Plyometric training is a ‘quick, powerful movement involving pre-stretching or countermovement that activates the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) of a muscle’ and would be categorised at a power development exercise.
Jumping forms, a vital component in most dance styles and genres. Unlike many sporting examples where jumping needs to simply be as high as possible, in dance, jumps need to be high, extremely precise and controlled whilst maintaining the aesthetic qualities. Many studies have been done that look into the effect of jump height with the implementation of a plyometric or resistance weight-training programme. However few studies have specifically looked at the link between plyometric training AND dance.
Plyometric training is often not formally included within performers training programs, due to the belief that dance ability is improved by dance training alone. In many sports, athletic performance is related to specific expressions of physicality such as agility, power and strength. However, in dance achieving aesthetic competence is seen as more desirable. Another issue faced when trying to engage dancers in any additional ‘strength’ training, is that they fear that strength training may lead to bulky muscles and lost flexibility, however there is little evidence to support this, and the evidence may point to the contrary in some instances.
Plyometric training utilises the systems primarily used for jumping by enhancing your ability to harness the musculotendinous systems (MTS) stretch reflex and elastic energy storage and delivery systems within the SSC. The SSC itself involves a rapid eccentric (lengthening under tension) loading of the MTS, where the elastic energy is stored and then that energy is utilised via a fast concentric contraction, shortening the muscle quickly and forcing force.
Plyometric training is also associated with intense neuromuscular load, which causes high levels of fatigue to your nervous system. Because of this using plyometrics as an intervention needs to be ‘implemented with care as it is high-impact, high-strain’, which can cause injury if the participant is fatigued or overloaded. It’s important to note this as dancers are expected to maintain high levels of performance and rehearsal schedules consistently, leaving windows for development small. They often subject their bodies to long hours of intensive physical training, and over time this may lead to persistent fatigue, psychological distress, performance decrements and injury, highlighting the need for appropriate timing of high-strain methods.
With dance training, as we have and will continue to discuss, cross training is a vital part of optimising performance and reducing the chance of pain and/or injury. Training types, volumes and intensities should be monitored and tailored to the individual – along with this, nutrition, hydration, sleep and a wider view to encompass more holistic monitoring of performance will provide a greater chance of improving health and performance. The issue we see most commonly within West End shows is that there is no time allocated for prep training prior to rehearsals and subsequently opening shows, where the opportunity to develop is greater. This can lead to lower working capacities, poor movement habits and compensations beginning to creep in, which can lead to injury. There is so much more we can do to prevent this, and we are excited to help make those changes.
We will be looking into various training options and discussing these further. Do you do any supplementary training alongside dance classes? We would love to hear what works for you!
Thanks for taking the time to read this.