A famous dance proverb states: “good dancers are made, not born”. Yet the ‘making’ of a dancer involves a combination of many different elements, such as practice, technique, nutrition, and exercise.
In our last exercise blog, we discussed how swimming is excellent for both cardiovascular health and a low-strain full-body workout.
Today, we look at a particularly pertinent topic: strength.
Why Strength Matters
Strength is vital for posture. Ballroom and Latin dancers are praised for their superior core strength, which means that the muscles that support the trunk and pelvis are toned and harmonious. For dancers, this synergy means enhanced balance and stability.
Strong muscles also have a powerful biochemical impact upon the body. Muscles influence the way that the body processes proteins, with toned muscles transforming proteins into vital enzymes and hormones much more efficiently than weak muscles. This boosts mood, improves metabolism, and keeps vital organs such as the heart healthy.
1) Resistance Workouts
Resistance workouts can be done with rubber resistance bands and resistance tubing. Resistance bands are ideal for building strength in the legs and glutes, whilst tubing is ideal for focusing upon the core.
These workouts can easily be done at home, and should take between 20 and 30 minutes three or four times a week. For a guided resistance session, look no further than popular video sharing sites such as Youtube, which has many great examples.
Yoga and dance are intimate partners. There are distinct psychological crossovers between the two, with both dance and yoga being a form of focused meditation. However, there is much more to yoga than inducing a sense of calm. It is also excellent for developing hip flexibility and core strength. These are important for mastering the figures, and also for ensuring that long practice sessions do not result in aches and pains.
Yoga stretches also improve overall health. Stretching alters the water ratio inside the joints, leading to additional protection from the types of shock that dancing causes. It also stimulates dormant stem cells inside collagen – the connective tissue within joints – to kick into repair mode.
Frequency is the key. Studies have shown that we only need to stretch for five minutes per week to achieve powerful biomechanical benefits. However, these five minutes should be spread over six days. In other words, stretch little and often to achieve the best results. Dancers should firstly focus on gaining a backbend repertoire. This introduction is an ideal place to start, although most community leisure centres will run classes that you can join.
If you are looking at your schedule and wondering how on earth to fit in even more time for exercise, don’t panic. Simply sitting or kneeling can be a highly effective strength exercise. Japanese sitting exercises are an ideal way to combine strength training with everyday activities.
Similar to yoga, these methods work by stimulating muscles and joints to repair, build, and strengthen themselves. Experts also claim that this type of focused exercise is an ideal way to build the all-important self-discipline that underpins so many sports.
For dancers, strength has a wide range of benefits. Some of these are easy to feel, such as having more energy during a rehearsal. Some benefits – such as faster healing time – are more subtle, but are arguably even more important.
Making strength training part of your athletic regime doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it can be as easy as sitting down! Give it a try, and let us know what you think. At Ray Rose, we’re dedicated to supporting a strong, healthy dance community, and we’d love to hear your own advice, tips, and ideas on how to improve physical strength.