Joyful Dance Laura Stanyer

Joyful Dance Laura Stanyer

Monday, 27 June 2011

Strength Training for Dancers

It is important for dancers to develop their muscular strength as it will enhance their endurance ability to perform. Dancers need overall strength to be able to control their own body weight and it helps to prevent injuries. Strength training should be adjusted to meet the specific requirements of the particular technique. In street dance, lower body strength is required; break dance requires both upper and lower body strength. Contemporary technique will require lower body strength and strengthening the core stability helps prevent lower back and hip injuries where as contact improvisation requires over all strength to allow for the exchange of weight between partners.

Developing Muscular Strength

Strength is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert the maximum force against a resistance. The development of muscular strength depends upon several factors, which can be adapted through training. When subjected to a particular kind of stress, such as weight, the muscle fibres respond by becoming more efficient.

Principle of overload

For a muscle to become stronger, it must be put in a state of overload. This is done by selecting a weight, which is heavy enough to work to the muscles maximum capacity, and then progressively increasing the weight as the muscle becomes stronger.


Exercises can progress by increasing the body weight and number of repetitions of the exercise. This progression should feel natural as your exercises feel easier over time. If you feel beginner level is easy progress on to the next level.

Example of adding body weight as a resistance: Press-up

Beginner Level - Wall Press

Stand with feet shoulder width apart, and hands placed against a wall, with arms stretched out. Breathe in.
Breathe out as you slowly bend the arms at the elbows, keeping neutral spinal alignment, and head looking to the wall. Lower body towards the wall.

Improver Level - Box Press
Place your hands underneath your shoulders with fingers facing forward. Your knees and feet should be resting on an exercise mat. You should aim to make a box shape with your arms, trunk and thighs. Breathe in.
Breathe out as you bend your elbows, lowering your chest down, no lower than 2 inches from the floor. Lower your arms and within your own range of motion. Maintain neutral spinal alignment throughout exercise, avoid arching of the back.


Intermediate Level - Knee Press
Breathe in as you place your hands underneath your shoulders with fingers facing forward. Rest your knees on an exercise mat.

Breathe out at you bend your elbows, lowering your chest down to the mat, keeping a straight line through your spine.

Advanced Level - Full Press

Place your hands underneath your shoulders with fingers facing forward. Your knees and feet should be resting on an exercise mat. You should aim to make a box shape with your arms, trunk and thighs. Breathe in.

Breathe out as you bend your elbows, lowering your chest down, no lower than 2 inches from the floor. Lower your arms and within your own range of motion. Maintain neutral spinal alignment throughout exercise, avoid arching of the back.

The rhythm should be smooth throughout all of these exercises. The progression from one level to the next would happen slowly over about a 12 week training period. This idea of progression using body weight and lever extension can be used for most strength training exercises; this is beneficial for dancers as no specialised equipment is required. Always see a qualified fitness advisor to create strength programme for your individual requirements.

Note: Loss of muscle strength can be seen after 5 - 6 days without training. However, one training session per week will maintain strength already acquired.

Rest and Recovery in Strength Training

In strength training you need extra long rest periods between each set and between each strength training session to allow for recovery and to prevent the body being over trained.

Guidelines for rest and recovery:

  • Recovery from vigorous strength training takes 24 to 48 hours
  • After extremely vigorous training allow 72 hours to recover
  • 3 strength sessions per week builds strength

Different types of muscular work:

Dynamic (Isotonic)

Dynamic strength is required to start and maintain a movement. Isotonic movement means the origin and insertion of a muscle are forcefully affected by changes in muscle length. Isotonic exercise is dynamic moving exercise, performed while breathing normally, which builds strength throughout the full range of movement.

Benefits of Isotonic Training:

  • Increased muscle growth and better capilliarization
  • Strength created even throughout the full range of movement
  • Improved nerve-muscle co-ordination as a result of more complex actions
  • Increased strength is readily applied to actual exercise performance

Static Strength (Isometric)

This is the strength applied by muscles to a fixed object or building strength without movement. For example, pressing your ands together, creates an isometric contraction in both arms, as do held positions in dance for example if you balance on a rise one leg out n extension and hold requires isometric contraction.

Benefits of Isometric Training:

  • Isometric training requires less time, less energy and less space
  • Little or no equipment is needed
  • Improves muscular strength quickly

Caution: Isometric strength training has a number of limitations:

  • It increases strength only in the position performed not through full ROM (Range Of Motion)
  • It can produce muscle strain if prolonged
  • It produces a high increase in blood pressure relative to heart rate
Consequently, isometric exercises should only be performed by fit and healthy people.

Types of Strength Training for Dance

A strength training programme should always develop progressively. It incorporates a low number of repetitions of an exercise with a comparatively high resistance.
Consider the following factors:

The type of strength required

Dancers should start by developing general body strength and core stability and then work on the specific strength demand by the particular dance technique.

The type of strength training

There are a variety of methods of strength training available, it is important to find the right type and time to incorporate into your training. It is necessary to seek qualified fitness or dance instructor for appropriate guidance in helping dancers make safe use of these resources.

Exercises using body weight as resistance

Using body weight alone is a safer and convenient way to start strength training. Examples include press-ups, abdominal curl, and squats (plies) these are often incorporated into a dance class. Always make sure the safe and correct method is applied to.

Method (e.g. Press up)

To develop strength you need to:

  • Lower your body weight in a slow and controlled manner for 4 counts (inhale)
  • Pause for one count (breathe)
  • Raise your body weight for 1 or 2 counts (exhale)
  • Never lock your joints (elbows) as this will stop the recruitment of the muscle fibres and can lead to joint injuries
  • Breathing is very important do not hold your breath but exhale on the hardest effort and inhale

Exercise using a resistance band

The resistance band is an exercise tool that dancers have used for many years and health and fitness practitioners use regularly to prevent and rehabilitate overuse injuries by strengthening often smaller, neglected muscle groups. A programme of resistance band exercises can compliment your regular dance training may be able to improve your overall strength.

Muscles can be worked isometrically and dynamically. This allows you to work through the full range of movement while adding a resistance this improves dynamic strength. Resistance bands are available in a range of colours that relate to their resistance. All Resistance band exercises should be performed slowly and under control. Begin with the band at the start of tension which increases as you perform the exercise. To make the exercise more difficult, shorten the section of band you are using to increase the tension over the range of motion.

The benefits a resistance band:

  • It can target and condition certain muscle groups that may be weak due to overuse of the opposing muscle groups
  • This type of conditioning can reduce dance injuries
  • It is very small and light is easy to travel with

Dance specific exercises focus on:

  • Back and trunk conditioning
  • Pelvic stabilization
  • Leg rotation muscles
  • Lower leg strengthening
Ideally your strength training is tailored to your dance style and is incorporated into your dance training with alternative exercises tailored to your specific requirements as this can enhance your true potential in dance performance. Always seek professional advice before starting a strength training programme.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this web page is intended as general guidance and information only. Laura Stanyer and its authors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage however incurred as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use this information. All advice on this web page should only be used under the supervision of a qualified dance / fitness / healthcare professional.


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  2. Dancers must have to do exercise to control their body weight and their stamina and thy should exercise daily basis it is good for dancer's health

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