Your Best Body: TRX Suspension Training

It’s no secret dancers have special fitness needs, so it may seem surprising that new research from Walnut Hill School for the Arts recommends a workout developed not by a ballerina, but a Navy SEAL. With the help of doctors from Boston Children’s Hospital, Walnut Hill’s director of dance Michael Owen and director of physical therapy Susan Kinney found TRX suspension training to be a secret ingredient in injury prevention in ballet dancers. The results come after 10-plus years of study, during which the school developed a wellness program consisting of Pilates, Gyrokinesis, hydroconditioning (resistance conditioning done in a pool) and TRX suspension training to reduce stress-related injuries, like fractures, in 14- to 18-year-old pre-professional dancers. Although the other forms of cross-training helped with injury prevention, TRX produced the most dramatic results.

The Workout
In a suspension training class, participants use straps anchored to a secure point, like rigging on the ceiling, to do simple exercises meant to strengthen, correct muscular imbalances and prevent injuries. A class might include single leg extensions with the working leg looped through a strap, vertical push-ups or lifting the hips into downward dog with feet in the straps. “Unlike other forms of weight training where the athlete might overdo the amount of weight and become injured, with suspension training, you work against your own body weight,” says Kinney. Plus, TRX is similar to ballet in that it gets you moving in all three planes—forward and back, up and down and side to side.

The Results

Walnut Hill’s research found increased strength in dancers who took just two 45-minute classes each week for five weeks. Pre-, mid- and post-program screenings measured the strength of key muscles used in ballet. Across the board, dancers gained strength in the lower abdominals, the gluteus medias (the primary pelvic stabilizing muscle used to properly align the hips when standing on one leg) and the flexor hallucis longus (the muscle that curls the big toe and plays a large role in demi-pointe work). That’s because the exercises often take dancers off balance, involve stabilizing the pelvis and core or require the feet to be firmly planted on the floor.

Try It
So how can you achieve similar results? Kinney says if you take a TRX class at a gym or YMCA, it won’t necessarily be tailored to dancers. She and Owen note that Walnut Hill’s curriculum took the movement and weight distribution of suspension training and adapted it to what is helpful, healthy and safe for dancers. But Owen expects to see more dancers eventually teaching TRX in gyms. Be sure to check into an instructor’s experience before choosing a class. “If they have some sort of dance background, I think that would be ideal,” says Owen. And be on the lookout for suspension training classes exclusively for dancers: The Boston Conservatory has already launched a version of Walnut Hill’s TRX program, and the research team hopes to expand the training to other dance schools.

 


Mental Olympics
With all the elements you’re supposed to think about during technique class—sequencing, counts, corrections, musicality—it’s only natural for your brain to feel exhausted. That’s where exercising your mind outside of the studio helps. Enter Fit Brains, the brain-training system that uses a series of games designed by neuroscientists to sharpen memory, concentration, visual-spatial coordination, problem solving and language skills. Not only do the games adapt to your specific strengths and weaknesses, but since they’re hosted online, you can use them virtually anywhere. Create an account at fitbrains.com to play a selection of their free games, and start training your way to a more perfect petit allégro.

 

 

Eat Fruit First
The Situation: You’re heading to a post-performance potluck full of scrumptious foods but still want to make healthy choices.

The Solution: Go for the fruit salad first. A recent study by Cornell University researchers found you’re less likely to overindulge at a buffet if you serve yourself fruit before heavier options like potatoes or cheesy casseroles. Why? When faced with a spread of food, people tend to fill their plates with the first dish in the line, leaving less plate space for other options.

 

 


Get Moving

With summer right around the corner, you may be dreaming of trading the ballet barre for the beach. And though taking some downtime is healthy, a recent study by scientists at Wayne State University suggests that long-term inactivity has an impact not only on the body, but also the brain. When you’re sedentary for a 12-week period, the structure and function of the brain can actually change, making the nervous system overstimulated and less able to react correctly. Though the study showed these changes in lab rats, researchers believe the same applies to humans. So be sure to work a game of Frisbee into your lazy beach days.

 


Cool Off
After an intense master class, you know your muscles are bound to be sore. But recent research suggests relief may be as close as your bathtub. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that soaking in a tub of 46-degree Fahrenheit water for 10 minutes speeds up muscle recovery, leaving you less sore after a vigorous workout. The cool water is thought to fight inflammation by bringing down the temperature of deep muscle tissue without constricting too much blood flow. If 46 degrees sounds too chilly, water ranging from 47 to 71 degrees will still give you some of the same effects.

Latest Posts


Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

2020 Stars of the Corps: 10 Dancers Making Strides In and Out of the Spotlight

The corps de ballet make up the backbone of every company. In our Fall 2020 issue, we highlighted 10 ensemble standouts to keep your eye on. Click on their names to learn more!

Dara Holmes, Joffrey Ballet

A male dancer catches a female dancer in his right arm as she wraps her left arm around his shoulder and executes a high arabesque on pointe. Both wear white costumes and dance in front of a blue backdrop onstage.

Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams

Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Wanyue Qiao, American Ballet Theatre

Wearing a powder blue tutu, cropped light yellow top and feather tiara, Wanyue Qiao does a piqu\u00e9 retir\u00e9 on pointe on her left leg and pulls her right arm in towards her.

Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Houston Ballet

Three male dancers in tight-fitting, multicolored costumes stand in positions of ascending height from left to right. All extend their right arms out in front of them.

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following

Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Leah McFadden, Colorado Ballet

Wearing a white pixie wig and a short light-pink tunic costume, a female ballet dancer poses in attitude front on pointe with her left arm bent across her ribs and her right hand held below her chin.

Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote

Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet

Maria Coelho, Tulsa Ballet

Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song

Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Alexander Reneff-Olson, San Francisco Ballet

A ballerina in a black feathered tutu stands triumphantly in sous-sus, holding the hand of a male dancer in a dark cloak with feathers underneath who raises his left hand in the air.

Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

India Bradley, New York City Ballet

Wearing a blue dance dress with rhinestone embellishments and a sparkly tiara, India Bradley finishes a move with her arms out to the side and hands slightly flexed.

India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.

Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Bella Ureta, Cincinnati Ballet

Wearing a white dress with pink corset, Bella Ureta does a first arabesque on pointe in front of an onstage stone wall.

Bella Ureta performs the Act I Pas de Trois in Kirk Peterson's Swan Lake

Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Alejándro Gonzales, Oklahoma City Ballet

Dressed in a green bell-boy costume and hat, Alejandro Gonz\u00e1lez does a saut\u00e9 with his left leg in retir\u00e9 and his arms in a long diagonal from right to left. Other dancers in late 19-century period costumes watch him around the stage.

Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.

Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet

Nina Fernandes, Miami City Ballet

Wearing a long white tutu and crown, Nina Fernandes does a saut de chat in front of a wintery backdrop as snow falls from the top of the stage.

Nina Fernandes in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet

Quinn Wharton

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Angelica Generosa Shares Her Classic, Comfy Style In and Out of the Studio

"I love the feeling and look of effortless fashion," says Angelica Generosa. Preferring a classic style, the Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist keeps her wardrobe stocked with blazers. But they serve a practical purpose, too. "It tends to get chilly in Seattle, so it's the perfect accessory for layering," Generosa explains.

She's also quite fond of designer handbags. "They're my go-to accessory, and they're also my weakness when shopping," she says, naming Chloé, Chanel and Dior as some of her favorite brands. "I really appreciate the craftsmanship it takes to produce one—they're so beautiful and each has its own story, in a way."

In the studio, Generosa prioritizes comfort, and she'll change up her look depending on the repertoire (leotards and tutus for classical works, breathable shirts with workout pants for contemporary). But she always arrives to work in style. "I really love putting together outfits for even just going to the studio," she says. "It's another way of expressing my mood and what kind of vibe I'm going for that day."

The Details: Street

Angelica Generosa, wearing a blue blazer, white blouse and gray jeans, is photographed from underneath as she walks and looks to the right.

Quinn Wharton

BCBG blazer: "It has some shoulder pads and a really cool pattern," says Generosa. "It reminds me of my mom and '80s fashion."

Zara blouse: She incorporate neutrals, like this white satin button-up, to balance bright pops of colors.

Angelica Generosa looks off to her right in front of a glass-windowed building. She wears a blue blazer, white blouse, gray jeans and carries a small green handbag.

Quinn Wharton

Madewell jeans: Comfort is a major factor for Generosa, who gets her fashion inspiration from her mom, friends and people she comes across day to day.

Chloé bag: "I tend to have smaller purses because I'm quite small. Bigger bags overwhelm me sometimes—unless it's my dance bag, of course!"

The Details: Studio

Angleica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool leggings and pink pointe shoes, balances in a lunge on pointe with her left leg in front, facing a wall of windows.

Quinn Wharton

Label Dancewear leotard: "This was designed by my good friend Elizabeth Murphy, a principal dancer here at PNB. Her leotards always fit me really well."

Mirella leggings: "I get cold easily," says Generosa, who wears leggings and vests to stay warm throughout the day.

Angelica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool tights and pink pointe shoes, jumps and crosses her right foot over her left shin while lifting her arms up to the right.

Quinn Wharton

Freed of London pointe shoes: "When sewing them, I crisscross my elastics and use an elasticized ribbon from Body Wrappers," which helps alleviate Achilles tendon issues, she says. She then trims the satin off of the tip of the shoe. "Then I bend the shank a bit to loosen it up and cut a bit off where my arch is."

Getty Images

This New "Nutcracker" Competition Wants Your Dance Studio to be Part of a Virtual Collaboration

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks