5 Workout Tips From an ABT Dancer Who's Also a Personal Trainer

When Thomas Forster isn't in the gym doing his own workout, he's often coaching his colleagues.

Two years ago, the American Ballet Theatre soloist got a personal training certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Now he trains fellow ABT members and teaches the ABT Studio Company a strength and conditioning class alongside fellow ABT soloist Roman Zhurbin.

He shared five of his top tips for getting into top shape.


Thomas Forster leaps onstage

Marty Sohl, courtesy ABT

Most Dancers Need Extra Cardio to Get Through Choreography

"Ballet class doesn't give you great stamina," he says, "so you need to do something else to really build that so when you have to do a variation that's 15 minutes long and you're absolutely exhausted, your body can handle it."

Exercises Don't Need to Be Complicated to Get Results

For workouts, Forster typically combines body-weight and cardio exercises that target multiple muscle groups. He believes that even simple exercises like mountain climbers can be effective as part of a high-intensity interval session. For an extra challenge, he'll add a resistance band to movements like squats or lateral walks.

Study Anatomy To Gain a Deeper Understand of How You Move

Since becoming a trainer, Forster has not only been rewarded with improved strength and endurance in his dancing, but also a deeper understanding of his body. "I gained a greater knowledge of the muscles and how they interconnect," he says, mentioning that he's now more aware of his alignment, which helps him avoid injury. "The human body is absolutely amazing."

Recovery Is Just As Important As Working Out

"A really cold shower or cold plunges seem to really help my body fight inflammation," he says.

Do This Every Day:

Forster says dancers should perform this stretch every day—it targets all the major muscle groups and improves mobility in your hips, shoulders and thoracic spine.

  • Step your right foot forward into a lunge, with the knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Your left leg should be straight behind you.
  • Place your left hand next to the inside of your right foot.
  • Twist your upper body toward your knee and reach your right arm up toward the sky.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

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When orthopedic surgeon Dr. Donald Rose founded the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital 30 years ago, the average salary for a dancer was about $8,000, he says.

"It was very hard for a dancer to get quality medical care," he remembers. What's more, he adds, "at the time, dance medicine was based on primarily anecdotal information rather than being based on studies." Seeing the incredible gaps, Rose set out to create a medical facility that was designed specifically to treat dancers and would provide care on a sliding scale.

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