Health & Body

Ask Deb: Are Weight Vests Safe for Dancers?

Illustration by Emily Giacalone

What's your opinion regarding the use of weight vests on young female dancers? I've heard that it helps them strength-train, but I'm concerned it could do damage to their weight-bearing joints and cause compression of the spine.

You're right to question the use of weight vests for dancers. We know the impact force of running, alone, is three times the weight of your body. That means, if you are a 100-pound dancer, 300 pounds of force is traveling through your feet and into your legs when you dance. If a dancer is not well-aligned, it can increase his or her chance of injury.

I understand why teachers would use them to encourage the muscles to work a little bit harder than they are used to—that is how strength is built. That being said, there are three different ways to overload or strengthen a muscle. You can increase the frequency, duration or weight (intensity) of muscle engagement. For dancers, I prefer the first two. You can vary the number of repetitions or speed of your movement, design a class with a specific strength focus or use a TheraBand for cross-training.

The last comment that I have on using the vests is that I think the studio is running an insurance risk. If a dancer gets injured and it can be traced back to the use of the vest, you are going to have unhappy parents, and an unhappy studio owner.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

Got a question for Deb? E-mail, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

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