How Weight Lifting/Resistance Training can transform your dancing

Introduction

Bro do you even lift? No, seriously do you because there are a ton of ways this can help you as a dancer and I have really no idea where to start.  So I’m going to lay these benefits/adaptations out in the manner that the National Academy of Sports Medicine does by giving physiological benefits, Physical benefits and last but not least performance benefits. I’ll be tying each benefit back to where it falls in regards to dancing. Resistance training does more then just build big muscles. As always this is just an overview if you want specifics don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Adaptive Benefits of Resistance Training

Physiological

Resistance training helps improve cardiovascular efficiency, decreases body fat, and Increases metabolic efficiency (metabolism). So first of all resistance training can improve cardiovascular fitness/efficiency Gettman and Pollock showed in a study that 20 weeks of circuit training with weights can improve VO2 Max by 5-8%. Also, Stone, Wilson, et al  found in high volume Olympic weight lifting program can improve aerobic capacity by 8% in an 8 week program. This due to the number of large muscle group exercises like squats, cleans and high pulls with minimal rest between sets. Now a increased metabolism and decreased body fat go hand in hand. As you build up your muscle, your body will rely more on fat as an energy source not only at rest but at higher intensities of exercise. With this you spare glycogen or carbohydrates allowing you to do high intensity activity for a longer duration of time. Which means, you guessed it, you can dance more consecutive songs and effectively with an improved metabolism.

Physical 

When it comes to the physical adaptations these are all about things that help prevent injury. A good resistance training program increases bone density and tissue (muscle, tendons, ligaments) tensile strength. Increased bone density makes your bones less susceptible to fractures (and a shin splints common among dancers), gives your muscles a sturdier anchor to pull on making your movement more efficient. Improved tensile strength of the tissues makes you less likely to strain a muscle on the dance floor and to suffer from spraining a tendon or a ligament. This will also lower the severity of tendinitis as well. So your body is going to feel a lot better dancing during those long exchange weekends. Also, resistance training will increase cross-sectional area of muscle fibers. In non science speak your muscles get bigger fellas, not only does this mean your arms look WAY better when you roll up your sleeves of those dress shirts at dances and ladies you get some pretty awesome toned legs to show off with your flowy skirts. You’re able to move with less effort as now you have a bigger motor unit  contracting to produce that move and more motor units recruited. This benefit will be covered in more detail in the performance section.

Performance

Now for the performance part of it. If you’re to take part in a well organized program, you’d not only be able to improve your strength but you’d be able to improve power as well. Power is strength with a high rate of speed which is vital in dancing Fast Lindy when you have to perform directional changes quickly. Power is also important when performing aerials as you need to be able to get your follow off the ground efficiently as a lead and the follow can help out by jumping quickly. You can improve muscular and cardiovascular endurance through a number of different systems of  resistance training. The more endurance your muscles have the longer you can maintain good technique with your footwork, while dancing and maintaining a responsive connection. My favorite benefit is resistance training increases neuromuscular control (coordination). For those of you who want better balance weight lifting gets the body to recruit more motor units (muscle fibers and motor neurons) and become more coordinated in firing. This improves how well you move and are able to learn a particular movement along with improving balance.

Tips for Starting/Designing a Resistance Training Program

1. Focus on Core aka Multi Joint Exercises

When you start a resistance training program, whether that involves weights or just using your own body weight, focus on Core exercises, as they recruit one to two large muscle groups and involve 2 or more primary joints. This is going to give you the above adaptations in the shortest amount of time. Also, core exercises will have a bigger cross over to dancing as well as a lot of other sports movements. Assistance exercises or single joint exercises are good for working areas that are commonly injured. Here’s an article from Lifetime Fitness (my employer ya’ll) on the type of movements I feel should be staples in your routine and help you get results 4 Movements You should focus on.

2. Have your Exercise Order go from Big down to small

This is kind of similar to the above tip but when you train you want to work the large muscle groups first. So if you’re working out legs do squats, deadlift and lunges first. At the end you can just work the quadriceps (front of thigh), Hamstrings (back of thigh) and do calve raises. For Upper body it’d look like this do Chest press, Pull ups, Dips, Rows, shoulder press and then you would work your biceps and triceps at the end. Assistance exercises don’t need much time spent on them because those muscle are utilized during the core exercises. Fitness trainer confessional I hate seeing members go out to the workout floor and go straight to doing curls and tricep extensions when they want to lose weight and I try to give them advise to help improve their workout and they get mad…please don’t be those people.

3. Start with basic movements and then go up from there

If you don’t know how to squat don’t try doing single leg squats and if you have to do a push up with your knees on the ground that’s perfectly fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we all have to learn how to crawl before we can walk and even God took seven days to create everything. I feel one should not engage in box jumps, med ball throws or any other power or ballistic movements without going through a series of stabilization, endurance, hypertrophy and strength exercise Optimum Performance Training Models. That’s just asking for an injury and that’s honestly something I hate seeing which is why I’m writing so if you want guidance feel free to ask me because I’d love to help.

4. Less can be more

The most important aspect of any training program is rest and recovery. It took me 10 years of running track for me to learn this when it came to my off season training. I trained  4 days a week in the summer 2 of those in the weight room, one on the track and I utilized Ultimate Frisbee after campus ministry as another conditioning day and which didn’t seem like conditioning because I was having a blasts. I came into the season fresher and in better shape then the seasons I trained 6 days a week over the summer. We tend to fall into the myth the more the better. The most important thing for your body is to recover the only way for these adaptations to happen is the body needs to rest and regenerate to a higher level of performance known as super compensation, Here’s the visual aid I always use to explain this point to people.

Conclusion

That’s all I have for now FEEL FREE TO ASK ME QUESTIONS. I’d love to help and totally plan on going in depth with this subject on a later post love ya’ll and God Bless 🙂

P.S.

I’m being very forward about ya’ll asking questions because I want you dancers from all around to drive the material. This is how i work with my clients at times and we’ve been pretty successful doing this. Also, Photo credit to Jamie Lynn Photography in Orlando, Florida LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU JAMIE 😀

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