*DISCLAIMER* There are many arguments around the term Supplementary training for dancers, some people love it or hate it. I have my own opinions that are not part of this article, however, for the sake of this article the term supplementary fitness will be used (extensively) simply to identify a clear distinction between everyday dance training and the other form(s) of training a performer may want to use.
We know that once a dancer gets to a certain level, their dance classes wont be enough of a stimulus to continue to improve strength or cardiovascular fitness...this is where what is known as supplementary training comes in (training outside of your dance training). But where to start? What form should your supplementary training take?
When adding supplementary training to your already busy schedule there are a few questions you should ask yourself…
What are your goals?
Is there a particular area you are trying to improve? If it is your strength then you will be looking more at weight/ resistance training, if it is your agility you could try conditioning drills or even a capoeira class, if you want to improve your cardiovascular fitness then you would look more at cardiovascular training such as LISS and HIIT which can be covered in various styles including running, swimming, boxing, cycling etc.
What do you enjoy?
We have all been in the position at some point where we have an option to either exercise, or chill or get on with something else we need to do and have gone with the non-exercise option…choosing a supplementary training form you enjoy means it is far more likely to be sustainable for you. If you don’t enjoy it, it is far easier to not stick to the plan.
How much time do you have?
Realistically whether you are a professional rehearsing for a show or a first-year vocational student you only have so much time outside of your dance training, and in that time you have a lot to fit in. You may have another job, homework, cooking and living to fit in and it may seem impossible. So to be able to set that time aside is important when choosing what type of supplementary training you may use. If you only have 30 minutes twice a week that you can imagine setting aside compared to an hour 4 times a week this will affect the kind of supplementary training programme or form of training you want to introduce. You also need to be careful with what time you give…be careful of overtraining and becoming fatigued (see question 5).
What resources do you have available?
I could sit here and tell every performer to start weight training, but if you do not have any weights at home, or you do not have a gym easily accessible to you then that isn’t going to be a realistic option. If all you have is a mat and a little room in your living room then you can work on body weight resistance work, yoga, pilates, or HIIT style cardiovascular training etc. – few resources does not mean there is nothing you can do. Or if you have a fantastic gym available then do you have the time/funds for a trainer? Or do you have the knowledge to use the weights effectively with good technique? (See question 1).
Do you have the right amount of energy?
Time, resources, goals are all well and good but if you are physically fatigues (too knackered) to complete your training session at 9 in the evening (the only time you had to set aside)is it really a good idea? Are you putting yourself at risk of injury through poor technique or over work? You may have a lot of feedback or even pressure to work on something but if you are dragging yourself over there to do so are you being safe?
Remember, well planned training is more effective than a high volume (a lot of) training.
It is always better to ask the advice of someone (qualified) on a supplementary training plan/ programme, not everyone on Instagram with videos of fancy moves actually know what they are talking about.
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Angioi, M., Metsios, G., Twitchett, E. A., Koutedakis, Y., & Wyon, M. (2012). Effects of Supplementary Training on Fitness and Aethetic Competence Parameters in Contemporary Dance. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 3–8.
Koutedakis, Y., Cross, V., & Sharp, C. (1996). Strength Training in Male Ballet Dancers. Impulse, 4, 210–219.
Koutedakis, Y., Hukam, H., Metsios, G., Nevill, A., Giakas, G., Jamurtas, A., & Myszkewycz, L. (2007). The Effects of Three Months of Aerobic and Strength Training on Selected Performance and Fitness-Related Parameters in Modern Dance Students. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(3), 808–812.
Koutedakis, Y., & Sharp, N. (2004). Thigh-muscles strength training, dance exercise, dynamometry, and anthropometry in professional ballerinas. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(4), 714–718.
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