The physical demands placed on dancers are the same as any athlete and yet throughout a dancers training the emphasis is always placed on skill development. Now don’t get me wrong, skill development is of high importance to a dancers training, however, a dancers physical preparedness to be able to repeatedly perform these skills, while appearing effortless, should arguably be considered as important.
When dancers want to improve their physical fitness in terms of strength or cardiovascular fitness the thinking is often to dance harder or more often or for a longer amount of time, how many times have dancers heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”…this just isn’t necessarily the case. Continual practice of advanced movements in dance or advanced choreographic demands that you may not be physically ready for increases the risk of fatigue and injury.
Research into supplementary training for dancers (specific exercise on top of a dancers normal training) has demonstrated that once a dancer reaches a certain level, the dance training alone will not continue to improve their strength or fitness. This is why supplementary training is needed.
So this means student or professional dancers who want to develop their fitness, cardiovascular capacity or muscular strength, should think about adding another form of training 2-3 times a week (schedule allowing).
This could be weight training, cross fit, swimming, boxing etc. (TIP- It is far better to find something you enjoy rather than forcing yourself into training in a way that you don’t like).
Weight or resistance based training is one way you can easily see progression in strength and muscular endurance and this can be done using bodyweight or minimal equipment at home or using heavier weights at the gym or training studio.
Cardiovascular fitness can be progressed using aerobic training such as jogging, running, swimming or using interval training focusing on shorter bursts of activity that will raise your heart rate like boxing, spinning or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions.
To summarise, when performers training is focused on dance technique the body will get to a point where it wont continue to adapt and get better, stronger or fitter. Cross training gives your body different things to adapt to, which will help you become stronger to support your bodies through the demands of dance technique and choreography.