"Dancers are the athletes of God," Albert Einstein observed, but even the most naturally athletic dancer still needs to work on fitness training to reach heavenly heights. Although dancers in ballet and other disciplines achieve general fitness through dance practice itself, they also work also via cross-training to boost cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility and balance.
"Dancers are supreme athletes," notes international Pilates and dance teacher Rael Isacowitz in his book "Pilates." "But they suffer a very high incidence of injury --- some studies suggest even higher than among football players." Thus dancers need to supplement their dance training with a fitness regimen such as Pilates that makes them stronger and more resistant to injury, Isacowtiz states. And cross-training helps you nail more athletic choreography, write Linda H. Hamilton of the New York City Ballet and Paul Kolnik in "The Dancer's Way." Fitness training improves your strength, flexibility and aerobic capacity, needed when performing rapid bursts of high-intensity exercise.
Include strength training as part of your dance fitness program, to encourage upper-body strength, increase your metabolism and aid in weight loss. Strength train at least twice a week and ideally four times, Hamilton recommends. Try kettleball squats, jump squats, calf stretches, bosu ball abs exercises and deadlifts, recommends San Diego-based personal trainer Nikol Klein, who focuses on strength training for ballet dancers, in a training video at DanceMedia.com.
Hamilton addresses why dance class just isn't enough. "While regular dance class is essential in a specific dance technique, it bypasses certain muscle groups, and it does not raise your heart rate sufficiently," she states. Performing onstage requires enormous stamina, acquired by focused training. Technique practice also stresses vulnerable areas of the body, such that cross-training is needed to boost strength of these areas.
Your body requires 12 to 24 hours to see the benefit of and to recover from a workout. You can either do two or more workouts on the same day, such as aerobics, weight training and stretching, followed by a free day, Hamilton recommends, or alternate a hard day, such as 30 minutes of interval training on the elliptical with an easier day such as a Pilates session.