Cross-Training for Injury Prevention: Stability and Mobility
Injuries are common among dancers, but they are not inevitable. Taking a balanced approach to your training can help reduce your risk of injury and lessen your chances of being sidelined.
“Dancers should aim for better overall stability” to minimize the risk of a dance-related injury, says Kathleen Weber, M.D., the sports medicine physician consultant for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
Cross-training can strengthen weak muscles, correct imbalances, and help prevent injury.
Common Causes of Dance-Related Injuries
Common ailments include shin splints, tendonitis, bone bruises, and stress fractures. The feet and ankles are especially vulnerable. Yet a 2013 review study published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine found that in modern and contemporary dance, for instance, there is a higher rate of back and arm injuries.
Overuse, dancing on hard floors, and suddenly increasing activity – such as during an intensive – can lead to injury. Improper alignment is another culprit. Poor training habits, including “rolling in” of the feet, not keeping the knees lined up over the feet, and forcing turnout, are a major source of strain and muscle imbalances.
Balance Stability and Mobility
Lumbopelvic stability is crucial, says Dr Weber. She advises dancers to “work the whole chain up.” Don’t neglect the hip and pelvic musculature. Instead, think of it as all one unit.
Many dancers turn to Pilates, but Gyrotonic ® and TRX also offer specific benefits.
Gyrotonic ® is based on spiraling motions. Unlike linear movements, the circular exercises move the joints through their full range of motion. A specific pattern of breathing supports the movements. TRX suspension training is also gaining popularity. Along with strengthening the lower abdominals, it works your gluteus medius, which stabilizes your pelvis when you stand on one leg, ensuring proper pelvic alignment.
Keep Up Your Cardio
Dance is typically anaerobic. Experienced dancers know to keep up their cardio, especially when they have a lighter rehearsal or performing schedule.
Alternating your workout can prevent muscular imbalances and weaknesses. Increasing your endurance also helps prevent fatigue. Using an elliptical or stationary bike, as well as swimming are low-impact activities that give your heart a workout.
Running was once discouraged for dancers and students, but now more dancers are taking to the jogging trails. Some claim it boosts their energy and jumping power. If you run safely (good shoes, proper technique, and gradually increasing the intensity), you can reap the benefits.
“As the body is building up, it is breaking down,” says Dr Weber. Drink plenty of water, ensure proper nutrition, and get enough rest. “Even during the dance week, it is important to have time off.” Take time to warm up before a class or rehearsal, and be sure to cool down properly afterward.
Some yoga and Pilates and classes are tailored to the needs of dancers. Look for a certified instructor, and build up gradually. If you have recurring problems, or specific concerns, you may want to seek the advice of a physical therapist or sports medicine physician before starting any type of cross-training.
This article was published in our Issue 65 (2015)