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Three Key Benefits of Cross-Training for Dancers

As a dancer, it’s tempting to feel like the work you do in the studio should be enough to keep you not only in shape, but at your technical best. After all, you spend five or six days a week in a dance studio, often for hours at a time. But, making time for other forms of exercise can help prevent injuries, boost technique and improve your stamina. Here are five reasons to hit the gym (or the mat):

English National Ballet's directors and principal Tamara Rojo is a Pilates fan
Photo by Tim P. Whitby

• Core Strength. Having strong abdominal muscles is key to almost everything in dance. Your balance, alignment and extensions are all tied to how strong your center is and whether you use that strength. Try Pilates to target your core.

• Better endurance. Yes, dance can be intense, especially during rehearsals. But, you rarely keep your heart rate up long enough for optimal cardiovascular benefits. Adding in some cardio (especially lower-impact forms like the elliptical machine) can help you get through long pieces without feeling winded.

• Fewer Injuries. Dance tends to work the same muscles over and over, which can lead to tendon issues, pain, and overuse problems. Cross-training works different muscle groups to help balance that out. For example, working turned in when you cross train helps strengthen muscles in your hips that are under-developed if you work turned out, as in classical ballet.

Do you cross-train? What’s your favorite thing to do outside the studio?