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Get an edge and reduce injury risk.

What were you before you were a Dancer...? A Gymnast, A Runner? or have you Danced all your life and been through every colour of leotard?

You were a human long before you became a Dancer. However, sometimes there is a trick missed in Sport and Dance. We develop the athlete in their discipline, but of course, yet sometimes we skip the bit where develop basic human strength. Make the Human Strong and the Dancer will be strong... seems simple enough... yet most of the time we crave higher extensions and larger ranges of motion in the working leg and forget that all of these amazing, eye catching movements require very solid foundations.

If a Dancer has a strong base and good stability in the lower limbs then that individual sees improvements in the ability to control the limb that is defying gravity.

In other words, basic and fundamental exercises such as a Squat, Lunge (multi-directional) and Forward Bend may be the key to unlocking ability for Adage exercises due to the increase in strength developed in the lower limb.

Theres another string to this bow... As lower limb strength improves, in particular muscular endurance we increase the ability for a Dancer to maintain higher quality Dance output for longer periods of time.

The ability of a Dancer to have high endurance does not necessarily come from where you might think.

Research suggests that Dancers have low aerobic capacities and have comparable fitness levels to that of the average individual. And there is a perfectly solid explanation for this. As Dancers are so "skilful" in their discipline, It take very little energy for them to execute the movements that they have practised. As a result, the metabolic stress of Dancing is actually rather low. So... Dancing, as trained Dancer, doesn't necessarily make you more aerobically fit.

Yet, aerobic capacity, in its true sense, is important for Dance as the ability to be fatigue resistant via an increase in oxygen being shuttled to active muscles. As we fatigue we become more prone to injury as a result in the reduced work capacity and power output of our muscles therefore optimal technique and safety can be compromised and the risk of injury will increase as a result.

So we have to angles here to allow you to practise a higher quality of Dancing for a longer period of time. Increase muscular endurance directly at the muscles in question and a more global, whole body, approach of conditioning the aerobic system to improve Dance output over a greater amount of time.

Therefore when it comes to the Rehearsal Director, Teacher or Coach asking for the same Grad Allegro for 7th time... from the left... you can do it with the same vigour and intent for until the job is done.

So what to do...

Basic Aerobic capacity can be built and maintained after a solid 8 week period of Low Intensity Steady State Exercise. This usually comprises of 40-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at 70% of your Heart Rate Max 3 times per week

Alternatively, if time isn't on your side, Interval training is just as, if not more, effective for improving efficiency and aerobic capacity.

An example of this may be 4 x 4minute intervals on a treadmill with a 5% incline at 90-95% Heart Rate Max. T

This session would look like:

4 mins Running @ 90-95% HR Max

3 mins walk

4 mins Running @ 90-95% HR Max

3 mins walk

4 mins Running @ 90-95% HR Max

3 mins walk

4 mins Running @ 90-95% HR Max

When it comes to Muscular Endurance (ME), training can be a little more complicated and in early stages should be supervised by a Strength Coach.

However, targeting the ME of specific muscle groups is easy to manipulate and improve.

In the simplest and most overall case for Dance, we are referring to Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes and Calves as the muscle groups to target in a blanket fashion for ME. Fine control exercises can also be incorporated for ME with regards to specific Dance related movements such as Grand Battement or Developé.

As a starting point for any Dancer with no experience in regimented strength training. Bodyweight exercise will be sufficient.

Performing 3-4 sets of 15-25 repetitions of: Squat, Walking Lunge, Sideways Lunge, Forward Bend, Single Leg and Double Leg Calf Raises to 3/4 Pointe and finally Hip Thrusts/Bridge/Raise.

This would create a foundation for further strength training and Endurance development in any genre.

In later posts we will touch on the details fo these exercises and how to use them effectively.

Dance Stronger, Dance Longer and be Injury Resistant.

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