Training for Dance

UW Health Sports Medicine

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Dancers Clinic

UW Health's Sports Medicine Dancers Clinic helps prepare dancers for their art

Dancing is a highly specialized sport in which the formal dance class has long been considered the cornerstone of training; providing all the physical, technical, and aesthetic demands required in dance. However, recent research shows that dance classes themselves only give limited physical stress for positive fitness adaptations.


Dancers often demonstrate fitness levels similar to those obtained from healthy sedentary individuals, not other athletes. Research suggests that reduced levels of overall physical fitness are associated with higher levels of injuries in dancers.


Exercise training can lead to improvements in the dancer's movement efficiency, injury prevention, performance excellence, and longevity in the field. A well rounded dance training program should consist of cardiovascular endurance or aerobic exercise, and strength and power training.


The greater the dancer's aerobic or cardiovascular fitness, the longer the dancer can work at a lower heart rate and thus become less fatigued. This can lead to better overall performance and less susceptibility to injury. Cross training with activities such as biking, swimming, or jogging can aid in increasing dancer's cardiovascular fitness.


The training intensity and duration depends on a dancer's starting fitness level. But a general rule, when first starting, 20 min of training at a moderate level of exertion, 3-4 times per week is best. The level of exertion, or intensity, can be quantified more precisely by exercising at a percentage of an individual's maximum heart rate. Moderate exercise is viewed as 50-70 percent maximum heart rate. One of the most general formulas for determining maximum heart rate is to subtract the individual's age from 220.


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.


Athletic Performance and Conditioning for the Young Dancer


Strength training and cross-training exercise in dance can increase key fitness-related areas without interfering with artistic and dance performance requirements. This summer is the perfect time for a dancer to start this training, as they are often taking fewer classes. UW Health Sports Medicine is pleased to be offering Athletic Performance and Conditioning for the Dancer beginning July 16. The six-week class includes two sessions and is geared toward dancers participating in (session 1) ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary and (session 2) Irish dancing and will focus on alignment, core strength and movement.