You are a dancer. You live and breathe dance. One of the things that you should care is improving your dance techniques.
How are you planning to achieve that? Will it be endless hours of drills?
As a belly dancer, I use to spend 2 hours each day on dancing, hoping that I will be a better dancer. My techniques did improve a bit but it is agony. Looking back, it is ineffective and slow. If I can turn back the clock, I will tell my 24-year-old self that I will need to go to the gym and lift heavy.
Lift heavy? Isn’t that going to make a dancer looks bulky? When we talk about adding muscle mass, hypertrophy, it takes a very specific program to achieve that. Besides training, you need to be eating a lot of food to be gaining mass. And it also depends a lot on your genetic potential to grow.
Yes, you might grow some muscles but rest assured you will not turn into a she-hulk overnight. Having said that, here are 6 ways weight training can make you a better dancer. You can decide for yourself if it will be worth it to hit the gym for your dance form.
6. Better body coordination
Lifting weight helps you to have better neural adaptation. A neural adaptation is the improvement of the ability of the nervous system to activate the muscles. To put it simply, dance is all about contraction of muscles. And so is weight training.
For example, in belly dance, when you are doing a hips lift, you are contracting your oblique and glutes muscles. A chest lift requires contraction of the trapezius and rhomboids muscles.
In weight training, you have to focus on contracting various muscles. Over time, this will improve your neural adaptation. Better ability of contraction of muscles mean better execution of techniques.
5. More strength in limbs
Have you seen dancers who just can’t seem to control their arms and legs? It looks like they are indecisive and imprecise. The notion of any dancers without strength is an illusion. Grace comes with strength. When a dancer needs to execute slow movements, they have to be precise. And to do that, they will have to have strength. Even for a dance as graceful as ballet, the dancers require a lot of lower body strength and explosive power to execute movements like arabesque and ballet leaps.
Notice how tone the dancers are.
4. More core stability
When we talk about core, we are referring to your torso, not just your abs. Your core is where all the power is generated.
Have you seen dancers who hunch unconsciously? They look like they are afraid to be on the stage and can’t wait to get off the stage. You need core stability to stand upright.
You also need core stability to do isolation movement. Dances like popping and belly dance involves a lot of body isolation. This isolation effect comes from your ability to hold your core still.
3. Better body outline
Rather than becoming bulky, if you train specifically for strength and dance form, you will achieve a more muscular body. If you look at gymnasts, they are strong, flexible yet light. Not everyone who trains will become the next body builder. Remember how we mention at the start that it takes a lot of effort to actually bulk up?
This might be a personal preference but I think looking at dancers with toned body looks way better and healthier than stick thin dancers. Once again, you can refer to the video above if you have not watched it.
2. Reduce injuries
You will most probably think that going to the gym will cause more injuries. We all hear stories about guys who tear a muscle or worse, get crushed under the barbell. I injure my left shoulder once.
Weight lifting is a sport after all. And all sport comes with a certain amount of risk. However, most injuries from weight lifting can be summed down to poor form, lifting weights that are too heavy and unbalance training methods.
Flexibility does prevent injury but only up to a certain point. Being too flexible on the under hand will cause injuries. And most dancers have too much flexibility to start with. The strength of the muscles, ligaments and tendons will hold your joints in place, provide more support and protect your joints from impact.
1. Increase muscular endurance
The last thing you want is to look tired in the midst of your performance. If your dance form requires you to perform many sets or for an extended period, you definitely need to train for your cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
Upper body muscular endurance is something that most aerobics and cardio exercise don’t improve. However if you train with weights, you can tweak your training to suit the kind of muscular endurance required by your dance form.
21 August 2007. Koutedakis Y. The effects of three months of aerobic and strength training on selected performance- and fitness-related parameters in modern dance students. PubMed.
August 1990. Magaret A. Standler. The Effects of Supplemental Weight Training for Ballet Dancers. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
20 October 1988. Sale DG. Neural adaptation to resistance training. PubMed.