Written by Dr. Laura Fetko, PT, DPT
Fact or Fiction? Dancers should not participate in any other activities besides dance because this may lead to muscle bulkiness or an increase in injuries.
This statement is fiction, as a dancer myself we were taught that non-dance activities would take away from our technique or even lead to injuries. However, cross-training has been found to increase strength, power, enhance technique and reduce the incidence of injuries. With that being said, what is cross-training?
Cross-training is the participation in other activities that are not dance related such as Pilates, swimming, resistance training and many more. By engaging in other activities it will actually improve performance and dance execution. Cross-training helps decrease the incidence for overuse injuries, as well as a decrease the chance of developing muscle imbalance which could lead to potential injury. For example, in dance we utilize our hip external rotators, also known as our “turn-out” muscles every day, therefore, what muscles do we need to cross-train? That’s right, our muscles that bring us into parallel! By training in parallel there is a decreased incidence of overuse of the hip external rotators. Here are some examples of cross-training activities that would benefit dancers.
Pilates is an exercise method that consists of low-impact flexibility, strength, and endurance. With a focus on postural alignment, core strength and muscle balance. Developing a dancer's core will decrease the occurrence of low back injuries. Also, these exercises will help on the dance floor, for example, being able to balance in passe or the ability to execute a double pirouette with grace.
As a dance teacher I have encouraged my students to utilize the pool as a part of their cross-training routine. Moving through the resistance of the water but without excess force of gravity improves muscle strength, without increased pressure on the joints. Swimming also trains cardiopulmonary endurance, allowing for increased stamina when dancing for long periods of time during rehearsals or on stage.
Contrary to past beliefs, resistance training will not cause “bulky” muscles in a dancer. Resistance training includes the use of resistance bands, free weights, and even just the use of your own body weight. The purpose of resistance training is to improve muscle strength and endurance, which will improve leaps, jumps, turns, and sustained positions. Not only does resistance training improve our dance performance but will also prevent injuries. By including resistance training into your routine this will help maintain bone mass, therefore, will help prevent the occurrence of fractures and osteoporosis.
In this blog only a few cross-training activities were described, for questions on our dancer fitness assessment or to find out about our pricing, please visit our website at magnapt.com or email our Dance Medicine Team, Dr. Meagan Robichaud at email@example.com or Dr. Laura Fetko at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pilates for beginners: Explore the core - Mayo Clinic
Cross Training & Injury Prevention | Gaynor Minden (dancer.com)