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Lift Heavy Things

It's Good for Your Dancing

By Rosemary O'Connell

This spring, my husband and I decided we wanted to try weightlifting as cross-training for our dancing. We did our research, found a routine we liked, and got to it. As a result, over the last three months, both of us have seen a noticeable improvement in our strength, stamina, overall wellbeing, and dancing.

Three days a week, we finish our dance practice with a barbell-lifting strength routine that typically takes between thirty and forty-five minutes. Scheduling it like that and working out together makes it more likely that we'll stick to it. We do the same sets of exercises, though we don't always use the same weights. To push ourselves to grow stronger, each week for five weeks, we bump up the number of repetitions in each set from eight to twelve. At the end of five weeks, we go back to eight repetitions but increase the weight by about ten percent. The weights I'm lifting now were too heavy for me back in May, but the gradual increase in weight means I can lift quite a bit more now.

The increase in strength, which was one of our goals, has made virtually every physical activity we do easier. Carrying and installing our heavy air conditioners this summer was easier than in the past because the weight wasn't as much of a challenge. I've also found that the four flights of stairs I take regularly to get to my office have become easier. In dance, stronger leg muscles make every step easier, as we can drive more efficiently in smooth and standard and have more control over our Cuban motion.

In addition, we have found that lifting has improved our natural posture. We both work at desks for most of the day, so strength training has helped counteract the negative effects desk-work and inactivity can have on the body. We can both now create stronger, more weighted lines in our dancing, and we just feel more confident about our appearance in general.

I would recommend lifting to everybody, dancers and non-dancers alike. I feel healthier, stronger, and more attractive when I'm lifting regularly. I also find it mentally relaxing. I listen to music while lifting, and the only thing I think about is counting. When I find myself getting frustrated that I don't seem to be making any progress in a dance practice, going to lift weights afterwards soothes some of my frustration, partially because I don't think about it and partially because there is always progress being made lifting weights. Every week, I lift more than the previous week, so there is always a sense of accomplishment.

If you're looking for another way to enhance your dancing that also has a multitude of other benefits, weightlifting is worth considering.