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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Gym training for teen dancers?


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My son is 13 and has been dancing since he was 8. His new teacher wants him to work on core strength, flexibility, and cardio in the gym. He is strong, but I agree that he can improve because in our new location he isn't able to get the same number of training hours as he has previously had. However, I don't want to push him too far because he hasn't completed puberty/major growth spurt yet (he is about 5'1" now). We will be hiring a personal trainer. The trainer understands how to enhance core and flexibility, but he hasn't specifically worked with a dancer before. Any recommendations/advice? Are there any gym programs designed for dancers that I can pass on to the trainer? How many days at the gym is appropriate for this age?



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  • 1 month later...

My DS (who is now 16) does additional strength training most days as far as I know (hard to be exact as he is at vocational school) but primarily focussing on upper body strength, as this is the main area that isn't well served in a normal ballet class, and one which is essential for boys to be able to safely partner without damaging their backs/shoulders etc. I can ask him for a more detailed regime when he is home over the holidays (23rd Dec) if it would help.... I don't think however he did very much at 13- he didn't really start doing any big lifts until at least 14/15...

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At this age, I think general upper-body strength training should be fine. I would say about three days a week--but make sure the trainer understands how to work with a young teen, and that s/he starts slow and builds the schedule gradually. When he starts pas de deux (which should be at about age 15) the requirements start to become more specific.

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If it is in the budget, Pilates and Gyrotonic on the proper machines with a certified teacher is amazing for dancers--especially young men.

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At 13 and 14, my son's teacher was frequently critical of my son's upper body strength. She asked him to work with weights, which my son did a little bit, but I think it just didn't feel very natural to him so he avoided it. At 14.5 years old, puberty kicked in, and his upper body suddenly began filling out. By his 15th birthday, his chest/arms/abs had a lot of curved definition and lifting weights was now a meaningful activity that he loves doing a few times a week. He's been 15 for a few months now, and he successfully did a couple of full presses in a Nutcracker pas de deux last week. k.

I think his teacher was just being impatient with his personal growth timetable. I have to admit, I was getting a bit impatient too when I saw kids his age that were stronger. But, I guess you can't rush puberty. When his body was ready for it, the strength naturally came.

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Couldn't agree more slhogan! The ballet world is often impatient for our boys to become men. Our male teacher recommends push ups in various forms and postures (including upside down against a wall) as he says this uses similar muscles to many serious lifts. He says for the 13-14 yo boys to do small batches through the day- morning, after school etc. DS seems ok with that because he can count them and gradually do more and more.

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The ballet world is often impatient for our boys to become men.


Wow! You really hit the nail on the head with that one! It seems like at 12-14, the young ladies are developing their beautiful pointe skills while the boys are sort of just hanging around waiting for puberty to take them to the next level.

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one thing a past teacher said about boys is that until puberty arrives, they really 'just' need to work on their technique. She said that until the muscles form (the timing of which is out of our control!)there is no point trying to do lifts and big jumps. She said that it is a waiting game so it should be all about good technique (and trying to keep them motivated at times) until then.

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It doesn't mean I like to wait...... I see DS frustration with himself when he inevitably compares himself to other young men in the program for whom puberty has come.

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It is true that boys develop later than girls do, and teachers need to be aware of that. In terms of strength training, it can be beneficial even if a boy has not yet reached puberty IF the trainer knows what s/he is doing. Regarding lifts...muscles are only part of the equation. The other part is the maturity of the boy's joints. There are some 13 and 14 year olds who are very strong, but if you give them big lifts that early, it can damage their growing joints, giving them shoulder and back problems later in life, so teachers need to be aware of that as well.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for the feedback. My son has been working with a trainer two days a week for endurance and strength. His trainer works with teens, but doesn't have experience with ballet or dancers. I think that it is good cross-training, and his ballet teacher thinks it has helped with his dancing. It also gives him more physical activity because we are limited in the available ballet classes for my son. I agree that it is hard to wait for puberty. My 13.5 year old isn't there yet, so I think that there are limits to expectations at this point. He did do small lifting at his last studio, but none this year because we moved and his new studio isn't ready to teach lifting- which is probably good at this stage.

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