If you are a dancer in this day and age and you want to get stronger, then you have probably realised that dancing alone is not going to get you where you want to go. This is where cross training for dancers comes in.
Most ballet dancers feel that they want to spend all their time dancing but a well-rounded dancer can definitely benefit from the wide variety of different exercises, strengthening options and methods out there. The quality of your dancing can only be improved by making use of them.
All these things work on improving your overall strength and stamina, and help you to overcome specific weaknesses (we all have them lurking somewhere in our bodies).
These exercises can only complement a dancers regime. You will become a stronger ballet dancer by doing more than just dancing.
Take Misty Copeland for instance. That well-toned body of hers does not come from her ballet training alone.
Cross Training For Dancers
Let’s look at some of the things that dancers can do to improve both their strength, flexibility and technique.
Pilates is very popular with both ballet dancers and non-ballet dancers. This makes it looks like a fitness fad, but in actual fact, Pilates has been around for over eighty years.
George Balanchine and Martha Graham were among the first in the ballet world to recognise Pilates as being especially beneficial for dancers.
Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates, who turned his knowledge of boxing, yoga, gymnastics and martial art, as well as his experience rehabilitating patients from World War I, into a system of exercises meant to increase a person’s overall strength and flexibility, without creating bulky muscles.
Pilates focuses on creating a really strong core that will support all the other movements in ballet dancing. Pilates can also target those weak lower back muscles and enable the dancer to perform ballet exercises and technique correctly. Pilates will also discover and correct imbalances and misalignments that can hinder a ballet dancer’s progress.
Pilates for beginners is usually taken one on one with an instructor, to establish alignment, breathing, form and you will learn to do each exercise perfectly. Once you become more advanced you should be able to work in groups or even on your own.
Here are some Pilates resources for you to look at as cross training for dancers:
Attention to the intrinsic musculature that holds the skeleton correctly aligned is emphasized throughout the DVD.
Once you are comfortable with the series you can forward to the second version that bypasses the breakdown of each exercise and allows you to go through the exercises without stopping.
Keep in mind that these exercises have been developed to help you achieve strength and flexibility and well warmed up muscles.
This video has a great, limbering warm-up routine, followed by over 20 explicitly broken down, step-by-step, instructions that anyone (yes, even you) can follow.
This video progressed in stages so that even absolute beginners will have no problem getting a complete and invigorating workout.
Geared towards beginners and those who are learning their first pilates movements, all the way to intermediates, a lot of time is spent on explanation and proper repetition, so you get the most out of your workout.
Multiple angles make sure you don t miss any of the important alignment or subtle movements of the Pilates exercises. A great video, and a chance for you to experience a great dancer s workout!
Yoga is also great cross training for dances as it trains a union in body and mind. In fact, the word yoga means union.
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice and is a form of exercise that is meant to become a life long discipline.
The benefits of yoga in ballet dancing is to develop focus, breathing, ease tense muscles, improved balance and increase flexibility.
Yoga can be used as a great de-stressor and a soothing focus on the intense training regimen that ballet dancers often have.
Yoga is performed slowly with purposeful breathing. Each stretch is followed by a stretch in the opposite direction. Yoga doesn’t have the beautiful lines that ballet does, but each movement is performed for the therapeutic benefits.
Yoga is popular everywhere, and there are a variety of styles from which to choose, it’s up to you to choose the class that suits you.
Here are some more resources for you to look at:
This one is great for yoga beginners.
Science of Yoga reveals the facts, with annotated artworks that show the mechanics, the angles, how your blood flow and respiration are affected, the key muscle and joint actions working below the surface of each pose, safe alignment and much more.
With insight into variations on the poses and a Q&A section that explores the science behind every aspect of yoga, look no further than Science of Yoga to achieve technical excellence in your practice and optimise the benefits of yoga to your body and mind.
A great book for dancers wishing to understand the use of yoga when it comes to cross training for dancers.
Swimming is amazing when it comes to cross training for dancers because of the tremendous amount of decompression that happens when you are in the water.
Swimming allows you to move your joints without the effects of gravity and because there are so many strokes to choose from, dancers with tight upper bodies need not shy away from the pool. Backstroke is excellent for stretching the front of your chest and at the same time strengthen the back of your torso and shoulders.
Breaststroke while great for the hips and legs will tend to make your chest tighter as a dancer.
Running underwater or treading water is a great way to work that heart without the joint pressure associated with running.
Cycling is a great way to strengthen the quads and gluts, but dancers should ride at a lower resistance to prevent them from building bulky muscles.
Sit upright rather than riding a racing bike to prevent the shortening of the muscles in the front of the hips.
Cycle with a nice upright posture and use your breathing.
Running is not the best exercise for dancers, but a good alternative is using the eliptical machine, which will give you a solid cardiovascular workout without the high impact and stress on your joints.
Because you are working in a parallel environment, you can vary the grade and vary the resistance. If you are on a machine without handles, work on your balance by not holding the sides and using your arms as if you were jogging.
Aceshin Elliptical Machine Trainer Compact Life Fitness Exercise Equipment for Home Workout Offic Gym (Gray2)
- This elliptical trainer can be purchased online and it provides a smooth and quiet operation that is the same experience as a gym but in the comfort of your home.
- 8 levels of magnetic resistance that you can choose your own fitness goals.
When it comes to cross training for dancers, you will need to set goals for yourself. For instance, if you want to strengthen your quads because your knees are taking strain, then schedule two to three bike rides a week for about 30 minutes and then reassess after a few weeks how your knees are improving.
Break down your schedule into six week training periods to allow yourself to accomplish each goal you set out for yourself.
This way of doing things narrows your focus and makes it easier to stay motivated.
If you are already doing many hours of dancing a day, you will need to limit your cross training so that you don’t burn out.
The trick is to be smart about your cross training and in time your dancing will reap the rewards.