Dancers, It’s time to crosstrain!

By Abby Halpin, DPT ACSM

Dancers hear that they should be ‘cross-training’ from instructors, parents, choreographers, and fellow dancers. But why is it important, and how do you do it? The goal of this post is to share the facts that should convince you to make cross-training part of your dance training.  Keep reading, and I’ll share how to do it too.

Health

It is no surprise to anyone that dancers are incredible athletes who train hard. But if dance is your primary method of exercise, it does not cover your bases for all aspects of health and wellness. Studies show that dancers get about 10 minutes per hour of dance class at a moderate to vigorous intensity, and that number gets lower as you advance into higher level classes.1 The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that adults participate in greater or equal to 150 minutes of moderate and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise training per week for cardiovascular health.2

Injury

Dancers also have frequent run-ins with injury. Dancers can experience 1-5 injuries per 1000 hours danced.3 Improving strength and motor control, with the help of a physical therapist, can help to reduce the risk of injury.

Performance

 This may be the most convincing argument to convince dancers to engage in cross-training exercise routines. IT IMPROVES PERFORMANCE. In one study, dancers who participated in a 12 week cross-training program demonstrated significant improvement in the performance of a 4 min piece compared to the control group.

Convinced yet?

Here is a list of 5 favorite cross-training exercises for dancers:

  1. Airplane balance with pelvis rotation: To improve your turnout strength by moving your pelvis on your thigh rather than the other way around. 12×3 each

Patients and clients lovingly refer to this as “Crashing Airplane”. Stand on one foot. Hinge forward so that you are a straight line from your opposite heal to your shoulder and your body is parallel to the floor. Hold that position as you rotate your pelvis open and closed. If you were wearing jeans, your zipper would point away from your standing leg, and then toward the standing leg.

  1. Push-ups: To improve upper body and core strength. 12 reps x3

Start in a plank position. Press your hands into the floor so that your shoulder blades move away from each other and your abs are engaged. Holding that position, bend your elbows and lower chest to the floor. Don’t let your trunk sag or lift your hips!

  1. Overhead Presses: To improve scapular strength in elevation and upward rotation. Reaching overhead strengthens the shoulder in a key functional movement pattern.  Insufficient serratus anterior strength and upward rotation mobility is common in neck and shoulder pain.  12 reps x3

Stand holding a moderate weight dumb bell in each hand (10 pounds).  From shoulder height, reach the weight vertically overhead.  DO NOT DEPRESS YOUR SHOULDERS!  The purpose is to reach the weight as high as possible with natural elevation and upward rotation of the shoulder blade (scapula).

4. Frog Jumps: To improve power for jumps. 12 reps x3

Stand with feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Squat down and touch the floor. From this position spring up into a jump with hands reaching toward the ceiling. Land and go right into the next one.

  1. 30 min of Cardio: Can be anything that keeps your heart rate up continuously for 30 minutes. Your choice! Some ideas include walking, running, swimming, hiking, biking, rowing, find your favorite cardio machine at the gym. Remember that 225 mins per week of moderate to intense exercise? Subtract the number of hours you danced times 10min, then do enough rounds of cardio hit the target for the week! Find a friend and have fun with it.

Resources:

  1. Grierson, M. (Presenter). (2016). Risk factors for dance related injury: A clinical application.     Speech presented at Movement Systems Physical Therapy, Seattle, Wa.
  2. Carol, G, et al. (2011). Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory,     musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: Guidance for prescribing     exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 43, 1334-1359. Retrieved from     http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/     Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx
  3. Allen, N. (2012). Ballet injuries: Injury incidence and severity over 1 year. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 42(9), 781-A1. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2012.3893

Abby Halpin DPT, ACSM

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