. A physical therapist who specializes in dance medicine can assist you in beginning this process and ensure that you won’t risk an injury while weight training that will set you back.
The Benefits of Weight Training
Weight training results in a large recruitment of muscle fibers, and therefore increases muscle strength and endurance more than body weight exercises alone. In other words, start adding weight to your bodyweight exercises in order to see full body improvements that will increase your muscular control and overall joint stability…two things which are essential to preventing injuries in dance.
Increased muscle strength
Increased muscle tone and appearance (not to be confused with “bulk”)
Increased muscular endurance
Increased cardiovascular fitness
Increased muscular control and coordination
Improved muscle power and precision
If you are interested in taking your performance to the next level but you are still unsure of where to start, reach out to our Dance Medicine Team at Magna Physical Therapy to jumpstart your program. Our Dance Fitness Assessments look at a full body evaluation and determine your strengths and weaknesses in order to create a tailored weight training program specifically for your needs!
Let us help you swap out the pointe shoes for the dumbbells and be confident doing it!