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The Importance of Strength Training for Dancers to Prevent Injuries

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Dancers get hurt, and it happens often. Dance movements can require extreme range of motion and flexibility demands. However, working on flexibility without adequately training strength is a recipe for injury. That’s what happened to Xalia back in September.

Xalia is 12 years old and dances with Madill Performing Arts Center, in Duluth, MN. She’s approaching her competition season this February and has ten different routines she’ll be performing. She’s very committed to her training and rehearses all seven days of the week. Dance is a huge part of Xalia’s life. So when she felt a pull while doing a high kick this fall, she got worried.

Xalia dancing

Dancers like Xalia and their families invest a lot of time, energy, and financial resources each season. When an injury threatens or prevents participation in a dance season, it can be devastating. Luckily for Xalia, her mom knew about motivPT and contacted us immediately.

At Xalia’s first visit, Dr. Alex assessed her movement. We do all of our work virtually because you can accurately and effectively test someone’s movement using the camera on your phone or computer. The assessment revealed that Xalia had strained an adductor (or inner thigh) muscle. Her injured leg’s inner thigh strength tested less than 50% compared to her other leg, and straddle stretches increased her pain.

Now, and this is important, dancers (and all people) who strain a muscle SHOULD NOT be trying to stretch that muscle deeply. When a muscle is strained, some small degree of tearing occurs in the muscle fibers—stretching something partially torn does not help rehabilitate that muscle.

So, we modified Xalia’s stretch routine and started with exercises that lightly activated the muscle without causing pain. We progressed to more challenging exercises and began allowing some increased stretching as Xalia recovered. And because Xalia’s mom contacted us so quickly after her initial injury, Xalia’s recovery was quick, and she was back to dancing full out in just a few weeks.

But the story doesn’t end there. Now that Xalia wasn't having any pain, we needed to work on strengthening that muscle to ensure the injury didn't happen again. Xalia kept up with her exercises, and we continued to change and advance them each week. We retested Xalia’s strength and found she’d improved her inner thigh strength to match that of her uninjured leg. We also tested her dynamic hip stability on one leg and found that she’d improved from 1-2 controlled rotations on one leg to over six: this was true on her injured AND uninjured leg. Xalia was gaining strength and control throughout her body, which will help prevent injuries throughout her season.

So she’s continuing. She has fewer minor weekly injuries, she's feeling stronger, and she and Dr. Alex know the areas she needs to continue working on.

When you train seven days per week like Xalia, injuries will happen. But if you’re training strength and control with a professional, you can dramatically reduce those injuries—reducing how often and how severely you get injured. For a young dancer, this could mean making or breaking their season.

We wish Xalia an incredible 2024 season!

If you’re a dancer or the parent of a young dancer, we’d love to work with you to ensure your season goes as safely and strongly as possible. Book a consult to talk with Dr. Alex. Did we mention he’s also a professional dancer?! So he gets it.

At motivPT, we'll get you moving in a healthy way. If you have pain, weakness, or imbalance, consider booking with us for an online Physical Therapy routine customized to fit your individual needs. Book your free 15-minute consult to talk with Dr. Alex about your concerns and learn more about how we work!

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