October 15, 2013 by Nicole
Strength training is misunderstood and often under-utilized, especially among women. It offers so many benefits that everyone – and especially dancers – should make it a regular part of life.
Let me be really clear here: you are not going to start lifting weights and accidentally wake up with a body builder’s physique. Not gonna happen. Body builders do just that – build a specific body. They look that way because they try. Really hard. So unless you’re also monitoring every morsel, counting protein grams, taking supplements and lifting a LOT of weight daily, you’re not going to “bulk up.” Trust me.
Now, with that out of the way, according to the Mayo Clinic, strength training can help you:
- Build muscle strength (obviously)
- Develop strong bones
- Manage chronic conditions
- Boost your stamina
- Control your weight & boost your metabolism
- Even sharpen your focus
These are all good reasons for anyone to strength train, but what are the specific benefits for dancers? If building strength and improving your stamina for increasingly challenging choreography weren’t enough, here are a few more:
- Increased core strength and stability, which in turn improves your technical elements like balances, turns, jumps and lifts.
- Cross-trains underutilized muscles, correcting imbalances
- Improves alignment
- Increases your injury resistance
- Strengthens typical weak points like your lower back, hips, ankles & shoulders
- Strengthens your mind-body connection
So, where do you start? The good news is there are a ton of low or no-cost options! Strength training can be done using just your own body weight; things like yoga, TRX and old favorites like pushups, squats & burpees. Pinterest provides a plethora of workouts – all you have to do is find one you’d like to complete, find a little free space and go for it! You can also check out workout DVDs from your local library for free or invest in a few you like.
Supporting a fellow dancer, BackonPointe is a great resource for strength training workouts. I’ve pinned several of them. They’re well put together, nice to print and she’s got plenty to choose from. (I particularly like the One Song Workouts & the Inner Thigh Toner!) The Dance Training Project is another one who gets it. Visit the site for a ton of information and available training options.
Free weights, weight machines and resistance bands/tubing are also ways to approach strength training. A gym membership is a pricier way to access this equipment, but you can invest in a few pieces – a couple different sizes of free weights or kettleballs – at reasonable prices from secondhand stores or discount chains.
Remember, if you’re not lifting more weight than you would coming out of the grocery store, you’re not going to gain the full benefits of strength training. (The one caveat here of course is when you’re dealing with an injury or some other sort of recovery period. Consulting your doctor will help determine what’s safe and healthy for you, if you’re concerned or you’re dealing with temporary limitations.)
The bottom line is that there’s nothing stopping you from adding strength training into your fitness/training regimen. It’s easy to start and it’s good for you and your dancing. Give it a shot & see how it improves your training and performance. As always, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!
Tell me about your experience….how have you incorporated strength training into your life? How has it helped?
Image courtesy of freerangestock.com