A performer’s body is one of very few tools they have at their disposal, and keeping it in top shape should be a huge priority for anyone looking to have a long, successful career.
The issue, though, is that the mainstream prescription of logging hours on the treadmill or elliptical machine to get in shape is very broken, and it can be particularly damaging—especially in the long run—to anyone who relies on their body to earn a living
I’d like to offer an alternative to the cardio prescription: strength training. In this post, we’ll explore several reasons how performers—all performers—could benefit from occasionally lifting weights.
#1 | ...Doesn't Automatically Make You HUGE
Stronger equals stronger. Stronger equals better. Stronger equals more capable.
Despite its reputation, especially among the female population, strength training does not necessarily result in uncontrollable amounts of muscle gain. While some folks might gain a little muscle when starting a strength training program, continuing to pack on the pounds is a difficult feat that requires very specific protocols. You will not walk into a gym and accidentally get “too big.”
The muscle you do gain, though, will help add to the toned, sexy curves that many people desire for their bodies. Remember, getting toned isn’t just about losing fat - there has to be something there to uncover!
#2 | ...Promotes Metabolic Flexibility
To recap, Metabolic Flexibility is the body’s ability to switch back and forth between burning glucose (sugar) and burning fat—depending on availability and need—to supply its energy needs. Strength training helps improve metabolic flexibility, which has some major benefits for performers.
First of all, metabolic flexibility improves the body’s ability to access its fat stores to be burned for energy. Not only does this help control body fat stores, it also helps control mood and hunger (which we all know can be intimately tied) by regulating the body’s satiety signals. When your body is able to easily switch between fuels, hunger pangs become a thing of the past, and hunger simply becomes a signal that you might want to think about eating.
And with a busy, hectic lifestyle that might have you away from home for hours on end, the less time you spend thinking about and finding food, the better.
#3 | ...Helps Improve Sleep Quality
There is no substitute for sleep. There just isn’t. And in the often-crazy world of performance, sleep can sometimes take a backseat to other endeavors.
Exercising, then, becomes a critical piece of the puzzle because it helps improve both the quality of your sleep and speed at which you fall asleep. Less time tossing and turning and more time getting some good shuteye can help you stay healthy and energetic throughout even the craziest of days.
#4 | ...Promotes Joint Health
Despite what years of conditioning has told us, we are not victims of the quality of our joints. We have a good bit of control over how our joints behave as we age, but the onus is on us as individuals to keep them healthy and vibrant along the way.
This is good news for performers because the demands of the job can be especially harsh when it comes to the joints. According to a small study of musical theatre students, “45.9% claim to sustain an orthopaedic injury up to twice a year.” TWICE A YEAR! That’s a lot of time spent either not working or having to work through the pain. No, thanks...
If you want to remain injury-free both on and off the stage, make sure your joints are strong!
#5 | ...Promotes Longevity
Autophagy is the process by which the body cleans up waste materials and repairs damaged cells. It’s an incredibly important function, and is thought to be closely related to the aging process. By stimulating autophagy, exercise helps stave off the effects of aging, leaving your more time to spend doing what you love - performing!
#6 | ...Can Help Improve Balance
Who wants to be flailing around on stage or during a dance audition? Strength training, especially methods geared at coordination training, has been shown to help improve balance. Sure, you might have to tweak your exercise selection a little, but try getting those same benefits on a treadmill.
#7 | ...Improves Posture
Proper posture is essential to exuding confidence. Improving your natural posture helps eliminate the need to think about it, and leaves you walking into auditions or out on stage free to think about what's going on rather than how you're standing.
Plus, proper posture helps prevent and/or relieve low-back pain. What's not to like?
#8 | ...Makes You Smarter
Improved cognitive function is just one of many beneficial effects of resistance training. As a performer, you have to be on top of it to learn lines, blocking, and choreography; make choices; and take direction.
Keep your brain strong by keeping your body strong!
#9 | ...Can Help Reduce Systemic Inflammation
The acute stress of exercise is what causes you to adapt and get stronger and healthier. Chronic stress, though, can leave you tired, puffy, and inflamed. Resistance training [when not overdone] produces the necessary stimulus to adapt and make progress, but it also helps relieve systemic inflammation to keep you healthy and functioning. It's win-win!
#10 | ...Makes You Sexy
Chronic cardio and extreme methods to lose weight usually turn you into smaller versions of your old self. The same shape, just a little smaller. Strength training, though, can help you burn fat and build muscle. Translation: you lose the fat and expose the strong, sexy curves underneath (re: your awesome and strong muscles).
Being a performer is a demanding, stressful job. And while a consistent exercise routine will require a time sacrifice, you'll more than make up for it in health and functionality.