May 05

Reasons to Incorporate Modified Ballet Training As Cross-Training for Athletes

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Coaching Best:

Sport sociologists and psychologists have been very concerned for some time about the escalating drop out from organized children and youth sports (currently estimated at 73%).

Equally, medical experts are troubled over the lack of fitness due to increased inactivity, rising overweight and obesity among the young. According to many researchers, today’s generation of children and youth may have indeed a shorter life span than their parents based on current data.

It has been established that variety and mental stimulation are crucial for the growth and development of younger sports participants. Albert Einstein’s famous quote …“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”… ought to inspire coaches and sports club administrators to ‘think out of the box’ and develop alternative and creative training methods. For all these reasons, swimmers need more cross-training activities outside the pool if we want to avoid or reduce current burnout and drop out rates.
However, any reference to ‘ballet’ or dance training as an alternative involvement usually elicits some traditional myths, certain social bias, or produces emotional reactions from people,
such as …
“It’s a frilly thing for girls”…
“Not my thing”…
“Not a masculine thing” …
“I feel stupid teaching or doing this”…or…
“What does this even have to do with swimming?”

Indeed, it has “everything to do with swimming” and some more! It is all about acquiring a greater fundamental movement base and greater athleticism, as well as enhancement of body and spatial awareness.


LA Ram

Dancers are recognized as some of the most athletic individuals, a fact that is not easily acknowledged within the athletic community.
A study, undertaken by Watson and Garret of the University of Hertfordshire (UK) reported the results of ten standardized fitness tests in late October 2008. These were administered to dancers of the Royal Ballet and the English National Ballet School, along with a squad of national and international British swimmers (including Olympians) to construct individual fitness profiles.

The test battery included strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and psychological state among others. The results: Ballet dancers were fitter than international swimmers, scoring higher on 7 out of 10 standard fitness tests. Moreover, they were apparently 25% stronger when tested for grip strength. Do ballet dancers really have better overall fitness levels? Yes, they do in the case of these elite athletes in this study.

What can we take from these results? Obviously, ballet offers solid workout opportunities. Ballet in itself is, however, daily resistance training through the use of body weight by pushing into the floor for every specific leg technique, through turning, jumping, leaping, hopping or other dynamic movement. The very activities strengthen muscles, build up and maintain bone mass and bone density, essential for healthy bone growth.

It is a well-known research fact that this delays the onset of osteoporosis for both females and males. Furthermore, bone density in young dancers is known to increase during their developmental years into adolescence and adulthood.


Several NFL teams used ballet training during the 1970s. Lynn Swann, (Pittsburg Steelers, 1974-1982), arguably the ‘most graceful receiver’ in NFL history to date, is described in NFL films…“A lethal combination of smooth sipping whiskey and greased lightning”… He was considered an “artist in the world of football” and attributes his grace and poise to special ballet training. Willi Gault, Chicago Bear Super Bowl champion (1983-early 1990s), world-class sprinter and bobsledder was labeled the ‘speed merchant’ of football and contributes speed and explosive power to his involvement in ballet.
Since those days more and more athletes in various sports have taken up some form of ballet training, especially with an interest to improve dexterous footwork and to prevent injuries.

For example, injured NHL hockey goalie Ray Emery (Anaheim Ducks) was told that his playing career was finished due to avascular necrosis of bone components (cellular death), a condition that interrupts the blood supply and affects the hipbone.

Rehabilitation after surgery included ballet, Yoga, Pilates, and swimming to strengthen the core, hip and thigh muscles as part of the daily training routine to help him return to assume his playing career.

According to Emery…“I can do things now I could never do before”…(cited in the Calgary Herald, February 1, 2011, p. E2, story by Ian Walker Post Media News). In addition, researchers from the University of Calgary’s Running Injury Clinic (Alberta, Canada) have concluded that runners with knee pain benefit from an intensive hip-strengthening program.

According to the 2010 study results, strengthening the hips aligns the hips better with the knees (Ferber, Kendall & Farr, 2011). These results seemingly support the benefit of ballet exercises directed toward core strength, and hip alignment, which further substantiates Emery’s claim to engagement in ballet as a rehabilitation program.







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  1. Rob Garcia Ohhp.

    Hello, Ive been in the coaching field over 20 years. Boxing is my primary sport, as well as surfing. I am interested in workouts that help teach my athletes how to move better in gravity as a ballerinas does. The dancers relationship with gravity is amazing. I also have a backround in Rolfing. So if you have any suggestions i would love to hear about them.

    1. coach

      Ballet for athletes is available in DIGITAL from my WEBSITE http://www.coachingbest.com
      The Hard Copy would have to be shipped form Canada.

  1. Barre Hopping: How Ballet Can Help Autoimmune Disease & Make You Gorgeous | Pulp NaturePulp Nature

    […] and as a way to avoid burnout–literally (as it’s easy on joints) and figuratively.  According to Schloder, ballet strengthens bone density and “delays the onset of osteoporosis for both females and […]

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