Dancer Health

Why Your Students Need to Build Upper-Body Strength

Sebastian Grubb runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

Fitness trainer, professional dancer and cross-training expert Sebastian Grubb weighs in on why it's essential for dancers to build their upper-body strength.


A balanced body is a healthy body.

When a dancer maintains equilibrium between her upper and lower halves, she increases her athleticism and physical adaptability.

"Most dancers have strong legs and strong balance," says Grubb. "So, what's missing would be upper-body strength." Grubb, who works with dancers to develop individualized cross-training routines, has noticed that those who train primarily in ballet, modern and jazz tend to have strong legs and feet and gain greatly from devoting extra attention to their arms, shoulders, chest and back. "Most of them benefit from more upper-body training, especially pulling exercises," he says.

He mentions pulling because, "even those who are strong in the upper body tend to be strong from doing things like push-ups. But pushing is only one of the things that arms can do." Grubb recommends including exercises, like rowing, pull-ups and climbing, to create a more balanced exercise plan and access different muscle groups.

Weak muscles can lead to weak bones.

"If you don't do strength-training in the upper body, you will not only have weak muscles in the upper body, you'll have weak bones. When muscles are strained, their corresponding bones are, so bone strength is proportional to muscle strength," says Grubb. "With women, especially, over time there is more of a concern for osteoporosis and for having things like forearm fractures later in life." He says that aside from maintaining good balance and nutrition, upper-body training can help mitigate that.

For some upper-body exercise ideas, click here.

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