Every dancer dreams of toned legs and a steel core. But are dancers even supposed to lift weights?
It can be extremely scary to add weights into your ballet training because you will be told your legs will become bulky. But in my experience, that's just not true! In fact, adding weights can help you burn fat and become smaller, but muscular.
To strengthen your ankles, you should be using ankle weights. Using ankle weights while doing barre exercises will strengthen your ankles and increase your mobility in your joints. Stretching, warming your muscles, and adding weights will improve your overall range of motion in your ankles.
This can also prevent injury. Before rehearsals, you should be using ankle weights to do warm-up exercises, and you should be massaging your joints, rolling your ankles out, and rolling your arch with a ball. Tennis balls work great for this!
Do you ever have those "off" days? The days when you feel uncentered and out of balance? Weights will help with this because it forces you to find that equal center in your body. If you are working on improving your turns, using plate weights can be extremely beneficial. Start with releves in each position at the barre and slowly work yourself up to not using the barre as support.
Once you are able to hold yourself without the barre, try holding a plate weight above your head. Aligning the weight above your head will help you find your center. Plate weights come in many different pounds, including from 2.5 lbs to 45 lbs.
If you are interested in going to the gym and using gym equipment and machines to strengthen yourself, listen up! Leg workouts will give you legs of steel, and they even help your core. Squats, Romanian deadlifts, leg press, and calve extensions will benefit you instantly. Squats and leg press will work your entire leg: quads, hamstrings, and calves. Romanian deadlifts will help your core and your butt.
Believe it or not, you must have strong glutes to be able to move your body the way dancers do. Calve extensions will not only improve your releve, but it will also improve the height of your leaps and jumps.
Core workouts and isolated ab workouts will help you learn how to engage and disengage your core.
Adding weights into your dancing technique can sound extremely intimidating, but it is the best way to improve, and it will also prevent injuries. Ankle weights, leg exercises, core workouts, and stretching can improve your overall flexibility, too!
After all, dancers are athletes, too. Why not train like one at the gym?
Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.