The Dos and Don'ts of Cross-Training

Cross-training is a hot topic. What should you do? What shouldn’t you do? Exercising outside the studio can improve your overall fitness, but be careful to pick workouts that will benefit your dancing without building bulky muscles or putting you at risk for injury. Read on to see what kinds of cross-training experts recommend for dancers.

Pilates

For strong technique, you need a strong core, and basic Pilates exercises will give you this stability. “Strengthening your core reduces stress on your lower back and improves spinal and pelvic alignment,” says Tara Hench-Berdo, Pilates instructor and owner of Body-N-Mind Pilates Studio in Carlisle, PA. “It helps your arms and legs move with ease, which will translate into your dancing.” As you gain more limb mobility during your workout routine, you’ll have better extension and a freer movement quality. Pilates also helps you determine which parts of your body are weak, tight or overstretched. Because the exercises target specific muscles and joints, they make you more aware of your body so you can work to prevent future injuries.

Yoga

Yoga will help strengthen and elongate your muscles. Its focus on the intrinsic muscles of the feet is especially good for tappers. “Tap dancers have so much stability in their core, hips and thighs, but their lower legs have to be loose and agile,” says Michelle Rodriguez, physical therapist and founder of the Manhattan Physio Group. “It would benefit them to be in an environment where they have to be barefoot and working on their balance, using their feet more.”

Swimming

“Swimming is amazing because of the tremendous amount of decompression that happens when you’re in the water,” Rodriguez says. “It allows you to move your joints without the effects of gravity.” Because there are so many different strokes to choose from, dancers with tight upper bodies don’t have to shy away from the pool. Try doing the backstroke to stretch the front of your chest and strengthen the back of your torso and shoulders. (The breaststroke is confining and will make your chest tighter, though it does offer great benefits for hips and legs.) For a cardio workout, run underwater or tread water in the deep end to get your heart rate up without creating joint pressure like pavement running.

Skiing

Cross-country skiing builds cardiovascular strength and is good for working in a parallel position. “Ballet dancers tend to think they need to be turned out all the time, but that’s not true,” Hench-Berdo says. “It’s good to work in parallel, or even turned in. Turning out all the time can overstretch the hips and make them weak from overuse.” Downhill skiing is also good for strengthening internal rotation. But remember, a small crash on the slopes can sideline your dance career, so suit up with a helmet and all the necessary safety gear.

Biking

Biking is ideal if you want to strengthen your quads and glutes, but dancers should ride at a lower resistance to prevent bulking up their thighs and legs. Rodriguez recommends sitting upright rather than riding a road or racing bike, because leaning forward on handles for a long period of time shortens the muscles in front of the hips. “Work on maintaining a nice upright posture and breathing,” she says.

Running

Running, particularly long-distance running, is not great for dancers because of the constant pounding on your joints. “If you’re looking to do something that complements your overall fitness or improves your recovery time, running is not ideal,” Rodriguez says. Try going for a brisk walk outside instead. “On a treadmill, the ground you’re walking on is moving, so the mechanics in your body are different than when you’re out on the street going for a walk,” she says. Plus, you’ll get all the benefits of sunlight and vitamin D. After being cooped up in the studio for hours, your body will crave the fresh air.

Elliptical

If you’re looking for a good alternative to running, try the elliptical machine, which will give you a solid cardiovascular workout without the high impact. “You’re in a parallel environment and you can vary the grade,” Rodriguez says. “The machine can be flat or inclined and you can increase the resistance.” If you’re on a machine without handles that move, work on your balance by not holding onto the sides. “Swing your arms as if you were jogging,” Rodriguez suggests.

Strength Training (Weight Lifting)

Weight lifting is a great way to build strength. “There are a lot of misconceptions about weight training,” says Emery Hill, athletic trainer at Houston Ballet. “People think that if you lift weights, you’ll get big musculature. But it can be very beneficial as far as being able to lift or be lifted, or to hold your position, because you have more basic strength.” If you’re lifting to get strong, lift a heavier weight with fewer repetitions—more reps with a lesser weight will build bulk. Hill recommends doing no more than three sets of 6–8 repetitions of each exercise when you’re off-season or in a rehearsal period. As you get closer to performance time, do just one or two sets of each so you don’t tire your muscles.

StairMaster

It’s possible to overdevelop your calves on the StairMaster, since most people tend to do it on the balls of their feet. Try walking actual flights of stairs instead, Rodriguez suggests. Or, if you’re set on using the machine, keep it on a light resistance setting. “You’ll get cardio work,” Hill says, “but you won’t build up a lot of quad or calf strength.”

When it comes to cross-training, “set specific goals,” Hill says. Break down your schedule into six-week training periods to allow yourself time to accomplish each goal. Working out this way narrows your focus and makes it easier to stay motivated. But know when to limit your cross-training so you don’t burn out. “Getting in that extra hour of exercise could put you over the edge when you’re already taking class, rehearsing all day and performing,” Rodriguez says. Be smart about how you cross-train—your dancing will reap the rewards.

Extra Tips

Wear supportive shoes when you're walking, running or working out at the gum. A good pair will correct imbalances and keep you stable.

Be aware of your alignment, especially in parallel positions. Always keep your knees in front of your hips and directly over your toes.

Cross-train your body in a way that complements your style of dance. If you're turned out all day, work on staying parallel. If you don't usually lift other dancers, strengthen your upper body with weights and swimming.

Do everything in moderation. Cross-training should create a good sense of symmetry and balance i your body to help prevent injury.

Health & Body
Kendra Oyesanya, Marcus Mitchell, and Carlito Olivero (courtesy YouTube/Lionsgate)

Happy "Step Up: High Water" eve, y'all! Everyone's favorite internet dance show makes its triumphant Season 2 return tomorrow, March 20th, on YouTube. In anticipation of the premiere, we turned to Kendra Oyesanya (Poppy), Marcus Mitchell (Dondre), and Carlito Olivero (Davis) for the scoop on all things "Step Up"—from on-set shenanigans, to embarrassing stories, to scenes to watch out for this season (hint: Episode 2's dance battle, and the season finale's final number!).

Keep Reading Show less
Dance News
Rochelle Mendoza-Axle, Courtesy Stiskin

In today's dance world, versatility is key. It's not enough to be a master of one style—even when they specialize in one area, dancers are frequently asked to fuse multiple genres, or step out of their comfort zone for specific projects. With their wide variety of summer programs, Joffrey Ballet School aims to prepare dancers for the demands of a professional career. We asked five faculty members to share how they do this:

Keep Reading Show less
Sponsored by Joffrey Ballet School
The cast of "Oklahoma!" during last year's run at St. Ann's Warehouse (Teddy Wolff, courtesy DKC/O&M)

You may think you know Oklahoma!, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that made history when it first opened in 1943 and is best known for Agnes de Mille's groundbreaking dream ballet. But the latest Broadway iteration of the musical isn't your average trip to the frontier. Opening April 7, the revival features new choreography by Mark Morris alum John Heginbotham, and swaps the traditional windswept-prairie set and full orchestra for an intimate, minimalistic staging and a bluegrass band. Coming fresh off an acclaimed run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, the daring, unconventional production is sure to turn heads when it begins previews on Broadway tonight. Dance Spirit caught up with Heginbotham to get all the details on the dancing, and what it was like choreographing his first Broadway show.

Keep Reading Show less
BLACKPINK has worked with A-list choreographers, including Kyle Hanagami and Parris Goebel.

K-pop is in the middle of a stateside takeover. South Korea's boy bands and girl groups can always be counted on to produce catchy, upbeat songs—and, most importantly for us dance fans, to feature colorful choreography prominently in their music videos. Over the past few years, the K-pop machine has been churning out a seemingly endless stream of talented groups with choreography worth watching on repeat, and some of them are starting to make names for themselves in the U.S. Check out our list of the dancetastic K-pop bands you need to know.

Keep Reading Show less
Commercial
Briar Nolet did NOT come to play. (NBC)

Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.

Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.

Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV
American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher (left) meeting with Bloch owner David Fox (right) in NYC. (Marius Bugge for Bloch)

For professional ballet dancers, the search for the perfect pointe shoe is a lifelong quest. Even the smallest adjustment in manufacturing can make the difference between a shoe that allows a ballerina to soar and a shoe that detracts from her dancing. So what goes into creating the perfect fit? A lot of hard work, patience, and masterful attention to detail. We got the inside scoop on how a Bloch pointe shoe is made from beginning to end, and went inside one of American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher's touch-up fittings with Bloch owner David Fox in NYC.

Keep Reading Show less
Ballet
Martina Sandionigi as Giselle

We updated your favorite story-ballet tutus with modern details that'll please any 21st-century prima ballerina. Who needs a cavalier, anyway?

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Fashion
Photo by Samantha Little

It's the fall of 2018. As the Brigham Young University Cougarettes step onto the field at LaVell Edwards stadium in Provo, UT, a crowd of nearly 64 thousand erupts into cheers. The dancers take their places, and a feeling of anticipation hangs in the air: Their reputation precedes them.

The music—Ciara's banger "Level Up"—begins, and unbelievable precision ensues. Eighteen dancers attack the highly technical choreography, which nods at viral social-dance sensations and continuously builds in energy. The school's mascot, Cosmo the Cougar, joins the team on the field, and the audience goes wild. As the piece ends, the sound in the stadium is deafening. The 16-time national-title-winning group has proved once again why they're the standard for college dance team success—they're just that good.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Team
The ultimate dance mom: Debbie Allen with her daughter, Vivian Nixon (courtesy Nixon)

Dance moms: Where would we be without them? We all know how much support and help they give us—in addition to loads of love. Here are 10 reasons real-life dance moms are undeniably the best.

Keep Reading Show less
Dancer to Dancer
BLACKPINK has worked with A-list choreographers, including Kyle Hanagami and Parris Goebel.

K-pop is in the middle of a stateside takeover. South Korea's boy bands and girl groups can always be counted on to produce catchy, upbeat songs—and, most importantly for us dance fans, to feature colorful choreography prominently in their music videos. Over the past few years, the K-pop machine has been churning out a seemingly endless stream of talented groups with choreography worth watching on repeat, and some of them are starting to make names for themselves in the U.S. Check out our list of the dancetastic K-pop bands you need to know.

Keep Reading Show less
Commercial
Briar Nolet did NOT come to play. (NBC)

Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.

Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.

Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV
Paloma Garcia-Lee (center, in gold) and the cast of "Fosse/Verdon" (FX)

The extraordinary Paloma Garcia-Lee, who's danced in no fewer than five Broadway shows, can adapt to any choreographer's style. And before heading back to Broadway this spring in Moulin Rouge! (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh), she's tackling the work of one of the most iconic choreographers of all time: Bob Fosse.

Garcia-Lee plays Adrienne in the new FX limited series "Fosse/Verdon," premiering April 9, which follows the romantic and creative relationship of Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and his muse Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Steve Levenson, and Andy Blankenbuehler serve as executive producers, with Kail directing and Blankenbuehler choreographing.

With the exception of performing on The Tony Awards, "Fosse/Verdon" marks Garcia-Lee's TV debut. "I'm really setting my sights on more on-camera work," she says. "Getting the chance to flex my muscles as an actress in this different medium, but still have the dance part, is all really exciting." (She's got real acting chops, too: While a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she actually quit dance briefly to study acting instead.)

Dance Spirit spoke to Garcia-Lee about "Fosse/Verdon"'s epic final callback, how she got cast, and the transition from stage to screen.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV
Delgado in George Balanchine's "Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2" (Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Miami City Ballet)

Miami City Ballet principal Jeanette Delgado's dynamic, show-stopping presence and powerful, crisp technique have been wowing audiences for well over a decade. A Miami, FL, native, Delgado began training with Vivian Tobio, Liana Navarro, and Maria Victoria Gutierrez. At age 9, she received a scholarship to Miami City Ballet School and, in 2003, she earned the Princess Grace Award. That same year, Delgado became an apprentice with Miami City Ballet. In 2004 she was promoted to the corps, and in 2006 to soloist. She became a principal dancer in 2008. Catch her this month performing in the company's spring program. —Courtney Bowers

Keep Reading Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways