A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone caused by overuse from high impact sports. Studies show that athletes participating in tennis, track and field, gymnastics, dance, and basketball are at high risk for stress fractures. In all of these sports, the repeated stress of the foot striking the ground can cause problems. Most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg. When muscles are overtired, they are no longer able to lessen the shock of repeated impacts. When this happens, the muscles transfer the stress to the bones. This can create small cracks or fractures. The key way to heal a stress fracture is to rest the injured area. When recovering, it is important to take everything at a slow pace.
Knock Knees – This is where the individual’s knees face inward. It is hard or not possible for their heels to touch when their knees are touching in a normal parallel position. A person with knock knees is more likely to have issues with pronation. These dancers have to think hard about their weight being over the center of their foot and also pay close attention to getting the knees over the toes in the plie position.
Bow Legs – This happens when a person’s knees do not touch when their heel can. With this issue, the dancer’s weight goes over the outside of their foot, so they have to be careful not to roll their ankle. There is a good side to this one in that their legs most of the time look more turned out than you are.
Hyper-extended knees – These are knees that seem to bend backward or “over straighten”. This type if knee is favored in ballet because it makes each line look beautiful. These type of knees are very prone to injury because they tend to be weak. It is important to strengthen the thighs and quads to support the knees.
Hypo-extended Knees – This type of knee will not straighten no matter how hard the dancer tries. This knee is undesirable for dancers, but putting the body at slightly different angles can help to compensate for the disadvantage of their knee structure.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to change the shape of your knees, so it is important to learn how to dance with what you’ve got.
Dancers strive to have great turnout, which is the outward rotation of the hips to get their feet in as close of a straight line as possible. This goal is reached through a mix of hard work and just whether or not you body is built that way. There are many muscles in the hip that can help to gain better turnout.
The largest, most obvious muscle is the buttocks, which includes the large gluteal muscles such as hip extenders and external rotators. These muscles are in charge of bigger movements including lifting the leg to an arabesque position. The muscles in charge of turnout are the deep lateral rotators, which are small and burried under the gluteus maximus. There are six lateral rotator muscles, which are attached to different parts of the pelvis. They all then run laterally, joining the back of the hip joint capsule and the
ischiofemoral ligament. They all attach on or next to the greater trochanter of the femur. In addition to the six lateral rotators and the gluteus maximus, there are more muscles around the hip that also contribute to external rotation. The sartorius is an external rotator (hip flexor) that is thought to be particularly active when the hip is flexed inpositions such as a passé or front attitude. The adductor muscles on the inner thigh may contribute to external rotation as well. Straightening the legs from the bottom of plié is a good example of using adductors in outward rotation. The function of all six deep rotator muscles is to laterally rotate or turn out the leg, relative to the pelvis. It is hard for a dancer to isolate these particular muscles, which is why it is so difficult to attain flawless technique.
The majority of turnout comes from the hip joint, but there is also a bit that comes from the knee and the ankle. The maximum capacity of a dancers’ turnout comes from their personal strength and flexibility in the joints and muscles in these three areas of importance.
If an injury occurs, it is devastating. Depending on the timing and how severe the injury is, the dancer may be out for a couple weeks of classes, a show, or may be asked to leave the company. People say that injury is the life of a dancer, but this does not have to be the case. If the dancer educates him or herself on correct technique and training, some of the injuries could be prevented. Dancers in general need to increase their knowledge on anatomy and how it works. A dancer can do this by…
1. Having a deeper understanding of movement patterns – A basic understanding of human anatomy allows the dancer a different perspective in understanding movement patterns and where they come from, giving the dancer . This will allow the dancer to be more connected with their body and they may also feel a much deeper experience in the process.
2. Knowing their Personal Idiosyncrasies – Dancers need to know their own bodies and how they respond to training. No one is created the same, so no one’s bodies will respond the exact same.
3. Empowering in body transformation – Dancers can be motivated to becoming better at particular movements by gaining strength in weaker muscles. In the end, this will help the dancer in their overall performance.
4. Understanding Personal Responsibility – A dancer needs to acknowledge their weaknesses, so they do not push themselves past the limit of safety.
5. Developing Conditioning Programs – It is important to condition your body to create maximum range, balance, and strength to complete not only ballet moves, but contemporary movement as well.
6. Doing a Full Rehabilitation when injury does occur – It is important to let your body rest when an injury does occur, otherwise the healing process will not be able to occur.
A dancer can train for hours and hours each day, but without a proper diet their bodies will never be able to perform to its fullest potential.
A dancer needs to make sure they are taking in enough calories for their body. About 50 calories per kilogram of body weight is a good estimate. Not enough calories will compromise energy.
A dancer’s diet should consist of 55-60 percent carbohydrates. The reason that this is such a large percentage is that energy in the muscles comes primarily from carbs. Dancers who do not eat a sufficient amount of carbohydrates in their diet will compromise their training ability because their muscle glycogen levels will be low. Complex carbohydrates, such as bagels, cereal, bread, english muffins, pasta, and rice a good food to receive carbs from. The active body needs around 6-10 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. It is great to eat carbohydrates 1-2 hours before dancing and right after you stop dancing.
Fat provides the structure for all cell membranes, comprises the insulating layer around nerves, forms the base of many hormones, is needed for the absorption of vitamins, and is an important fuel for muscles. Fats should be around 10 percent (around 1.2 grams per kilogram) of your diet intake. To much or too little can be bad. Fatty acids are a source of energy, but to much saturated fats can cause diseases.
Protein is needed to repair the breakdown of muscle fibers. 1.4-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is a good amount for an active person. Chicken and turkey are great sources of protein. Protein powders are not necessary for male or female dancers.
Micro nutrients include vitamins and minerals. All of these help to repair blood cells and muscles. Calcium is a macromineral and is very important for bone growth. Low bone mass and low calcium intake creates a large risk for stress fractures. Iron is also very important in transporting oxygen throughout the body. Dancers should be cautious about taking vitamin and mineral supplements. It is always better to get these nutrients through healthy food.
During hard classes or long rehearsals, a dancer can lose up to 2 liters of water through sweat. This is why it is important to drink about one cup of water every 15 minutes while exercising.
“Consuming the right amounts and types of food and fluid will provide the body with “high performance fuel” necessary to achieve optimal training benefits and peak performance.”
Although cross-training is a very helpful way to excel, and individual need to be careful choosing cross-training plan, in order to ensure that they are helpful and not hindering. Working out could make one more prone to injury instead of preventing it, if the extra training puts stress on the bones, muscles , and tendons that are already being used frequently. For dancers, it is important to not put extra stress of the feet, hips and lower back. Strengthening the core would have the best results with helping a dancer make improvements.
Pilates and Yoga
Both Pilates and yoga help to strengthen muscles, while keeping them elongated. They will give you a strong core and stability. A strong core will not only improve technique, it will reduce stress on the lower back and improve spinal alignment. Pilates and yoga will help a dancer find the weaker muscles of their body and help strengthen those parts.
Swimming is great because it allows the joints to move without the effects of gravity. Because there are many strokes to chose from, dancers with any body type can benefit from swimming. Dancers with tight upper bodies for example should do backstroke, which stretches out the shoulders.
Skiing is a good cardiovascular workout and is especially good for ballet dancers because skiing uses the parallel position.
Biking is good to build up strength in the thighs and glutes. Dancers should use a lower resistance while riding so their muscles do not become bulky.
Running is not good for dancers because of the constant pounding on the joints. Two better alternatives would be a brisk walk or using the elliptical.
Weight lifting is a great way to build up strength. Dancers do not want bulky muscles, so it is suggested to complete less reps with a heavier weights to see great results.
Cross-training helps athletes stay fit and have diverse training. This allows the athlete to gain strength in other areas of the body and prevent injury. This may seem surprising that doing more exercise would prevent injury, but balanced training leads to success. Cross-training strengthens different muscle groups, allows strained muscles to rest, helps to develop and train new skills, and improves form. A good cross training plan includes cardio, strength and flexibility training. It is most beneficial to workout the areas of the body that do not receive as much stress during workouts for the individual’s particular sport.