How Much Should You Cross-Train for Ballet?

It seems, as of late, the majority of emails coming in, at the moment, revolve around cross-training… and it isn’t just parents writing in. It is studio owners, colleagues, and other dancer teachers out there. In a recent video on Instagram, it shows super talented dancers cross-training at the gym; not to mention ABT’s obsession with workout videos lately… Mostly, I think, to promote their friend’s business… Regardless… cross-training seems to be what is on everyone’s mind, especially gearing up for competition season.

how much should you cross train for ballet

Ballet Dancers seem to use a million different ways to augment their trainining… from nutrition to physical excercise, cross-training takes just as much time and money as ballet. And no… that doesn’t mean to buy a $7,000 dollar reformer for the house… I mean if you are going to have a pilates instructor come to your house, or you have put in thousands of hours… and have the liquid income… then go for it… otherwise… don’t

So, the first question you have to look at is how many hours a week are you training? This includes private lessons, private coaching sessions and rehearsal hours. Time management is crucial. Different schools have different approaches when it comes to the hours a dancer puts in. Lets say to be conservative for every 5 hours of classes you probably should be cross training at least an hour a week. This could be stretch and conditioning or something as simple as cardio. The reason behind cross training is so that muscles don’t over develop, so that the body is getting an even workout, and to focus on smaller details. This is opposed to regular ballet class to enhance and learn ballet vocabulary technique, rehearsals to learn choreography, private lessons to focus on individual needs… etc.

I know it is a lot… so we are basically saying if your kid is dancing 30 hours a week, they should be cross training 6 hours a week, and still getting 55 hours of sleep in… plus school and homework… and we only get 168 hours in a week. It seems impossible. Ballet schools should be implementing a lot of these practices in the curriculum. But if they aren’t.. then you will have to do it on your own. Make sure you are on the right and safe equipment… and you have a good pair of shoes that support your arches.

Things you should have at home or in your dance bag for cross-training on your own…
Bosu Ball... it is $100 bucks but one of the best investments for your dancer. Not only can you strength train on it but you can also work on balancing and core.

Resistance Bands

Foam Roller/Muscle Roller
You can not only maintain muscle, but  you can also use it to stretch and increase your stretch…

Flexi Stretcher

Ways to Cross-Train…

Pilates Life:
“Dancers spend most of their time in the studio, dedicating themselves to their art. Ballet/dance is their real job and like any job it is a daily struggle and it takes it’s toll on the body. Pilates helps them to rectify the imbalances they tend to create in the studio (from my experience, ballet dancers are particularly asymmetrical). With choreographers and teachers demanding daily perfection, Pilates allows dancers the space they need outside of the studio and outside of class to re-balance, release and re-connect. I started Pilates in my first year of the Australian Ballet School, which is around 23 years ago. Initially I found it hard to understand. Pilates is full of subtlety and nuance and it takes a long time to become familiar with it. When I was dancing my best, Pilates was for the most part a daily routine. A couple of hours of Pilates before ballet class became a necessity for me to feel good on stage. It balanced me out, helped me to rehabilitate injuries and be stronger than the challenge I faced. Simply put, it made my dancing better and more enjoyable.” -Marc Cassidy, former Senior Artist with The Australian Ballet and now owns and operates TrueFormPilates in Melbourne. Quote from Dance Informa

Cardio Life:
According to Harvard’s SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, the average child 11-18 should be engaged in moderate or vigorous activity for an hour a day… we got that covered. However, cardio does build stamina and helps burn calories… Not that a kid should have to worry about that… But, this is on top of elite athletics. I mean, I for sure don’t have an hour a day to just briskly walk but it’s something to strive for. I would avoid the treadmill and other weight on the joints activities and focus on like swimming or yoga… though swimming can also restructure the body’s lung capacity and cause broadening of the chest and back… not ideal for girls.  Jumping rope on clay is always fun. I avoid biking because it makes your quads larger and tighter.

Weight Training:
Children under the age of 15 are not encouraged to weight train whatsoever. According to Harvard and Yale’s studies… it can actually cause bone density and growth issues. (It kind of borders on the same idea that you shouldn’t start pointe to early) Kids should rather do unstructured activities like playing on playground equipment, climbing trees, and so forth.

(Physical Activity guidelines for Americans. U/S/D.o.H.a.H. Services, Editor, 2008)

Gyrotonics:
If you can afford it, and have a place close to you… Gyrotonics is wonderful and magical.

“The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® Method is a unique, holistic approach to movement. Some of the benefits of a regular Gyrotonic practice include a healthier, more supple spine, increased range of motion, greater joint stability, improved agility and athletic performance, and a deep internal strength. Experienced Gyrotonic trainers offer personalized sessions that are adapted to fit the needs of all ages, and abilities, from elderly patients recovering from injury, to highly skilled professional athletes.” – Gyrotonic Website

Physical Therapists:
Injury Rehab and Prevention are extremely important. More and more former dancers have continued their career by attending med school like Alexis Sams. Alexis has not only studied other methods but she has gone on to develop numerous ways for dancers to cross train. Everything from coordination, to strengthening, stretching and pointe… Dr. Sams is another great resource out there. And she isn’t the only one.

Supplements
From avoiding gluten, avoiding dairy, avoiding meat… and anything else pumped with hormones, it seems supplements are becoming a big part of dance training. I mean, so are essential oils.

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