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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Should I lift weights too?


rlyons

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Hi there,

I am now attending ballet classes between 3 and 4 times a week. Each class is about an hour and a half. I have been back at ballet for three months now and I am seeing great improvements in my muscle tone and fitness. I also hike about 5 to 6 times a week for an hour each time.

I was wondering if I should still be working out at the gym too; lifting weights, etc..? I have been an avid gym goer for about 10 years now but I am seeing better results in firmness with ballet and recently am only going to the gym every couple of weeks.

Do ballet dancer go to the gym and if so, is it more about repetition than weight?

Will I benefit from going to the gym or hurt myself by bulking up? My goal is to be small, trim, tight and muscular.

Any advice is most welcome!

Thanks!

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If you are female, you won't bulk up unless you are taking steroids (not safe!). My kinesiologist teacher said one should aim to develop the whole body, not just legs - or even just legs and stamina. Whether for toning or strength, or other, doing upper body work is good for you. As for injury, don't aim for too heavy; go for reps instead and work up to heavier if you want to. I go to the gym about four times a week and try for weights about 3 of those days (not consecutive days on the same parts). I've seen a big difference in my lower body progress since going back to doing weights. :-)

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^ You don't find that it cuts down on your flexibility? Years ago when I started dancing I had been doing weight machines. I had to stop once I started dancing because I realized that I was very tight from the weight lifting.

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Actually, I'm finding my flexibility has increased two-fold. I now have much greater natural turnout (mind, KEEPING it during ballet class is hard but at least my legs are naturally turning out now when I'm NOT trying to do it), and a much better side split. My back won't let me get proper front splits anymore (the hip-spine-break from years ago), but I am able to do so much more now than I did before. My upper back is also more flexible - more than many of the kids in a few of my classes.

 

Being very tight from the weights hasn't anything to do with the weights but with how you're holding yourself, with or without weightlifting. I can go for a week or two without weights and still be tight if I'm working incorrectly. Or not trying. <g>

 

The key is to keep stretching - not to sacrifice one type of exercise for another. It's an all-rounder type of thing we oldies need to do. ;-D

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I am pretty strong and when I go to the gym I tend to be a little bulkier and I want a tight ballerina body. I am female, by the way.

I am getting much better in class (finally!) and I want to be more flexible so that may be a concern.

Maybe it would be good for me to go to my 3 to 4 ballet classes a week, continue with my 5 to 6 hikes and throw in 1 to 2 weight lifting session using lighter weights with more repetition?

That wouldn't cause me to bulk, especially if I just use the weights on my upper body?? Thoughts? :)

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Lighter with more reps is usually the recommendation but women don't bulk up like men. Upper body is better because you're still working the lower in ballet class. I don't do a lot with my legs at the gym, apart from cardio and occasionally things that involve the hips and hamstrings. All my weight-lifting type training is light and meant to enhance what I do in ballet class.

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As a general rule, weight training neither helps nor hurts one’s skill and ability in ballet. Yes, if you are absolutely pathetically weak, weight training may help your ballet. If you weight train like a serious body builder, it’s highly likely that it will harm your ballet. My advice is always if you feel like doing some activity in addition to ballet, by all means go ahead and do it. But do it because you want to do it and not because you think it’s going to make you better at ballet. You get better at ballet by doing ballet.

 

Assuming you are going to weight train, as with all weight training I think it’s best to work the body as a whole. Beyond that you need to do what you feel works best for you. I don’t think there are really any rules. In my own exercise program, I’ve done low weights and high reps as well as high weights with single reps and everything in between. Personally, I like frequent changes in routines and work loads. And my priority is dance, so if there is even any hint of overworking weights or taking too much time with weights so I can’t do other more specific dancy type exercises, the weight work decreases right away.

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I also want to add, that I think it really depends on the individual whether you bulk up or not. When I was weight lifting in my youth, shortly after I stopped my flexibility improved in my dance classes. I also lost weight (I guess I loss some muscle) but I was smaller in body size once I stopped lifting. I have to say I never stretched outside of class then so perhaps if I stretched then I could have continued weightlifting. However I had no need to because taking dance was giving me all the benefit and more. I cross trained with swimming and later on jogging.

 

I have found whenever I do a weight training program I DO bulk up, and I'm female! I think I just have the type of body that builds muscle very easily. In just a week I will see a difference (which is why I don't do it anymore). Obviously some women can bulk up because there are women body builders who do it without steroids. If you get to a low body fat % and are lifting then it could happen. There are also some men who have to train a LOT to build muscle.

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It's difficult to discuss "bulking up," because much of it is also subjective: one person's bulking up is another's filling out. Women have 1/10th the testosterone levels that men do, and they won't get as grotesquely muscular as dedicated male bodybuilders. You also won't build muscle if you don't eat enough (and it takes a lot of eating), so it does take quite an effort to build large muscles. Cultural norms being what they are today, I hesitate to guess what people mean when they say "bulk up."

 

That said, whether you should weightlift or not depends on your goals and experience. You mentioned some aesthetic goals, and it's difficult to assess those things without seeing you in person, so I would work with someone local to you for those kinds of goals. Whether it will hurt or help your ballet depends on many things, but if you are a beginner, your time is best spent accumulating more ballet technique. Eventually, you will be able to figure out whether you need to do any assistance exercises or activities on your own. Many pro dancers do weightlift, but they do it for very specific reasons, much like pro athletes and their weightlifting regimes.

 

Basically, if you have to ask the question, then the answer is no.

 

--Andre

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Oh my gosh! After dance class tonight I went to Walmart and bought two 5 pound weights, thinking I need to do more strength training (I currently do turn-out exercises with two 2.5 pound weights). I am so glad this is a new topic!

Is it just me or has anyone else seen old footage of Baryshnikov (or other male ballet dancers of the '70's and '80's) doing jumps and other ballet-oriented things with weights on their lower legs??????

Does anyone know of any ballet-specific leg exercises one can do with weights to help increase strength and stability? I guess I'm really asking for help with center combinations like petit allegro because sometimes my legs feel so heavy (or maybe I'm lacking in strength so much!) that I am unable to move quickly.

Thanks!

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Is it just me or has anyone else seen old footage of Baryshnikov (or other male ballet dancers of the '70's and '80's) doing jumps and other ballet-oriented things with weights on their lower legs??????

 

Not one of the great ideas of classical ballet. You'll notice nobody much is doing that now. It was a fad borrowed from martial arts via Bruce Lee's films.

 

Does anyone know of any ballet-specific leg exercises one can do with weights to help increase strength and stability? I guess I'm really asking for help with center combinations like petit allegro because sometimes my legs feel so heavy (or maybe I'm lacking in strength so much!) that I am unable to move quickly.

Thanks!

 

Work your feet, ankles, and legs more completely in tendus and degagés. Weights are not necessary.

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I totally agree with Mel. The muscles you use in dance for stability are the small muscles in the legs and torso. Weight training works primarily the big muscles. Petit allegro is a tremendous exercise for developing quickness and lightness in your jumping. And how do you develop your lightness and quickness in petit allegro? Remember training is specific—you get better at petit allegro by doing a lot of petit allegro.

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Might I add an addendum to Garyecht?

 

You get better at petit allegro by doing a lot of petit allegro - CORRECTLY.

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I still work out in addition to my 4 ballet classes per week (I'd been working out for years before taking ballet). I do a combination of cardio and weights, but I only use 3 lb. weights. Most of the weight I use, involve doing exercises that use the weight of your own body, like tons squats and lunges, and pushups - the legwork sometimes with the weights in hand, sometimes without. Of course everyone's body reacts differently but this has provided incredible results for me.

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