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Using a Rowing Machine and Ballet


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I recently went to a physical therapist to address some knee issues. She said that I big part of my problem is some substantial muscular imbalances from running for so many years. I hate to admit it, but I have to concede that running is not doing much for my ballet. As a result, I have recently been doing some rowing on a rowing machine to increase my heartrate before ballet at my gym. It actually seems really helpful for warming up my gluts, abdominals, hamstrings, hip rotator, and back muscles, all areas that my physical therapist said are underdeveloped (except for my hamstrings). I also found that it seems to be helping me with my rotation; while my feet are saddled in a parallel position, it seems to be helping me to see how to isolate the rotator muscles so that my knees are at least over my feet in parallel (I have pretty bad tibial torsion). The major negative I see in it is that I am sitting down which doesn't help me stretch my hip flexors. Wondering what your thoughts are? I am thinking about developing a cardio workout that combines rowing and walking (to help stretch out my hip flexors).

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Someone (I think it was Gary, but I'm not sure) suggested skipping rope as part

of a workout, and I have been trying that before class to warm up. The bad part

is that I have to do it outside because of space limitations, etc, but it really does

work for me, and my jumprope is the simplest piece of workout gear I own :P

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In general, swimming can't be beat as a low-impact, safe cardio workout that exercises the entire body in a balanced way. Try brest stroke if you're interested in turnout.

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Swiss Chard, does your livingspace have a yard that you can access, or are there any parks nearby, or a beach? If you skip rope on grass or firm sand, that will mitigate the impact.

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I believe I remember suggesting jumping rope to somone a while ago. I still do think it is a great exercise :) It is very simple and "portable".

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Guest Hilarie

Just be careful with your knees if you're going to try out breast stroke. Mine are hyperextended and bowed, and the kick for breast stroke gives me a very uncomfortable "crunching" kind of sensation in my knees that I never get with any other movement. It's just a strange action that I guess isn't suited well to my particular leg structure.


So after all that, my point is just that it shouldn't hurt or be uncomfortable, so find a different exercise if it does. :blink:

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Here’s the deal on the effects of exercise on ballet fitness. There are really only two things you need to know. First, you get fit for ballet, by doing lots and lots of ballet. Nothing else will make you as fit for ballet as tons of classes and performing experiences. Unless you have some major, and I mean really major deficiency, you don’t need to do any other exercise to be fit for ballet.


That’s about all the professional or aspiring professional needs to know. But for the rest of us who like doing different things and like the feeling of general fitness, there is a second. The body is always trying to adapt to the stress placed on it. Ballet is a stress. Exercise is a stress. Our bodies are trying to adapt to the stresses of ballet, which is very good from the ballet point of view. When we add another activity, our bodies also try to adapt to that stress. Now, if we do just a little of that activity, our body doesn’t have much stress to adapt to. But if you do a lot of that activity, the body has to adapt more. With a lot of this second activity, the body gets confused, so to speak, and you wind up with something of a mish-mash that’s not optimal to either ballet or the other activity.


In the end, we usually come up with priorities. Usually that means we do more of one thing and less of the other(s). Or if we don’t change our practice, we change our aspirations about the activities we do. Nothing wrong with that either.

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Garyecht, I really appreciate your perspective, but it does raise some questions for me. For one, I think one big difference between an adult starting ballet and a child starting ballet is that an adult has a much longer history to deal with. In my case, I have developed my muscles in a very particular way from running competitively. Some of my development helps me in ballet and in other ways I am hindered. Not only am I dealing with whatever unchangeable structural limitations I may have (that any given child may also have coming into ballet too), I also have the limitations of my history of sculpting my muscles in a particular way which a child may not have to contend with. There is just such a disparity between the strength of the muscles I use to propel me forward in running and the muscles I use to turn my legs out that it becomes difficult to even find or isolate the muscles used for ballet because my running muscles are just so much stronger. They take over almost immediately in ballet, resulting in me not reaping the benefits of the class. The effects of the conditioning I have done through physical therapy, Pilates, etc. outside of ballet have had an almost immediate effect in terms of my understanding of how to use the muscles I need for ballet. I guess some of the work I do outside of ballet is really remedial work necessary only because of some pretty extreme muscular imbalances in my body that my PT has identified.


With all of that said, I agree that the best way to improve at ballet is to do ballet and also strongly agree with your ideas about stress and adaptation. I think once I get to a basic level of awareness and competence in using the musculature necessary for ballet, I will cut out much of the adjunct stuff and do more ballet. But if I have learned anything, it is that ballet just takes lots of time, diligence and patience, and so I am guessing that it is going to take a while to get my body to that point.

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