What exercises are good for dancers

Specific strength training for dancers (part 1) - maximum strength training

Specific strength training of maximum strength, especially of the hip and leg muscles, helps dancers to achieve better dynamics and speed, e.g. B. for battement in ballet.

“Anyone who respects a shape also respects its potential. You like it because you know what can become of it. But many people never ask questions beyond the historical manifestation that classical ballet has taken in the course of its tradition. " William Forsythe

The methodology of classical ballet is very mature and requires a high volume of training over several years in order to be able to achieve a good to very good level of performance. The long-term training is necessary, among other things, because of the highly complex coordination. However, there are factors such as the “specific force” that can be brought to a high level in a much shorter time. Specific movement sequences and the precise intention are important for this.

In the first part of this series of articles, the maximum strength method is presented.

Specific movement: Battement

Sporting intention: rapid and dynamic strength in hip flexors, adductors and thighs; Mobility of the rear leg chain (maximum strength and rapid strength)

The structure of the force - digression

At this point, the force in the physical sense, which can be recognized by its effect, is not considered in the sport-scientific understanding. When setting up an effective training plan, certain factors, such as the goal of the desired training and the effect of the different training methods on the development of the individual motor skills, must be taken into account. Not only the quality of the training plan is of particular importance for high athletic performance, but also morphological-physiological factors such as body size, leg length or muscle fiber composition and in particular intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. (1)

Structure of the motor property force

It is now generally accepted that maximum strength forms the basis for the other sub-categories of strength, such as speed strength and strength endurance. For everyday training this means that with the increase in maximum strength, the speed strength and strength endurance also improve, whereby this statement applies not only to competitive sports, but also to the ever-growing sector of fitness and health sports.

Definition of the maximum force

For fast and dynamic movements such as battement, you also need well-developed maximum strength in dance. Apart from the identical wording, the definition of the maximum force represents a uniform parameter between the scientists. Güllich / Schmidtbleicher (2) define it as follows: "The maximum force is understood to be the highest force that the neuromuscular system can develop during a maximally voluntary contraction"Or:"The maximum force represents the highest possible force that the nerve-muscle system can exert at maximum voluntary contraction“.(3)

Can the maximum strength be increased?

In an untrained person, in whom the neuromuscular system is not adapted to top athletic performance, the degree of activation of the muscles is approx. 70%, whereby only individual fibers of the respective muscle are used. Targeted strength training can increase the degree of activation up to 95%. (1,4,5,6) This is important with regard to sports with weight classes or aesthetic aspects (figure of the dancer), in which higher strength values ​​are achieved with the same muscle mass should.

Adjustments by the maximum force

Influencing variables of the muscle system

Continuous strength training with maximum weights creates new active cross bridges in the sarcomere. With the same muscle mass, more contractile elements are available, which in turn leads to higher maximum strength values. (2) In addition, it should be noted that depending on the load on the muscle, the corresponding muscle fiber types are addressed. The maximum load (> 90%) primarily affects the fast muscle fibers (the FT or fast-twitch fibers). They have large α-motor neurons, which for this reason lead to faster contractions, have a positive effect on maximum strength, have stronger muscular connective tissue, but tire relatively quickly. (2,7) This special feature of the rapid fatigue of the FT fibers must be taken into account when designing the training plan.

Improvement of the speed of movement

The fact that strength training leads to an increase in body mass due to the increase in muscle cross-section and slows it down as a result of this increase in mass is an age-old popular myth, which has survived to this day and is still represented by numerous athletes and trainers. As early as 1977, Bührle / Schmidtbleicher carried out complex investigations without knowing the maximum strength as the basis of the motor property force, which prove that the maximum strength training shows significant results on different motor components: A clear statement could be made about the improvement of the explosive force through the maximum strength training become. The explosive force is the ability to use high force values ​​in the first contraction phase. (8) This depends on the large number of cross-bridge bonds that are activated per unit of time. (3) Accordingly, there is a greater ability "to achieve the highest possible force increase per unit of time“(4) As a result of the increase in the explosive force, a highly significant relationship between the maximum force and the speed of movement and thus also the absolute force was demonstrated.

Neurological adaptations

One of the primary effects of maximal strength training on the body is the adaptation of the neurophysiological structures. "[I] owing to high-intensity strength training [the ability improves, Note d. Ed.] To be able to quickly mobilize large innervation activities"(6) It is assumed that this adaptation through the activation of previously unused motor units (recruitment), as well as a"increased [n] processing ability of high innervation frequencies“(6) is triggered. The immediate consequence of strength training with high loads (> 90% of the maximum strength) is the increased starting and explosive strength, as well as mostly an increase in the maximum strength.

Muscle hypertrophy - growth of the cross-section of the muscle

The last and most important factor for increasing the strength level in the long term is hypertrophy. When the potential of the neuromuscular adaptations is exhausted, a further increase in strength can be achieved through muscle hypertrophy. (6,9) The increase in contractile material in the muscle is enormous to an increase in the maximum strength. This fact corresponds to Newton's second physical law with the formula F = m x a. So the larger the muscle mass, the greater the resulting force. (6)

In the case of dancers, it is important to achieve an optimal relationship between the required weight and the necessary strength. For this reason, it is advisable to use the strength training method with a view to the result of the neurological adaptations and thus to meet the requirements of the dancer.


Regardless of the type of sport, one can summarize that sporting performance is determined by morphological-physiological, coordinative and motivational factors that are subject to different time courses. The morphological-physiological aspects include the muscle cross-section, the contraction time of the individual muscle fibers, i.e. the voluntary activation ability, the muscle fiber composition and the optimal body size and limb length specific to the sport. The coordinative components act primarily on the neurological level and determine the degree of intra- and inter-muscular coordination.

Marina Lewun


1. Bührle, M .; Schmidtbleicher, D. (1981). Components of maximum and speed strength. Attempt to restructure on the basis of empirical results. Sports Science 11 (1), pp. 11-27

2. Güllich, A .; Schmidtbleicher, D. (1999). Structure of strength skills and their training methods. German magazine for sports medicine 50 (7/8), pp. 223-234

3. Weineck, J. (2000). Optimal training (11th edition). Balingen: Spitta Verlag GmbH

4. Bührle, M .; Schmidtbleicher, D .; Ressel, H. (1983). The special diagnosis of the individual strength components in high-performance sport. Competitive sport 13 (3), pp. 11-16

5. Schmidtbleicher, D. (1984). Structural analysis of the motor property force. Athletics 35 (50), pp. 1785-1792

6. Schmidtbleicher, D. (1987). Motor demand form force. Structure and influencing variables, adaptations, training methods, diagnosis and training control. German magazine for sports medicine 38 (9), pp. 356-377

7. Schmidtbleicher, D. (1980). Contributions to movement research in sport. Bad Homburg: Limpert Verlag GmbH

8. Bührle, M .; Schmidtbleicher, D. (1977). The influence of maximum strength training on the speed of movement. Competitive sport 7 (1), pp. 3-10

9. Schlumberger, A .; Schmidtbleicher, D. (1998). Time-delayed effects in strength training. Competitive sport 28 (3), pp. 33-38