In short, YES! In fact, it might actually decrease a young dancer's risk of overuse injuries. So, let's learn about why cross-training is reducing injuries in young dancers.
Lots of injuries happen due to lack of coordination and body awareness in young dancers.
Around the age of 11, dancers are growing faster than they can adjust to. They essentially wake up in a new body every day and are expected to dance well in that body.
Recent studies have shown when young athletes (including dancers), participate in resistance training, their coordination and development improves, thus decreasing risk of injuries.
Unfortunately, old research made claims to scare parents and kids that early resistance training could overuse muscles and cause problems in later life.
The important thing to remember is that with a fitness program that is:
The program your child is performing is designed by a Certified Personal Trainer who has knowledge in dance, physio with knowledge in dance, or medical professional who also has knowledge in dance.
That your child doesn't wrongfully assume that they've been put on this fitness program to lose weight and fully understands the benefits it could give to their technique.
Your child's training program needs to be AGE APPROPRIATE:
However, these programs must be appropriate to their ages. Children should not be expected to train at the same intensity, frequency, or duration as an adult ballet dancer.
When these expectations are held, it not only will psychologically hurt the child but, it can also lead them into a higher risk category for physical injuries.
What type of resistance training is advised?
When we talk about resistance training and dancers in general, we are not trying to create muscle bulk. We want to address mobility and strength so that the dancer in training may achieve optimal technique results.
When I approach a new dancer, the first thing I do is look at their technique and do a full body movement analysis. This tells me which muscles are weak, tight, where mobility deficits lie, and what their plan is going to look like.
What I most definitely do not do is train dancers to flip tires, do endless burpees, push ups, and dead lift heavy weights. I don't care how much you can lift if it's not functional to the purpose of improving your ballet technique.
My personal preference for training adolescents is either body weight resistance training or actual resistance bands. I rarely like to use heavy weights with younger dancers just because they can get in the way and make coordination difficult.
The take away...
From reading this article, I hope that you've realized a few things:
Your growing dancer cannot possibly be expected to dance without risk in their rapidly growing body.
If your dancer is to participate in cross-training, make sure that the person creating the program is a professional in the field of dance science or medicine.
That the program is age appropriate and no additional pressures are put on your dancer psychologically.
That you and your dancer should not fear overuse injuries caused by cross-training it's actually the opposite.
That your dancer will not become bulky or immobile by strength training if working with the right professional.
If you'd like to start getting a customized plan designed for your dancer to excel, click here and book a private lesson and evaluation with me.
I can even guide your dancer as to what is appropriate for their training level and not within the Veronica K Platform.
At the end of the day, the goal is to stay safe, happy, and healthy in all scenarios!
Research cited from sources below:
Resistance training among young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects
Br J Sports Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 Oct 29.
Published in final edited form as: