Today's class was complete with cardiorespiratory work in the cardio room, and then a trip to the gym for some strength training and weight lifting. It's important for dancers to have this as a part of their conditioning program -- and this article, though it's from 2005, is incredibly relevant to the work we are doing here this summer. Titled The significance of muscular strength in dance from the Journal of Dance Science and Medicine, the authors clearly demonstrate the benefit for dancers hitting the gym!
Some key points made by the authors:
- Fitness related to dance incorporates body composition, joint mobility and cardiorespiratory capacity
- Fast twitch muscle fibers (for sprinting) are 30%-40% larger than slow twitch muscle fibers (long distance marathon running) and if a dancer has more of these, their body can look more "muscular"
- Modern dance blends muscular strength with agility, balance and flexibility
- Ballet dancers have more slow twitch muscle fibers, and modern dancers often come from an interdisciplinary background (e.g., former gymnasts) so they could have a certain amount of "athleticism"
- Lower back is most common site for dance injury
- Strength training can help to lessen osteoporosis and weight bearing activity increases bone density
- One must put muscles through a full range of motion or you could risk shortening a muscle
Dancers remain subject to the same unyielding physical laws as athletes. However, although muscular strength has been part of the athlete's life since classical times, this physical fitness component has not been considered as a necessary ingredient for success in dance. We presented published data demonstrating that supplementary exercise training can increase muscular strength without interfering with artistic and dance performance requirements. There is little indication that an appropriate strength training regimen would diminish body aesthetics and muscle flexibility.
So.... hitting the gym will not damage a dancer's artistry -- if anything, it will increase bone density, make dancers less prone to injury, and help a dancer to sustain an even longer career.