Pilates Helps Dancers Improve Posture, Flexibility, and Strength

Dance is a rigorous, demanding art form that requires good posture, strength, flexibility, agility, and stamina. An imbalance or deficiency in any of these elements can result in strain, pain, or serious injury. Jacobs et al1 found that many dancers experience back pain, hip pain, ankle injuries, and psychological stress from their profession. Injury or stress can seriously affect practice time and end professional careers.

Many dancers use Pilates as a way to stay flexible, strong, and to improve balance, but there haven’t been very many studies done on how Pilates can benefit dancers. Now a new study2 from researchers at John Hopkins Medical Center gives us more information on how Pilates can help.

In this study, the authors worked with 20 female dancers, aged 17 to 22. The women averaged 12.4 hours of dance-related activities each week. Ten of the women did no type of cross-training and ten did, including “elliptical, yoga, dance team, and ‘gym’ activities.”

The study was thorough and consisted of six stages:

  1. Measurement of posture, flexibility, and strength at baseline.
  2. Fourteen weeks of normal dance and exercise activities with no intervention.
  3. A second screening to compare to baseline measurements.
  4. A pelvic alignment workshop and an introduction to Pilates.
  5. Fourteen weeks of Pilates that consisted of one mat session and one private session each week. All of the women continued their normal dance and exercise activities, as well.
  6. Another screening and completion of a survey.

At baseline and at the second screening, the researchers found a large number of postural misalignments in the dancers. These problems included:

  • Forward head posture
  • Standing knee hyperextension
  • Foot pronation or supination
  • Inflexible iliotibial bands
  • Inflexible hamstrings

The authors found that Pilates helped the dancers significantly. They found that after fourteen weeks of Pilates the women experienced improvements in all of these postural misalignments, flexibility, and strength.

The survey revealed that all 20 of the women, “agreed that the Pilates intervention improved their core stability, pelvic alignment, strength, and body awareness. Seventy-five percent stated that it improved their flexibility.” Half of the women felt that Pilates “improved their artistry.”

This study provides evidence that many dancers already know: Pilates is a great way to improve posture, form, and strength.

  1. Jacobs CL, Hincapié CA, Cassidy JD. Musculoskeletal injuries and pain in dancers: a systematic review update. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science 2012;16(2):74-84. Review. PubMed PMID: 22687721.
  2. Ahearn EL, Greene A, Lasner A. Some Effects of Supplemental Pilates Training on the Posture, Strength, and Flexibility of Dancers 17 to 22 Years of Age. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science 2018 Dec 1;22(4):192-202. doi: 10.12678/1089-313X.22.4.192. PubMed PMID: 30477608.