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Why Dancers Need to Strength Train

As a ballroom dance competitor, I have come to recognize the importance of strength training and its link to performance on the ballroom floor. My personal story ends with placing 2nd at a competition after I introduced training at the gym and proper nutrition to my usual dance practice routine. I too was apprehensive about strength training initially, but these changes not only helped my personal motivation to continue to compete but continues to drive my desire to help dancers get back to what they love to do.

Female dancer practicing strength training

Hyper-mobility vs Biomechanics

The prerequisite to becoming a dancer is not hyper-mobility, rather the training to own the ranges of motion that you have. The problem is that overstretching joints that may already be hyper-mobile will lead to even more pain and symptoms down the road. Shifting the trajectory to a balanced routine of strength and dance can be the difference between a long career or watching from the side lines.

“Strength training will make me look bulky!”

This is a very common misconception, especially with women in DanceSport. The truth is, strength training will help you gain so much more than muscle mass. The beauty in strength training is that your body will adapt to how you load and stress it. If you strength train with the intention of building strength and not hypertrophy of the muscle itself, you can drive the focus on building a more resilient system that be better prepared for the demands of your style of dance.

For example, classic ballet dancers working on pointe technique work on supporting their full body weight on to their toes. The demand and load being placed on the joints of the feet will require proper biomechanics moving from the feet up. Keeping your body aligned, breathing down and wide into your diaphragm and engagement the right muscles, such as the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, calf muscles and foot flexors, will help maintain this position. The ankle is an unstable joint that relies on this surrounding anatomy to maintain stability and load, especially in pointe.

Keep in mind that increased joint mobility can put your joints in a vulnerable position and lead to sprains, strains, chronic joint pain, fatigue and even lead to poor coordination. The good news is that we can prevent these symptoms by incorporating a simple strength routine to strengthen your joints in all of their available ranges of motion.
Strength training also includes benefits, such as:

  • Hormonal balance
  • Increased energy
  • Deeper sleep
  • Mental clarity
  • Stress management
  • Lower risk of injury

The Essential 7

Female dancer using an Essential 7 stretch

Our bodies are dynamic and meant for movement so a healthy combination of your style of dance and strength will only lead to better results in your overall health and performance as a dancer. The point is to add this component to your dance training for the longevity of your health and to incorporate proper biomechanics.

Strength training can be kept simple! Here at UWC we like to urge our dancers to select a movement from each of the Essential 7:

  • Push
  • Pull
  • Hinge
  • Carry
  • Lunge
  • Squat
  • Anti-Rotation

The Essential 7 exercises can be done with your own body weight and then progressed by adding tension and load via bands and weights. Our favorite way to load an exercise is with the use of kettlebells! But, at the end of the day, the key to blending training with your dance practice is to understand form. Jumping to a squat rack at your local gym is a noble goal, but it is vital to understand where you are now.

Just as you would build upon your own personal style of dance, moving to the next movement once you understand the fundamentals of the basics, is how you should also approach strength training. At Urban Wellness Clinic we will help you understand where you are now, teach you the key components to own certain exercises, and then provide you with the tools to progress and strengthen!

How can UWC Help you Strength Train?

Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS)

This is a treatment method used at Urban Wellness Clinic every single day. The idea behind this form of rehab is to help retrain our bodies to breathe and function as it did when we were in early development. By building strength and stability at our deep core (diaphragm, transverse abdominus muscle, pelvic floor, and spinal erectors) we are able to kick off a positive cascade of events that will eventually lead to our muscles functioning the way they were intended to.

Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA)

The Selective Functional Movement Assessment method allows us to see how your body has compensated overtime to avoid pain. At your initial visit, you will be put through a series of movement patterns that will help us better understand the root cause of your pain and provide us with the details needed to curate an exercise plan just for you.

Chiropractic Adjustments

When we put our bodies in certain positions, holding them there for extended periods of time, we allow the joints in our body to get comfortable in that new position. The surrounding muscles follow lead and suddenly we are in a compromised position. At your appointment, along with other assessment tools and rehab, your joints will also be assessed. These adjustments, where applicable, will provide relief to the joints, surrounding muscles and ligaments as well as enhance the supplementary rehab and training provided at your appointment.

Personal Training

Essentially, this is what it all comes down to for anyone in the Dance Sport world. At Urban Wellness Clinic we work closely with personal trainers to provide you with a training session that is catered to your individual health goals. Familiarizing yourself with the Essential 7 moves and working on proper form is a great way to begin the strength training journey.

Dance is a beautiful way to express your personal journey. But, if you find yourself moving around pain patterns rather than flowing into the movements your style of dance requires, it may be time to make a change. Come on in for an assessment and let us help you reach your dance and health goals!

Yours in Health,

Dr. Monisha Mallik, D.C.