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Strength training for dancers
- Jyotsna John

July 30, 2016

The human body thrives on movement. Well-planned, purposeful movement is the foundation to a healthy body and restrictions in movement can hinder our ability to fully experience life.

Dance is one of the more complex forms of movement. It is performed as a sequence but consists mostly of random movement. Random, in that it does not have a well-defined scientific structure to it and any move performed gracefully and to a beat can constitute dance.

Dancers, therefore, need greater than average strength to move and move well. Strength takes on different meanings for different people. For some, it is the ability to move pain free, for others it is the ability to compete and win in their chosen sport. But strength itself, at its very foundation is simply your ability to perform a move under control. If you cannot control a move, you cannot master it and in the field of dance, the pursuit of mastery is what creates graceful movement.

So does this mean dancers need to head to the gym and start training with squats and curls everyday? Not Really.

As a dancer, your goal is to be able to move in every plane of action without pain and under control. Your training program needs to reflect that goal. It is not enough if you do only up and down/back and forward movements (squats, running, bench presses). Your program should integrate a wider variety of lateral (sideways) and rotational movement performed with excellent technique under control.

Here are a few examples:
1) The Lateral Squat: Step out to your right side, push your butt to the back of the room and lower yourself down. Your left leg should be straight at the knees throughout the movement. Your right knee should not cross your right ankle throughout the movement either. Perform 10 on the right side and 10 on the left.

2) The Curtsy Lunge: From a standing position bring your right leg back and to an angle on the left side. Place it on the floor and then lower your knees to the floor. Preform 10 on the left side and 10 on the right.

3) Rotational Planks: Get on your elbows and toes and then slowly tilt yourself to the left side by taking your left hand off the floor, come back to starting position and then move to the right. Do this for 30 seconds.

Perform the whole sequence 3 times at least 3 times a week. You can add in more exercise as you get fit; the key is to keep it as varied and as complex as dance itself, while still maintaining control.

Happy dancing!

Jyotsna John is the founder of The Unit, a functional fitness/boot camp based in Chennai. An IT programmer who turned her passion for fitness into her full time career, Jyotsna is a certified NSCA Strength and Conditional Specialist as well as a NSCA Certified personal trainer. Jyotsna is also the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Tamil Nadu Women's Cricket team.

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