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Myths Behind Resistance Training for The Artistic Athlete

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

We already talked about how we know resistance training is beneficial for the artistic athlete. It's not a question anymore, but there still seems to be some pervasive myths that are keeping it from becoming common place in our gyms and studios. Let's take a look at some of these myths surrounding resistance training in the world of artistic athletes, and compare it to what the science has to say.

Weight lifting will make me bulky

Resistance training will not inherently result in large amounts of muscle gain. It is well documented in the scientific literature, (and speaking from lots of anecdotal experience), that it requires a specific amount and kind of weight training, along with a specific nutrition regimen to see the large amounts of hypertrophy that we typically associate with bodybuilders and the like. Weights, reps, sets, and frequency of workouts, as well as the balance and timing of macronutrient intake are all factors that go into creating significant hypertrophy in the body.

When we look at the documented effects of resistance training interventions on body composition and body mass of artistic athletes, with appropriate parameters, resistance training has been shown to favourably effect body composition in a way that doesn't interfere with aesthetics. This means that these studies have generally seen increases in lean mass (i.e. more muscles), with decreases in total body mass (i.e. decreasing fat mass). Resistance training has been shown as well to help manage growth-related changes in adolescent dancers.

Aesthetic Body Strength Training

How can we get strong if we're not getting big? Gains in strength, especially in the first

stages of a resistance training program, are seen to be due to neuromuscular adaptation to the stress of resistance training. This means that the body gets more efficient at activating the muscles required to perform a given task, and gets more efficient at asking muscle groups to contract and relax as necessary to perform a given movement. Therefore, we can see significant increases in strength, and the benefits that come along with increased strength, without significant increases in mass.

It has as well been noted that perhaps the style of strength training seen in many artistic sports, of excessive body weight skill repetition, can in fact cause more hypertrophy than a well designed and implemented resistance training program with weights.

Whether there is a fear of becoming bulky because it is believed that it will effect range of motion and the ability to perform the skills specific to artistic sports, or because of the belief that it will be detrimental to the aesthetic aspects of artistic sports, neither of these fears hold true when properly investigated!


Follow this link to download your free Periodization Template for the Artistic Athlete, a printable resource to help you plan your training to prioritize recovery and optimize performance!


Weight lifting will make me lose my flexibility

An appropriately designed and implemented resistance training program can actually help increase flexibility in a few ways.

Strength Training

Firstly, when designing a resistance program for artistic athletes, it is important to include exercises that will help strengthen the body at the end ranges of motion, and to make sure that athletes are performing the exercises correctly through their ranges of motion. Exercises such as romanian deadlifts, squats, split squats and lateral lunges allow for the hip, knee, and ankle joints to move through a large range of motion while under tension; exercises such as shoulder presses move the shoulder joint through overhead motion. This teaches the body that reaching these end ranges is safe, and can therefore help to prevent stiffness and muscle guarding during skills training.

Eccentric exercise, meaning maintaining muscle fibre contraction while lengthening the muscle, is the only way shown so far to truly increase length of the muscle fibre. The increases in flexibility that we see from stretching and foam rolling, for example, are instead due to inhibitory effect these things have on neuromuscular tone and an increase in our bodies' tolerance for stretching of it's tissues. Unless performed at a high frequency, the effects of stretching and foam rolling on increasing range of motion are transient.

While you are more likely to experience stiffness in the days following eccentric exercise, and therefore feel as though you have lost flexibility, eccentric exercise is an important adjunct in increasing muscle length, and therefore flexibility, about a joint.

Weight lifting will effect my ability to perform my sport specific skills.

As we went over in the last blog post, appropriately designed and implemented resistance training programs, are frequently shown to increase performance markers and overall performance. Increased strength means better quality of movement and movement ability; more power means higher jumps and longer leaps; more endurance means more stamina for routines and training.

Remember, resistance training needs to be implemented differently at different times in the season based on season intensity, and focus should still be placed on technique and recovery. As with any training regimen, training too hard too fast, too hard at the wrong times, and/or with poor warm up, cool down, or recovery, will impair performance. A good strength program takes into account all factors around training including but not limited to

This is where a strength and conditioning coach becomes especially important. Contact me here if you want to chat about how to best implement a strength program for you or your team.


  1. Dowse, R. A., McGuigan, M. R., & Harrison, C. (2020). Effects of a Resistance Training Intervention on Strength, Power, and Performance in Adolescent Dancers. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 34(12), 3446–3453.

  2. Sands, William & Mcneal, Jeni & Jemni, Monèm & Delong, T.H.. (2000). Should female gymnasts lift weights?. SportScience. 4.

  3. Watson, T., Graning, J., McPherson, S., Carter, E., Edwards, J., Melcher, I., & Burgess, T. (2017). DANCE, BALANCE AND CORE MUSCLE PERFORMANCE MEASURES ARE IMPROVED FOLLOWING A 9-WEEK CORE STABILIZATION TRAINING PROGRAM AMONG COMPETITIVE COLLEGIATE Dancers. International journal of sports physical therapy, 12(1), 25–41.

  4. Russell J. A. (2013). Preventing dance injuries: current perspectives. Open access journal of sports medicine, 4, 199–210.

  5. Dave Tilley. Changing Gymnastics Culture: Lessons, Reflections, and Visions for the Future. 2018.

  6. Sands WA, Flexibility. In Cardinale M, Newton R, Nosaka K, Strength and Conditioning: BiologicalPrinciples and Practical Applications. 2011. John Wiley & Sons: Oxford. 389 - 398

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