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Dancers, It’s time to crosstrain!

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.


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


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.


 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.


  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     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.

Abby Halpin DPT, ACSM


Concussions – Enhance your awareness and take appropriate action

By Erica Clark, PT, DPT

Concussions are a hot topic. Professional sports organizations are adopting new concussion guidelines. For example, NFL players do not return to a game if a concussion is suspected. Improper fouls are met with stricter penalties. Scientists have begun to link degenerative brain disease with repeated head injuries. So it is certainly understandable to be concerned, even frightened, if you or a loved one sustains a head injury. The goal of this post is to help you, the reader, understand how the brain is affected after a concussion and learn what steps to take if a concussion is suspected.

First, understand that there are activities that increase the chance of someone sustaining a concussion. Contact sports such as football are clearly high risk. However, athletes in other sports like soccer and lacrosse are reporting more concussions. In my PT career I have treated patients with concussions due to falls, biking accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and construction/handyman activities. It is true that some activities bear greater risks than others, and while we tend to focus on sports, all of us are vulnerable to concussions.

Let us start by defining concussion. According to the CDC, “A concussion is a type of brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the brain and head to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometime stretching and damaging brain cells“. I will add that a concussion can happen with or without loss of consciousness. Only in a small amount of concussion injuries (about 10%) is there a loss of consciousness. There are more than 3.8 million concussions a year in the USA.

The chemical change experienced in the brain affects each person slightly differently, but there are some common symptoms. The brain processes information more slowly than before the injury and requires a decrease in stimulation to allow it to heal. While the average recovery time for a concussion is 14 days, some people have symptoms for months. In some extreme cases symptoms can last for years.

Concussion symptoms can be broken down into four clusters:

  1. Cognitive: Fogginess, memory fatigue, cognitive fatigue
  2. Sleep alterations: Difficulty falling asleep, fragmented sleep, too much or too little sleep
  3. Somatic symptoms: Headaches, dizziness, nausea, light sound sensitivity
  4. Mood disruption: Irritability, feeling sad, anxiety

The symptoms above can overlap or be independent of one another. The most common symptom after a concussion is a headache, which occurs over 70% of the time.


So, what should you do if you sustain a concussion? First, identify if you need to seek immediate medical attention. It is critical to seek immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms are present after your injury:

RED FLAGS: Loss of consciousness, amnesia
, dazed or confused, vomiting, seizure
, asymmetrical pupil size 

If you do not have any of the above symptoms, then decide what activities increase your symptoms. These are known as triggers. Then make an effort to limit exposure to them in your everyday life. Next, get some sleep and rest your body. According to the CDC, “Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal. Ignoring your symptoms and trying to ‘tough it out’ often makes symptoms worse.” Rest means both physical and cognitive rest. Hopefully, by slowly increasing exposure to your triggers, you will help the brain heal and decrease your recovery time. If your symptoms persist and do not steadily decrease with rest, be sure to seek medical attention.

Your risk of a prolonged recovery increases if you have certain specific signs and symptoms. These include: loss of consciousness, post-traumatic amnesia, history of a prior concussion, ADHD, migraines, mood disorders, and being female. As stated above, if your symptoms are not resolving and decreasing with rest, finding a healthcare provider that understands and has a history of treating concussion patients is critical. Treating the post-concussive patient requires a multidisciplinary approach with a variety of providers. Depending upon your symptoms and severity you may be referred to one or more of the following specialist: neuropsychologist, physical therapist, behavior optometrist or cognitive therapist. If you are not happy with your care you can always seek out second or even third opinions. Post-concussive syndrome is the most common reason that people return to the emergency department within 72 hours. If left untreated the person with sustained concussion symptoms may have difficulty with academics, relationships, job performance, physical ability, and mental health issues.

The big take away is that we are all vulnerable to sustaining a concussion, and some of us participate in activities that increase that possibility. For most people symptoms should resolve with a few weeks with the appropriate amount of rest and graded exposure to aggravating factors. If symptoms do not resolve or your symptoms worsen, remember to seek medical professionals with experience in treating concussion.

Erica Clark PT, DPT