Resistance training is essential for facilitating muscular development and fostering strength gains in young dancers. Rapid growth periods during adolescence can lead to reduced strength, impaired balance, and decreased flexibility, which can alter technical ability and increase the risk of injury . Thus, it is recommended to start strength training before puberty to reduce the risk of injury and promote strength gains.
Muscular development in adolescents:
Peak gains in strength typically occur one year after peak height velocity is reached. Late maturers may gain strength later and may not obtain peak strength until their 20s or30s. Differences in hormone levels account for differences in strength gains between boys and girls. Testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factors account for increased muscle bulk and accelerated strength in boys. Increased muscle mass typically proceeds strength gains .
Key aspects to developing a strength program:
It is important to target areas of individual weakness when designing a strength program. Pelvic stabilization,, gluteal, and abdominal strengthening are keys to improving neuromuscular control of the lower extremities. A progressive resistance program can increase muscular strength/endurance in as little as 6 to 8 weeks (Stalder, M). Most programs require 2 to 3 days of resistance training per week to see strength gains. Performing high repetitions with lower weight will target muscle endurance, whereas performing fewer repetitions with higher weight will target muscle strength. It is essential to have adequate supervision by a healthcare professional during training to ensure proper progression of training loads and correct technique to avoid injury .
Benefits of strength training:
1) Delegete, A. Health Considerations for the Adolescent Dancer. A webinar through the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. Accessed September 23, 2018.
2) Haff, Gregory G. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning 4th Edition 2016. Pages 144-145. (https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ocw/pluginfile.php/617068/mod_resource/content/1/e217_1_excf223_nsca_chapter7_p144_145.pdf)
3) Stalder, M. A., Noble, B. J., & Wilkinson, J. G. (1990). The effects of supplemental weight training for ballet dancers. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 4(3), 95-102.
4) Stracciolini, A., Hanson, E., Kiefer, A. W., Myer, G. D., & Faigenbaum, A. D. (2016). Resistance training for pediatric female dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 20(2), 64-71.