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Straight From a Seasoned Dancer: Prevent Injury and Cross Train!

12/24/14 4:47 PM
I have been a Highland Dancer for over 20 years and have only experienced three injuries during my career. All of these injuries were over use injuries - achilles tendonitis, stress fracture in my foot and a calf strain. No matter what type of dancing you may do, it is important to take care of your body.

What is an over use injury?
  • They are injuries that occur over time.
  • They are a result of repetitive micro-trauma to tendon, bones, ligaments and joints (ouch!)
  • They can happen when you first begin a sport or activity - or even when you do too much, too soon.
  • They can also result from improper technique.
  • With exercise or activity, muscles & tendons get stronger. This happens through the breakdown and build up of tissue. If too much breakdown is happening in comparison to the amount of rebuilding, these type of injuries can occur.

Dancers can prevent this from happening....

There are usually a few times throughout the year that a dancer may take a week or two off for various reasons - vacation, holiday, illness, etc. It is important to remember to ease back into classes or practice when you return. You can even try some strengthening exercises during your holiday when you are not dancing!

These strengthening exercises should use the same muscles you need in dancing, but work them in a different way. When you complete strengthening exercises it helps to keep you in shape and even strengthens your muscles for when you return to class or practice.  This concept is known as cross training...

What is Cross Training and Why is it Important for Dancers?
  • Cross Training is an exercise routine that uses several different activities, which varies your exercise routine
  • Cross Training uses the same muscles in different ways. This helps to strengthen those muscles even more.
  • Cross Training helps to reduce injuries while also maintaining and increasing strength and performance in the activity of choice.

As a dancer it is importance to work on endurance, leg/core/shoulder/upper back strength and flexibility outside of your dance classes and practices...

So instead of dancing 4-6 times a week, try to take a day or two off from dancing and try some cross training! You can work on strengthening, flexibility and endurance during cross training.


Give these endurance exercises a try...

  • Biking
  • Elliptical
  • Jogging

Leg strengthening:

  • Squats, single leg squats
  • Jump Squats 
  • Single leg dead lift
  • Single left calf raises
  • Lunges

Core Strength:

  • Planks
  • Side PLanks
  • Mountain Climbers

Shoulders/Upper Back:

  • Plank step-ups
  • Rows
  • Push-ups

As always - don't forget to stretch!

I know many times you may be rushing out of dance class for other activities or homework, but don’t forget about STRETCHING! Stretching is important to do to help keep your muscles flexible and work more effectively. I personally neglected to stretch enough a few years ago which is one reason why I strained my calf. As dancers it is important to remain flexible and as we get stronger many times our muscles “tighten” up, so stretch, stretch, stretch!


Have a question about an overuse injury or about cross training as a dancer? Feel free to 
contact Laura. She will be happy to answer your questions, or even perform a Free Injury Assessment.


Written by Laura Donlan.

Laura Donlan, PT is contributing author to our blog. She has been a Highland Dancer for over 20 years and specializes in treating dancers - getting them back to their sport!

Topics: pain, exercises, stretching