June 25, 2014

Athletic performance and conditioning for the dancer

While many think of dancing as an art form, there's no question it is a sport with rigorous physical demands. Formal training has often focused on the technical and aesthetic demands of the sport, but recent research suggests that traditional training has only limited focus on the aerobic and cardiovascular aspects.

It may be hard to believe, but dancers often demonstrate fitness levels similar to those of healthy sedentary individuals. With the reduced levels of overall physical fitness, there are often higher levels of injuries in dancers. To help reduce the risk of injury, and improve movement efficiency, performance excellence and longevity in the field, dancers should consider a training program that includes cardiovascular endurance or aerobic exercise, and strength and power training. By improving the aerobic and cardiovascular fitness, dancers will become less fatigued since their bodies will be able to work at a lower heart rate. This can lead to better overall performance and less susceptibility to injury.

For dancers starting a training program, the duration and intensity depends on the individual's current fitness level. A general rule is to start with 20 minutes of training at a moderate level of exertion three to four times per week. One way to determine whether dancers are getting moderate exercise is by calculating the maximum heart rate. The most general formula for determining maximum heart rate is 220-current age. To qualify as moderate exercise, individuals should perform activities that get their heart rate within 50-70 percent of their maximum heart rate.

A few easy ways to add cross training to an exercise program include activities such as biking, swimming, or jogging, all of which can aid in increasing dancers' cardiovascular fitness. While there's no question of the benefit of cardiovascular fitness for dancers, strength training's role in dance has been frequently misunderstood. Dancers often have concerns that strength training will negatively affect flexibility and aesthetic appearance. There is little scientific evidence to support this view. In fact, it has been shown that strength and power training actually enhance dancers' performance, and do not negatively affect aesthetics.