Friday, February 28, 2014

Why Dancers Should Weight Train

Dance, like any other sport, is physically demanding. “Muscular strength is important in dance given that most dance styles comprise a combination of static positions and dynamic movements at varying intensities.”1 Muscular strength is one of the most important physical aspects of a dancer, however many shy away from strength training. The myth that the dancer may “bulk up” keeps many female dancers away from weight training. The myth is false, and there are benefits for a dancer to engage in weight training.

The two main reasons a dancer should weight train:

Injury Prevention- The most prevalent injuries for female intercollegiate athletes is a lower leg injury, mainly in the knees. 2 Making one slight movement when preparing for a turn or a leap can cause a knee to give – most commonly when trying to rotate on a locked knee.

Maximize Genetic Potential - This will increase strength and power output aiding in higher leaps/jumps, tighter stunts, and more control due to increased core strength (important for tight, strong turns). By weight training, the benefits will coincide with the dancer’s genetic ability producing stronger technical dancers. 

According to the NSCA, “There is not a sensible reason why resistance training programs for women need to be any different than those for men.”2 The goal of the program should be to improve the muscular performance in order for successful sport performance.  In this case, the sport is dance. By improving the muscle’s performance, the programs can produce healthier dancers with less injuries (injury prevention) and more dynamic movements (maximizing genetic potential); including higher leaps, tighter turns, and sharper motions.

Because dance is just as physically demanding as most sports, weight training programs need to be implemented and required for dancers, much like many other women’s sports.

1Walker, I. J., Nordin-Bates, S. M., & Redding, E. (2011). Characteristics of talented dancers and age group differences: findings from the UK Centres for Advanced Training. High Ability Studies, 22(1), 43-60. doi:10.1080/13598139.2011.597587
2Baechle, T., & Earle, R. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning/national strength and conditioning association. (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL : Human Kinetics.

Strengthening Your Rotator Cuff Muscles

The rotator Cuff muscle group consists of the subscapularis, infraspinatous, supraspinatus, and teres minor. Rotator cuff injures normally occur to overhead athletes: volleyball, swimmers, and baseball players. Injury to the rotator cuff is the most common diagnosis for shoulder pain.1 Rotator Cuff muscles can become  inflamed from constant stretching and compressing ,  which is sometimes a result of Kyphosis and/or forward head. With that being said, there are certain strengthening exercises that can be used to treat this problem. non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can be used to manage the pain.

First, working on range of motion (ROM), in different plains at different angles is best. Seeing that, ROM may be limited due to pain or tightness.  The Blackburn exercise, I’s, T’s, and Y’s are great exercises to work on ROM or even strength when weight is added. Side laying internal and external rotations with a small dumbbell can be use to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. Wall ball circumduction and shoulder protractions and retractions are great ways to gain range of motion and strengthen without applying any weigh to the injury. Progression to different angles of resistive therabands is a good way to slowly progress the injury to weight bearing. Exercises can be progressed to weights when ready. Four sets of 6-8 reps can be used to build strength and 3 sets of 10-15 reps can be used to build endurance.

Body Weight Training-Training for Function

Strength training was the topic of last week’s blog, which also contained a list of different types of strength training. Body weight strength training was part of that discussion. This type of training is also commonly known as Functional Training. No matter what someone calls it, this type of training primarily uses the weight of the individual as the main means of resistance. Functional Training is designed to train the individual to improve their stability and mobility, as well as maintain the body’s natural symmetry. Essentially Functional Training is training each part of the body to perform its function more effectively.

Stability is defined as the ability to control or maintain the joint position, while mobility is defined as the range of motion of the joint that is uninhibited.1 The relationship between stability and mobility is referred to the body’s kinetic chain. Starting with the foot as the first stability joint, going up the body at each joint the function changes.2

One might wonder the importance. Without this knowledge of how the body is designed to work injuries, side dominance, and posture deviations may occur, and most importantly for many people strength gains cannot be maximized.

Examples of Functional training include squats, lunges, split squats, step-up, kettle bell swings, core rotations, and back extension. Many other movements fall under functional training, but remembering the function of the joints is most important. To increase the intensities of each movement the individual can increase the weight with a weighted vest, dumbbells, or other weight that can be attached to the body. Another way the intensity can be increase is to perform the movements faster and with more power. Form still needs to be maintained to insure injuries do not occur, but this can be a good indication of progression moving too quickly.
It is strongly recommended to consult your primary care doctor before start a new exercise routine. Especially if pre-existing conditions are present with a person’s kinetic chain.
Check back in next week as we look at the difference between training programs for endurance, strength, and mass gains.

1 Houglum, P.A. (2005) Therapeutic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Injuries (2nd ed.). Champaign,  ILL.: Human Kinetics.
2 Cook, G. & Jones, B. (2007a). Secrets of the Shoulder.
Cook, G & Jones, B. (2007b). Secrets of the Hip and Knee.

Baseball Development: Creating Functional Scapula Control – Part 2

The intricate role of the scapula during overhead and throwing motions was discussed in Part 1 of Baseball Development: Scapula Functional Control. Scapular upward rotation is not the only action that contributes to a healthy throwing shoulder. Voight & Thomson1 state that, “Since the origins of the rotator cuff muscles arise from the scapula, an effective exercise regime for rehabilitation should include improving the strength and function of the muscles that control the position of the scapula.” Strengthening the musculature that directs the scapula is critical, but the following exercise will target the functional aspects of muscle control.

Correctional Exercise - Forearm Wall Slides2:

Set up by facing a wall in a split stance (right leg forward, left leg back) with both forearms in contact with the wall, elbows flexed at 90°. To aid in achieving full forearm contact with the wall protract the scapulae (move the shoulder blades away from the spine). Initiate the movement by posteriorly tilting the scapula and steadily slide the arms up the wall. Maintain full forearm contact and a neutral spine. Make sure that the rib cage does not flare at the top position. When the arms reaches end range of motion steadily slide the arms back down to the starting position. Focus on moving the arms up the wall by upwardly rotating the scapula versus using the upper traps to shrug the arms up.


Two main facts are of great concern and must be stated: One, it is critical to first remember that each individual athlete is undeniably an ‘individual’. Meaning, each athlete is going to present their own specific strengths and weaknesses; therefore, taking the one size fits all or cookie-cutter approach to rehabilitation, training and coaching does not work! Secondly, as much as society loves immediate gratification and instant results, to truly make improvements or become successful, dedication and commitment are two components of the equation that cannot be left out. The only way that corrective exercises work, is if they, the exercises, are worked.

1Voight, M. L. & Thomson, B. C. (2000). The role of the scapula in the rehabilitation of shoulder injuries. Journal of Athletic Training, 35(3), 364–372.

2Cressey, E., Hartman, B., & Robertson, M. (2009). Assess & correct: Breaking Barriers to unlock performance. Indianapolis, IN: Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training.