Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Bellydancer Can Beat Up Your Bellydancer

Billy Wood, the Library of Congress (Creative Commons)
Most bellydancers trying to make it in the big leagues barely have enough time to practice, teach, choreograph, and get a costume together for their next gig. Who has time to do anything else that's not sleep, eat, and work? But strength-training can actually help you get better faster.

Now, I know what you're going to say: "I don't want to lift weights." "Won't I get too muscular?" "Only body builders lift weights."

First of all, strength-training does not mean you have to lift weights. You can do exercises using your own body as weight to strength-train. For instance, do pushups, or squats, or pullups. All of those can be done from the privacy and comfort of your own home.

Secondly, it's pretty much impossible for a woman to get "too muscular." You will get some lovely definition in your abs (excellent for a bellydancer), legs, and arms. And you'll probably lose some inches in places--great incentive if you've been eyeing a new costume. But you won't turn into Miss Bodybuilder USA just by doing a little strength-training--impressing the stage crew when you're able to move that 50-lb piece of equipment on your own, however, is a nice little side effect.

Last of all, all kinds of people lift weights. With Crossfit becoming so popular, chances are there's a group of unlikely people you work with who spend their mornings in a no-frills gym sweating their way through a workout--not that you have to join them.

Now, why should you strength-train? Well, most obvious of all, it makes you stronger. Stronger helps your bellydance. You'll find yourself with more stamina, more able to perform those crowd-pleasers other dancers do, and you'll also find that you suddenly know your body so much better than before.

After starting a bodyweight program, I began to notice that I could do lower level changes much easier and faster than before. No more precarious balancing on my toes as I tried to figure out how on earth I was going to get back up! I could also dance for longer and wasn't as exhausted at the end of class, and, I looked better in my costumes. My proudest moment was being in a room full of bellydancers and seeing that my arms were far more defined than everyone else's. 

Sure, strength-training isn't dance practice, but I bet you that if you start just doing a couple of push-ups and squats before you start shimmying, you'll gradually notice an improvement. There are tons of strength-training programs out there, and what most people don't know is that they can usually be used by both men and women. Try what you can and see what works for you.

Then make a date to perform and show of your progress, and be proud of being the strongest bellydancer in the room!

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