Dance Well, Live Well

Wellness blog for dance medicine, holistic health, and more

Repost from Feb 2021

Cardio Training Tips for Dancers

In honor of Valentine's Day I decided to take time out to give a few easy tips for those of you wondering how to increase more cardiovascular training into your class and rehearsal schedule. So here's 5 easy ways to get your heart pumping while improving your technique and performance!

First - let's just discuss the goal of cardio training. For the majority of dancers, the most benefit will come from and interval based cardiovascular program. Think of it like this: many dance pieces (amateur to professional) can involve anywhere from 2-5 mins of constant dance movement on average. So training could be based on elevating and maintaining heart rate for a constant 2-5 mins with short breaks to mimic the flow of most dance performances.

So here's how you can do that...

1. Longer barre and center combos.

Combine plies, with battement tendus and battement tendu jetes. Perform exercises in the regular pattern, then repeat or reverse it. Perform a demi detourne and quickly repeat on the opposite side. All of these options can easily create barre combos lasting 2-3 mins which is great start to your dancers' cardio training.

2. Genre focused combos.

Incorporate specific movements that get the heart pumping! Working with students and teachers across the country I've started to notice there is less incorporation of petit and grand allegro in ballet classes which is an easy and effective way to increase heart rate. In modern, prancing and jump patterns in place or across the floor can elevate heart rate. In jazz, combos with fast directional changes or quick pas de bourree combos could help.

3. Run performance pieces for stamina.

At least 3 times in a row with no stopping is typically what I do. Now, as a teacher I know it can be tempting to stop and correct those sickled feet and bent knees, or to cue that dancer who's a count behind - but take notes and don't stop them. Keep in mind that the goal for these runs is to build stamina. Encourage them to focus on what they are doing especially as things get tired, because many times that's when injuries can occur.

4. Incorporate cardio training into your conditioning classes.

When I train teachers or studio owners on how to create custom conditioning programs for their students we make sure there is proportional time set aside for cardio training. Is there specific time for cardio training in your conditioning classes? 

5. Crosstraining. I'm not against cross training at all. Activities like running, swimming and cycling can be great for improving cardio performance in dancers. Just keep in mind to dose exercise times in shorter quick bursts to build the body for dance performance. Dancers don't dance (constantly without stopping) for 30 mins, so a 30 min bike ride or 6 miles of jogging may not be the most beneficial.

But what if you're training alone?

Overall, exercises goals can focus on working up to 2-3 of consistent movement with body weight to mimic performance requirements, similar to what could be done in classes. Jumping jacks, barre combos, and balance combos can be done even in small spaces to elevate the heart rate and improve cardio performance with minimal equipment. : )

So there you go! Easy tips to help keep your heart healthy and in shape for dance.

Happy Dancing!

Dr. Alexis : )

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