When I was dancing in high school, things were different. No social media, no contouring, no Cardi B. We also didn’t have any off season training. Our off season consisted of a few captain’s practices watching kick boxing DVD’s and running on the track.
Come audition time and no one was stronger or more fit and you knew it was audition week because we waddled and limped throughout the school. Too sore to even sit.
Strength training, yoga, swimming, Pilates are all types of exercises dancers can be doing in their off season. These give the same muscles they’ve been using all season a break while also benefiting them in 5 ways I’ve outlined below.
1. Continue to Increase Strength
- Cross training like strength training = more muscles.
- More muscles = more body control.
- More body control = cleaner routines and increased difficulty.
- You know those judges love a clean routine. ?
During the season, cross training is squeezed between rehearsals, practices and performances. Your dancer’s bodies are trying to get stronger while also being torn down and exhausted from the strain of the season. Dancers are working the same muscles over and over again without being able to devote the time or energy into building up their weaknesses.
Think of the possibilities and increased strength with just 3 days a week of devoted training. Being able to focus on and connect with specific muscles in the body will have your dancers coming back to their season with more control and more power in their skills. There are many options that would work well for your dancer’s off season cross training but I highly recommend weight lifting and strength training. It gives you the option to train your body in sections, focus on weak spots and leaving lots of time for rest and recovery.
Performing a routine is anything but consistent for your lungs. There are periods of “rest” where you can fill your lungs and there are huge bursts of energy when performing skills, transitions or moving from standing to elaborate floor work.
That’s why circuit training is a great addition to your dancer’s off season cross training schedule. Circuit training mimics a dance routine because it uses the whole body, they’re moving quickly between exercises and there’s very little rest. I truly believe that endurance is one of those “use it or lose it” type of things so training in the off season to increase endurance is only going to make getting through difficult routines so much easier.
All season long, your dancers are turning and leaping on their “good side” or the side that’s been choreographed into the routine. The other side which may be weaker, never gets its chance to shine. The other issue with this, is that one side gets used more than the other and that can leads to overuse injuries. Dancers who cross train in their off season can do unilateral exercises like lunges. These work one side at a time so you can see where the weaknesses are and improve from there. Giving both sides an equal amount of work will help your dancers strengthen their body proportionately and have more consistency with more skills.
2018 was the year of overuse and ankle injuries.
Let me start with ankles.
These are often forgotten as we focus on pointed toes and lifted knees. They don’t get the attention they deserve for how much support they can offer. Much like a game of Jenga, keeping the bottom stacked and secure is the best way to keep the tower from crumbling. This applies to your dancers. Taking the time to work on ankle strength is going to give them more consistency in their turns and skills, and keep their ankles safe from the impact of their dancing.
Ankle exercises are easy to incorporate, even when brushing your teeth.
Let me talk about over use.
So many dancers and teachers aren’t educated about the way a body is built and how all of our muscles, tendons and joints work together. Dancers throw their legs in the air without engaging the correct muscles in the correct order. They complain about lacking flexibility, back pain and hip pain but continue to use the same muscles over and over again.
Hamstring injuries and pain seem to be a reoccurring theme this year and my guess is no one knows how to activate their glutes (butt muscles) or train their core (which includes your low back) and so, those poor hamstrings are being over worked while your dancer’s butts and backs are on vacay.
Cross training in the off season with the correct guidance and exercise can help your dancers learn how to activate the muscles they’ve never worked before and help those muscles work as a team for jumps, leaps and turns.
You’ll feel your booty after performing this exercise 20 times, three times through
My job is to work out. I’m a personal training for goodness sakes! Between being a mommy, a wife and business owner I find it REALLY HARD to focus on my own health. Having your dancers start cross training in their off season is going to teach them how to fit healthy habits into their life NOW, so when things get busier and things get harder, they’ll have these habits they can rely on.
Strength training and endurance training is good for the heart, the brain and mood. Having a strong body makes it easier to recover from falling on ice, easier to get off the floor when you’re older and other things we take for granted when we’re young like doing the stairs or running inside from the rain.
Dancer’s have to remember that what they’re doing now, is going to effect them much later in life. Dance is HARD work for the body so we need to support it with good nutrition and exercise.
I recommend body weight exercises for dancer cross training to reduce the chance of injury and the convenience of working out anywhere.
Cross training for dancers is so important both in and out of season but without scheduled classes it can be hard to follow through.
For inspiration and ideas, log onto dancer-fitness.com to view our new collection of Off Season Training Plans. Easy to incorporate into any captains practice or at home workout.