By Dr. Joel Minden All Photos By Nataliya Tarbeeva
THE COMPETITIVE EDGE:
RESISTANCE TRAINING FOR BALLROOM DANCERS
here was a time when resistance training and dancing were mutually exclusive. Thankfully, we’ve evolved beyond that. Today’s dancers know that lifting weights builds better athletes, and dancers are no exception. Sure, the technique for Open Impetus or Toe Heel Swivels is developed primarily on the dance floor. But what about back strength, leg power and speed? Years of dancing can get you there, but a focused fitness program can help you speed up the process.
upper back. Examples include the pull-up, pull-down, or chin-up. Use a close grip to target the muscles in the middle of the back.
Historically, dancers have shied away from resistance training to protect flexibility and to avoid developing too much muscle mass. As it turns out, these concerns are not supported by research. When dancers from university and professional modern dance companies participate in strength and conditioning programs, not only do they outperform their peers on various measures of fitness, they also get higher ratings of dance quality from judges and directors of dance companies. The evidence is clear: Whether you’re a social or competitive dancer, resistance training can help you build a fitness foundation for higher quality dancing.
DEMO A. Starting/Finishing Positions of Machine Pull-Downs
BENEFITS OF RESISTANCE TRAINING
For dancers, resistance training is the fast track to improvements in power and body composition. Power is a combination of strength and speed. Dances like Jive or Quickstep clearly require power, but dynamic action always matters, even in slower dances like Waltz or Rumba. Body composition refers to proportions of muscle and fat in the body. In addition to diet, resistance training is the most efficient way to build a muscular but compact dancer’s physique with minimal body fat. If you’re new to resistance training, you may want to find a qualified trainer to help you learn exercises that will help you meet your goals. In this article, I’ll give you some ideas for exercises and programming to get you started. As with any fitness program, check with your doctor first to be sure your health permits intense workouts.
EXERCISE EXAMPLES FOR DANCERS
The upper back is an important target area for ballroom dancers who struggle with lengthening the spine or creating powerful rotations. Exercises that involve pulling the arms toward the body will train the 26
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DEMO B. Starting/Finishing Positions of Chin-Ups Machine pull-downs, pull-ups (overhand grip) and chin-ups (underhand grip) target upper back muscles. Beginners may wish to start with pull-downs. The underhand grip used for chin-ups also emphasizes biceps and is easier to perform than pull-ups. For dancers, back training can be used to improve posture and stability during rotational figures.