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Will weight training make me bulky?

This is one of the most common questions when it comes to women and fitness…. especially dancers.

Resistance or weight training is important for dancers for, as we have spoken about before, dance itself is not enough to stimulate improvements in strength and fitness past a certain point (have a read of Why should cross training be so important to dancers?). However, in the past, the idea of training strength outside of dance was almost out of the question- particularly for females, for the fear of becoming Arnold Schwarzeneggerr.

Fortunately and unfortunately, women have a different cocktail of hormones going on to men and this means that there is less testosterone in the body, testosterone being one of the main hormones that promotes muscle growth. This doesn’t mean to say that adding muscle volume comes super easily for men either, there is normally a lot of work involved including correct training programmes a lot of food and years of consistency.

A study conducted in 1981 (Fitt) tested 26 ballet dancers split into 2 groups before and after a supplementary training programme. One group completed the training programme on top of their regular classes, the other did not and just continued with their regular dance classes to compare the results. The group that had completed the training programme showed great improvement in all (except 1) of the muscular strength tests and also showed improvement in their cardiovascular fitness and dance technique, they did not, however, show any increase in muscle size.

Muscular hypertrophy (increase in muscle size) requires specific styles of training, mass intake in food and dedicated and consistent time, it does not come overnight after picking up a pair of dumbbells.

What strength/ resistance training can do for you:

· Help improve your dance technique (give you better control of your body)

· Improve your jump height, kicks, lifts etc.

· Improve your nervous system (which controls how much muscle is working at any time)

· Increase bone density (stronger bones!)

· Reduce the risk of injury (stronger muscles can work for longer without getting tired)

· Increases your metabolism (the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn)

· Gives you muscular shape (the idea of the “toned body” does not come from burning fat alone)

So please, don’t let the fear of big muscles keep you from something that could really help to strengthen your body and mind and help to enhance your performance as well!

And 1 more thing…

There is nothing wrong with a strong looking dancer!

“…I do go back to slightly being from that older generation and being used to this idea that you wanted to be the most skeletal person in the room and having that feeling of being able to walk into the room and being like no I want to look like a really strong capable dancer, I want the panel to know immediately that I am able to do this 8 shows a week for 6 months no problem.”

Helen Petrovna

Fitt, S. (1981). Conditioning for Dancers: Investigating Some Assumptions. Dance Research Journal, 14(1 & 2), 32–38.

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., & Jamurtas, A. (2004). The Dancer as a Performing Atlete. Physiological Considerations. Sports Med, 34(10), 651–661.

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.

Stalder, M. A., Noble, B. J., & Wilkinson, J. G. (1990). The Effects of Supplemental Weight Training for Ballet Dancers. Journal of Applied Sports Science Research, 4(3), 95–102.

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