Dancers should cross train!

Outside of dance classes, what other types of exercise should a dancer try to keep in shape?

This is a great question.  A common misconception is that, in order to be a strong dancer, you just have to dance more.  To that I say - try my suggestions and see how much your dancing improves. I understand that a dancer’s life is busy, especially a young pre-professional dancer who is still busy with school, social life, and all the other pressures of growing up.  The last thing I would want to do is advise a dancer to add 20 more hours of exercise training outside of their dance classes. So, here’s the bare minimum checklist:

  1. Cardiovascular training.  We all know that dance class can be full of short bursts of energy followed by a break while you wait for your next turn.  But when it comes to show time, it’s run, run, run - from one piece to the next, with quick costume changes in between. I suggest 2-3 sessions of cardio (30-60 minutes total) per week.  This can be an uphill walk, swimming, biking, or running - whatever you find the most enjoyable and doesn’t result in pain.

  2. Core strengthening.  My favorite option is pilates with a trained pilates teacher.   Since dance essentially requires constantly engaging the core, one might think that there’s no need to do additional core strengthening outside of class.  However, dancers sometimes use global (big) muscles to stabilize instead of the smaller deep core muscles. A good pilates teacher will help you find the deeper core muscles and train you to move with better alignment.   I suggest starting with a few private pilates lessons and then, once you are confident you have the fundamentals, taking 1-2 classes per week.  

  3. Resistance strengthening.  With weights (yes, weights).  Resistance training can help you increase leg strength so that you can jump higher, increase arm strength so that you can perform lifts and do floor work with more ease, and overall make dancing with just your body weight  much more effortless. I recommend 2-3 sessions of resistance training per week.  

Here’s a suggested schedule:

Cardio: Monday, Thursday, Saturday (about 1 hour total)

Core strengthening: Monday, Thursday (about 1.5 hours total)

Resistance training: Tuesday, Friday, Sunday (about 1.5 hours total)

4 additional hours.  That sounds like a lot.  But, try starting with half of the suggested amount and then build up when you’re ready.   And remember, your body does need time for recovery. So, don’t force it. If you need a day off from strengthening or dance class, take it!  Take my word for it, recovery is just as important as training. If you don’t recover, your body gets more fragile instead of more strong!