• Steve

5 Big Benefits of Cross Training

Updated: Aug 3, 2021


Cross training run, iron cove bay, Sydney by Artisan Athletes.

All dancers know that their body is their instrument, they use it to tell a story, to paint a picture and express the emotions that words can’t quite do justice to. It’s the key to their performance and their career. It’s little wonder that outside of the studio, dancers usually take no chances with it. Many dancers grow up thinking that doing any other sport could lead to injury or make them bulkier. A career in dance is short, why risk it?


Well despite the common misconception, cross training may actually be the key to helping improve a dancer’s performance and lengthen their careers. Cross training is the practice of any sport or discipline outside of the usual method of training. Here are 5 of the biggest benefits of cross training.


1. Cross Training Increases Fitness

Curve Treadmill run, Sydney by Artisan Athletes.

You might be thinking to yourself, “I’ll skip this one, I’m fit.” Well don’t be so sure, you might be one of the fittest in the studio but that may not count for much. Dance classes have been shown to inadequately stress the body’s energy systems. More often than not, classes are focused on either learning technique or learning choreography. This can create a gap when it comes to your level of fitness.


Cross training has the potential to make up the difference. If you supplement your dance training with cross training, such a running, cycling or circuits, you can ensure your fitness levels are high enough to give your best performance.


Improved cardiovascular fitness will help you last longer throughout your training & performances, as well as recover faster between workouts. The greater your level of fitness, the less lactic acid will be produced through a workout, meaning you’ll feel less sore after a hard session. Studies have also found links between dancers level of fitness and how often they suffer an injury.


2. Cross Training Develops Strength


Body composition is such an important aspect of the dance industry that the fear of getting too “bulky” has made many people shy away from any form of strength training. This can cause a whole catalogue of issues. Studies have found a correlation between thigh strength and severity of injuries; the weaker the dancers’ legs were, the more severe the injury they suffered.


Strength training won’t make you bulky, it takes a serious amount of effort & time to build muscle mass. That involves a huge number of calories and extensive time in the gym. You can incorporate strength training for dance specifically, without getting bulky.


Strong legs are very important in a dance, as they are the foundation for your movement. Cross training strengthens key muscle groups, and protects the joints. There are countless body weighted exercises you can use to increase your strength. Squats, lunges and push-ups lead the way.


3. Cross Training Increases Power

Gym Workout, Sydney by Artisan Athletes.

Dance has a very explosive quality, even though the top artists make it look easy, they are packing some serious power in those legs. Cross training can help give you power like the pros. Dancers who learn acrobatics or gymnastics often have the ability to land harder tricks thanks to the power they developed early on. Sprints, plyometrics and other forms of jump training can increase the amount of power in your legs and increase the amount of force you generate through your movement.


4. Cross Training Improves Core Strength


Core strength goes far beyond a 6 pack. Your core is made up of several layers of muscle that support your spine and pelvis, and by extension, everything you do. A weak core can lead to more injuries, including back issues, as well as a loss of power through your movement. Cross training, by its nature, utilizes different muscles and movement patterns than you’re used to. This causes your core to fire in a new way. Utilizing a med ball, bands or weights can take your core strength to a new level.


5. Cross Training Reduces Chance of Injury


This one point alone is reason enough to start cross training.

Muscle fatigue is a very common cause of injury. When fatigue sets in, your alignment and technique become compromised and it's only so long until an injury ensues. Muscles fatigue faster due to a lack of fitness and strength. By utilizing cross training, you can significantly reduce your chance of fatigue related injuries.


Increasing your fitness level results in your muscles fatiguing more slowly. Improving your strength will result in less chance of injury & less severe injuries if any occur. More power increases the explosive nature of your movement, and a strong core stabilizes every movement you make.


Interested in cross training? Check out our workout programs designed specifically for dancers here.


 

References:


Koutedakis Y, Hukam H, Metsios G, et al. The effects of three months of aerobic and strength training on selected performance- and fitness- related parameters in modern dance students. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Aug;21(3):808-12.


Hamilton LH, Hamilton WG, Melt- zer JD, et al. Personality, stress, and injuries in professional ballet dancers. Am J Sport Med. 1989;17(2):263-7.


Koutedakis Y, Khaloula M, Pacy P, et al. Thigh peak torques and lower- body injuries in dancers. J Dance Med Sci. 1997;1(1):12-5.


Wyon, M., 2005. Cardiorespiratory training for dancers. Journal of dance medicine & science, 9(1), pp.7-12.


Bronner, S., Codman, E., Hash-Campbell, D. and Ojofeitimi, S., 2016. Differences in preseason aerobic fitness screening in professional and pre-professional modern dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 20(1), pp.11-22.


Hardaker WT Jr. Foot and ankle injuries in classical ballet dancers. Orthop Clin North Am. 1989;20(4):621-7.


Greg J. Wilson, Aron J. Murphy, and Anthony Giorgi. Weight and Plyometric Training: Effects on Eccentric and Concentric Force Production. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology. 21(4): 301-315.


Faulkner, E., 2020. Choreography-Specific Cross-Training and Conditioning Programs. Dance Medicine, an Issue of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, EBook, 32, pp.103-115.


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