Previously, I've written about how becoming a personal trainer and strength training regularly has improved my dancing and made me less prone to injury. I also wrote about strength training myths for Dance Magazine, and the process made me realize that I really want to share the benefits of strength training and corrective exercise with more dancers.
Pretty much anyone who has danced or played a sport is familiar with the concept of overuse injuries: over time, repetitive movements lead to imbalances in our bodies that cause inflammation and pain. Well, dancers, we are the QUEENS of repetitive movement. How many pliés have you done in your life? How many jumps, turns, relevés? All that practice puts us at lower risk of some traumatic injuries, but at higher risk for overuse injuries, which can be tricky to treat. Once you are feeling pain, of course, it's important to see a doctor and/or a great physical therapist. But the vast majority of these injuries can be prevented through corrective exercise training that addresses the movement dysfunctions we develop in dance.
When I was in middle and high school, I dealt with injury after injury. Some of these were beyond my control (like the time I got dropped out of a lift and broke my tailbone! Fun! Ask my high school friends about my donut pillow) but many of them could have been prevented if I had been stronger in some key areas. I try not to let myself think this way, but sometimes I get angry when I think of how easily all that pain — and time off from dance in recovery — could have been prevented.
I have mixed feelings about the "dancers are athletes" argument, because it's important to me that we treat dance first and foremost as an art form. We have to fight hard as it is to be taken seriously as artists. But it would be foolish to deny that dance requires a great degree of athletic ability. And we need to treat our bodies accordingly. I'll use the example of a basketball player here, but this goes for any type of athlete: a basketball player doesn't just play basketball. Sure, they have practices where they hone their basketball-specific skills, just as we have class and rehearsal. But they also have training days where they lift weights, do cardio, work on balance and core strength, and improve their stability, endurance, and power. This is because targeted training improves performance and decreases the risk of injury. Dancers need that, too.
No, lifting weights will not make you bulky, and a training session with me doesn't just involve strength training. It also involves detailed movement assessments, corrective exercise techniques tailored to your body, killer core work, lots of balance training, and cardio as needed.
Come see for yourselves: for student and professional dancers I offer rates on a sliding scale for training sessions at Studio 26. Email me at garnet[dot]henderson[at]gmail[dot]com for more information. You can read more about my training philosophy here.