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Periodization for Dancers

This is an excerpt from Dance Anatomy-3rd Edition by Jacqui Haas.

Dance is an artistic discipline, with preprofessional dancers spending 20 to 25 hours a week working on skill. Physical performance demands include excellent technique with hip and trunk strength to move through space in various planes of motion. You also need to have flexibility skills that take the hip and lumbar spine into extreme ranges. Competitive dance includes jumping exercises at different speeds (both explosive and slow) and heights, some bilateral and some unilateral, along with multiple variations of those just listed. Strength is needed in the trunk, hips, and legs for the repeated slow and controlled movements associated with ballet training; power is needed for jumping efforts in all dance movement; and anaerobic fitness is needed for dynamic and intense stop-and-go movement patterns. Since daily dance classes may not provide enough specific strength or aerobic training, supplemental training is important. The goals are to increase muscle strength, improve core strength, and improve balance skills for motor control and proprioception.

How can periodization help? Periodization refers to an organized, planned gradual increase in training while alternating exercise and rest periods. The goal is to increase strength, flexibility, and balance leading up to the dance performance. The yearly training regimen is broken into blocks: microcycles, mesocycles, and macrocycles. A microcycle represents approximately a one-week block, while the mesocycle could be composed of 4-week blocks, and the macrocycle represents your full season. Periodization includes two different models: linear and nonlinear. Linear refers to slowly increasing training, volume, and intensity during each block. Nonlinear refers to changing your training regimen for each microcycle.

As an example, collegiate dancers aim to improve technique by the end of each semester for their live performances. It would be advantageous to design a yearly program (macrocycle) with training blocks that coincide with each semester in preparation for the live performance, just as other athletes prepare for a competition. Each mesocycle would be broken down into 4-week blocks with dance-specific target goals for each block. A linear periodization model for a freshman dancer starting the first semester might be a good choice. The focus would be on strengthening, but the program would take into consideration that the dancer is also taking 6 dance classes a week, which would be considered in-season. The dancer could participate in an in-season strength training program twice a week, a plyometric training program twice a week, and a balance training program twice a week. Each training program would be no longer than 30 minutes and include specific rest and recovery times between exercises. With strategic planning, the training would taper one to two weeks prior to the performance. The blocks would be designed specifically to the needs of the dancer and can help prevent overtraining. Organizing supplemental training around the dance schedule can be beneficial and help reduce the risk of injury.

More Excerpts From Dance Anatomy 3rd Edition



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