Why Should Ballroom & Latin Dancers Lift Weights?
Elena Anashina Photography
Dancing is not just about learning new choreographies. Many dancers are afraid of lifting weights in case they get to muscly or stiff. However, to dance all the steps with precision and artistry, dancers must be pretty strong and lean.
So how should dancers train at gym so they increase the strength without getting bulky?
First of all dancing uses all muscles in the body, from holding a frame in your Ballroom & Latin, through using of a standing leg to being expressive in your gestures. These are just some examples. That's why it's so important to invest time in finding out how to train at a gym so it benefits your dancing, and not just makes you look great...
There are two main subjects when it comes to gym training for dancers:
a. isometric exercises
b. weight training
In a nutshell, these exercises strengthen your body without moving very much. One of the famous isometrics is plank. The principle is to contract the muscles as hard as you can and hold it. Try incorporating variations of plank to your dance training (Check out 20 Ways To Do A Plank post to spice it up a bit).
Do it with your dance partner after each practice- Plank challenge? :-)
This involves lifting weights. Low resistance-high repetitions exercises help to build strength without making you bulky. The benefit of that is the power and endurance that a dancer develops which in turn also decreases risk of injury.
Many people ask the question how should I train?
Well, there is no universal training regimen that will fit all. Some of the things to remember is the specific dance style whether Ballroom or Latin, as well as proficiency level of a dancer, dance objectives and current fitness level. Booking a session with a personal trainer to create your individualized programme may be a good idea.
However, as a general rule of thumb, you should be aiming for 12-15 repetitions of each low-resistance exercise (i.e. with dumbbells).
Some myths about weight training for dancers:
1. Getting bulky.
Like I said before, dancers don't need to increase muscle mass for their performance unless that is their objective.
Dancers primary focus should be on rehearsals so weight training is only a supplement (max 1-2 per week). This in itself will not be sufficient for muscle growth but it will nicely give you strength.
2. Weight training makes you stiff.
This is not true. In fact, lifting weights can make your muscles more flexible. However, the important thing to remember is to do the exercises with the correct technique using the whole body when necessary.
I personally prefer free weights than machines. Dumbbells target different muscles at the same time engaging your core for stability as opposed to machines which make you isolate specific parts.
3. Movements in weight training don't support movements in dancing.
When you do bicep curls or squats it's probably difficult to imagine dance steps that may resemble these movements. You can then think that Yoga or Pilates would be better as they stretch the muscles and support growth in a similar way as dancing itself. But the problem here is, that constant targeting of the same muscles may cause imbalance. Lifting weights will stimulate your muscles in a way that dancing or isometric exercises won't which will make you develop in the most efficient and effective way.
I hope you can see why all dancers should add a "clever" gym training to their regular practice sessions. Remember, variety is a spice of life so keep challenging yourself as it's the only way to become a better Ballroom and Latin dancer.
Do you have a regular weight training during a week? If so, what do you do?
Photo Credits: Elena Anashina Photography