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Developing Leg Strength and How to Progress.

The myth of Strength training developing unwanted muscle mass for Dancers is becoming a somewhat historical phenomenon.

So how does strength training work within the world of Dance. Dance More and You will be better and Dancing right? Well not necessarily, and I can understand that the last thing you might feel like doing, after removing your toe pads from the things your call feet, is lifting a weight or two.

Generally speaking, a bigger barrier to initially starting strength training, particularly of the lower limbs, is the short term or acute responses to performing exercise. If we perform an introductory strength session on a Monday, you can bet your bottom dollar that muscular performance wont be perfect and normal the next day. It is important to gain the understanding that careful and strategic training wont lead to performance detriments that last for any period of time or negatively impact performing Dance practise.

The art of getting stronger is in a person's recovery. Train to deplete the system and recover back to higher point where you started. In order to do this we do have to work hard in the Strength Sessions. Taking an Dancer or Athlete from Weak to Strong or "At Risk" to Robust takes a period of time and period of sessions that is carefully planned and presumes that the buy in to those "workouts'' is close to 90% commitment.

It is the role of a Strength coach to maximise performance and minimise injury risk. Put more simply it is the role of a strength coach to improve the structural capacity and integrity of the body.

If we take this simple description, it quickly becomes clear that the work performed in the Strength Room doesn't have to look anything like Dance in order to be specific.

Therefore... Loaded Jumps, Barbell Movements, Turned in Movements, Big compound lifts, plyometrics, weighted complexes are all part of the strategy to see improvements in a Dancer's Athleticism. Simply put, if it is not a desire to create muscle growth, then we just do not programme it and most Dancers that work with me will never step into the realm of pure hypertrophy.

So here are the typical ways that we improve leg strength and what we focus on throughout the Year. This is not the be all and end all. It is simply a template which does not include all the factors we consider. It would be recommended that phases are completed in sequence based upon the needs of the individual. This is a very rough template I have followed in recent years. *Videos are examples.

Phase 1 (3-4 weeks): Muscular Endurance, Basic Isometrics, Landing Protocols, Fine Control, Single Leg, Mobility

A) Posterior Chain Loading: Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves, Back

B) High Rep/Low Intensity (<60% 1RM) Sets, Complexes, Stability Training (ON FLAT!!)

C) Drop Landings, Hop Progressions, Single Leg Training

D) External Rotation of the Hip, Intrinsic Footwork, Mobility, Hip Flexion/Extension/Abduction/Adduction

Phase 2 (2-3 weeks): Eccentric Capacity in Low Volumes, Strength, Jump Progression, Stability feat fine control

A) Eccentric Hamstrings, Ecc Quads, Ecc Calves --> Single Leg Work Capacity

B) Heavy Squat, Deadlift, Overhead Press, Pull Up, Lunge for Strength

C) Plyometric intro, Ballistic Jumps, Single Leg Hopping

D) Single Leg Stability incl. fine control, Anti Rotation and rotational stability.

Phase 3 (2-3 weeks): Specific Strength, Isometric Strength, Power Movements, Ongoing Muscular Endurance

A) Resisted Hip Hip Flexion/Extension/Abduction/Adduction/Rotation

B) Isometric Training for Posterior Chain Movements

C) Weighted Jumps, Drop Jumps, Depth Jumps, Plyometric progressions

D) Basic Muscular Endurance for Calves, Core, Glutes in all directions.

Phase 4 (1 week +): Strength/Power/Endurance Maintenance, Emphasis on Movement Quality, Flexibility, Mobility

A) Maintenance Lifts: Squat, Deadlift, Hip Thrust

B) Single Leg Strength Progressions

C) Dance Specific Resisted Movements, Overspeed Jumps

D) Mobility and Flexibility Training if necessary...

Progressing through these phases can be simple, with most Dancers completing two sessions of Strength Training Per Week. Ongoing practise of certain principles is often necessary such as working on intrinsic foot strength. One Key element to progressing through and gaining strength is ensuring that sessions are completed and Dancers work through the trials and tribulations of training. It is then up to the coach to make adjustments based upon ongoing performance considerations and structuring sessions to minimise interference with Dance Practise and Training. From experience, at first Dancers can be unfamiliar with the feelings of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and the occurrence of this should be minimised by the Coach, however, some residual fatigue will be induced by performing supplemental training. This can be overcome by following the programme and adjustments being made. If strength training is avoided due to one experience with a dose of training that caused DOMS then the overall long term benefits of supplemental training may be relinquished.

I would encourage any Dancer to seek guidance from a Coach who can progress your strength whilst allowing you to maintain your output and effort in Dance Training.

Here is a question? should we give up one Dance class to do some strength training?

Comment with your thoughts, Happy Dancing!

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