Cross-Training for Dancers By Dr. Kathryn Toteroh

November 18, 2020 1:12 pm / Category: Dana Point

Hi, it’s Kathryn, the dancing PT. Today’s blog is about the benefits of cross-training for dancers.

Education about dancer safety and health has improved greatly over the last few years, but one topic that still seems to be shunned by some instructors is the idea of cross-training. There are many myths/misconceptions surrounding the topic. Some examples I have heard over the years include:

  • Cross-training not only undoes the technique training that students work hard on, but it also causes bulky muscles.
  • Cross-training takes up too much of the student’s time and is unnecessary.

I, however, believe dancers should cross-train to reduce the risk of injury.

Continuous training in one area can cause muscle imbalance, leading to many types of injuries. Examples of overused muscle groups for dancers include hip flexors (kicks), external rotators (turn out), adductors and quads (straight knees), spine extensors (straight back), and plantar flexors (point your feet!). While these are all necessary for correct technique and line, ignoring their counterparts lead to mechanical issues and injury further down the road.

Often dancers present to therapy with a combination of anterior pelvic tilt, increased lumbar lordosis, flat thoracic spine, knee hyperextension and valgus, and limited ankle dorsiflexion ROM. For those of you not fluent in biomechanics and anatomy, let’s break it down. Have you ever noticed that you get a pinching sensation in the front of your hip or low back with certain movements, knee pain with jumping or turning, back pain at the end of a long class, or tripping over your feet when you are not dancing? These are all signs of muscle imbalance and the start of an injury.

This is where cross-training comes into play. Light resistance training of opposing muscle groups will decrease your risk of muscle imbalance and increase dynamic strength to make you a more powerful dancer overall! I recommend Pilates to dancers as an effective cross-training program 1-2 hours a week, working both in parallel and rotation. Pilates was designed with dancers in mind. It helps build strong lean muscles and most importantly has proven to help prolong the healthy dancer body.

As always, if you are experiencing any pain with movement, check in with your physical therapist. They can get you back on your feet safely, quickly, and help prevent lasting damage.


Dr. Kathryn Toteroh

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