Wearing ankle weights at the barre or in center is not cross-training.
Balancing on a bosu ball in passé while you do a développé in each direction while stretching a resistance band is not cross-training.
Holding an arabesque while doing something that resembles choreography with your arms with pink dumbbells in your hands is not cross-training.
Here’s a hint: If your cross-training looks like ballet…it’s not cross-training. It’s doing ballet…with weights.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of lifting weights. Adding weight training to your exercise routine has a tremendous potential to help you level up...when done right. But when used in the wrong way, weights also have the ability to break your body down and cause unnecessary damage, potentially increasing your chances of sustaining an injury.
Now, it’s not that you can’t get any benefits out of adding resistance to your ballet moves. Any time you overload a system it can create an adaptive response that helps your body get better at what it’s doing. But let’s not call that cross-training. You’re still doing ballet…you’ve just added weights. And because you’re still doing ballet - pushing your body into unnatural positions that often defy your anatomical structure - but now have added weight and torque behind you, you also have just increased the level of wear and tear on your body and likewise your chances of getting injured.
The whole point behind “cross-training” is to train differently from the main sport you are involved in. This allows you to level up and improve your strength/conditioning/stamina/etc while giving your body a rest from its usual activity. Any kind of repetitive motion can eventually lead to problems as even simple moves can put strain on bone, muscle and joint structures when compounded over time. As dancers, we deal with so much repetition already. That’s why it’s vital that your cross-training doesn’t add to that.
Be careful. Social media can hold a powerful influence over you in this area as you are bombarded with pictures & videos of dancers doing “cross-training” in beautiful ballet positions. It makes matters even harder to ignore when the dancers are well-known and part of big companies you recognize and envy. But here’s the thing, this type of training might get you results for a while, but it also might lead you to burn out faster, or worse, sustain an injury.
Before you jump on board and strap those ankle weights on at barre…think about this. Why is this type of ballet-with-weights “cross-training” plastered all over social media right now? Because it’s beautiful. Because it’s exactly what you want to see. Because it’s the ballet “porn” that you drool over. Because it’s the stuff you go on Instagram for and get lost scrolling through for hours. You’re a dancer, and you want to see people dancing…there’s nothing wrong with that.
But the people posting this stuff also know that – they know it’s exactly what gets eyes on them (a.k.a. “likes”). But that has NOTHING to do with whether or not it is actually a legit form of cross-training that will help you level up and feel invincible in your ballet. Yes, this person looks pretty doing their cross-training. But does that mean it is actually effective? F*ck no! Now, whether it’s someone who doesn’t know any better and just feels compelled to follow the trends or an educated fitness professional who is broadcasting this type of training to get popular, things need to be cleared up here before someone gets hurt and cuts her dance career short.
So, let’s all stop kidding around and fooling ourselves and call it what it really is:
- Sure, you look amazing balancing on that bosu ball in a perfectly turned out passé.
- Sure, that’s a nice feat to be able to extend your leg up to your ear with ankle weights on.
- Sure, your arabesque line looks drool-worthy while you pump away with those 2-pound dumbbells in your hands.
It all looks so pretty and entertaining. There’s no denying it does take talent and work to do this stuff. I would never want to take away from that. And, I’m sure you’ll get a lot of likes for it – after all, you are a dancer doing what you do best. Results from this type of “cross-training” on the other hand…that’s a different story.
Rant mode: out.
For more on this topic and to find out what your cross-training should actually look like, check out this previous blog post: