How Weight Lifting/Resistance Training can transform your dancing

Introduction

Bro do you even lift? No, seriously do you because there are a ton of ways this can help you as a dancer and I have really no idea where to start.  So I’m going to lay these benefits/adaptations out in the manner that the National Academy of Sports Medicine does by giving physiological benefits, Physical benefits and last but not least performance benefits. I’ll be tying each benefit back to where it falls in regards to dancing. Resistance training does more then just build big muscles. As always this is just an overview if you want specifics don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Adaptive Benefits of Resistance Training

Physiological

Resistance training helps improve cardiovascular efficiency, decreases body fat, and Increases metabolic efficiency (metabolism). So first of all resistance training can improve cardiovascular fitness/efficiency Gettman and Pollock showed in a study that 20 weeks of circuit training with weights can improve VO2 Max by 5-8%. Also, Stone, Wilson, et al  found in high volume Olympic weight lifting program can improve aerobic capacity by 8% in an 8 week program. This due to the number of large muscle group exercises like squats, cleans and high pulls with minimal rest between sets. Now a increased metabolism and decreased body fat go hand in hand. As you build up your muscle, your body will rely more on fat as an energy source not only at rest but at higher intensities of exercise. With this you spare glycogen or carbohydrates allowing you to do high intensity activity for a longer duration of time. Which means, you guessed it, you can dance more consecutive songs and effectively with an improved metabolism.

Physical 

When it comes to the physical adaptations these are all about things that help prevent injury. A good resistance training program increases bone density and tissue (muscle, tendons, ligaments) tensile strength. Increased bone density makes your bones less susceptible to fractures (and a shin splints common among dancers), gives your muscles a sturdier anchor to pull on making your movement more efficient. Improved tensile strength of the tissues makes you less likely to strain a muscle on the dance floor and to suffer from spraining a tendon or a ligament. This will also lower the severity of tendinitis as well. So your body is going to feel a lot better dancing during those long exchange weekends. Also, resistance training will increase cross-sectional area of muscle fibers. In non science speak your muscles get bigger fellas, not only does this mean your arms look WAY better when you roll up your sleeves of those dress shirts at dances and ladies you get some pretty awesome toned legs to show off with your flowy skirts. You’re able to move with less effort as now you have a bigger motor unit  contracting to produce that move and more motor units recruited. This benefit will be covered in more detail in the performance section.

Performance

Now for the performance part of it. If you’re to take part in a well organized program, you’d not only be able to improve your strength but you’d be able to improve power as well. Power is strength with a high rate of speed which is vital in dancing Fast Lindy when you have to perform directional changes quickly. Power is also important when performing aerials as you need to be able to get your follow off the ground efficiently as a lead and the follow can help out by jumping quickly. You can improve muscular and cardiovascular endurance through a number of different systems of  resistance training. The more endurance your muscles have the longer you can maintain good technique with your footwork, while dancing and maintaining a responsive connection. My favorite benefit is resistance training increases neuromuscular control (coordination). For those of you who want better balance weight lifting gets the body to recruit more motor units (muscle fibers and motor neurons) and become more coordinated in firing. This improves how well you move and are able to learn a particular movement along with improving balance.

Tips for Starting/Designing a Resistance Training Program

1. Focus on Core aka Multi Joint Exercises

When you start a resistance training program, whether that involves weights or just using your own body weight, focus on Core exercises, as they recruit one to two large muscle groups and involve 2 or more primary joints. This is going to give you the above adaptations in the shortest amount of time. Also, core exercises will have a bigger cross over to dancing as well as a lot of other sports movements. Assistance exercises or single joint exercises are good for working areas that are commonly injured. Here’s an article from Lifetime Fitness (my employer ya’ll) on the type of movements I feel should be staples in your routine and help you get results 4 Movements You should focus on.

2. Have your Exercise Order go from Big down to small

This is kind of similar to the above tip but when you train you want to work the large muscle groups first. So if you’re working out legs do squats, deadlift and lunges first. At the end you can just work the quadriceps (front of thigh), Hamstrings (back of thigh) and do calve raises. For Upper body it’d look like this do Chest press, Pull ups, Dips, Rows, shoulder press and then you would work your biceps and triceps at the end. Assistance exercises don’t need much time spent on them because those muscle are utilized during the core exercises. Fitness trainer confessional I hate seeing members go out to the workout floor and go straight to doing curls and tricep extensions when they want to lose weight and I try to give them advise to help improve their workout and they get mad…please don’t be those people.

3. Start with basic movements and then go up from there

If you don’t know how to squat don’t try doing single leg squats and if you have to do a push up with your knees on the ground that’s perfectly fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we all have to learn how to crawl before we can walk and even God took seven days to create everything. I feel one should not engage in box jumps, med ball throws or any other power or ballistic movements without going through a series of stabilization, endurance, hypertrophy and strength exercise Optimum Performance Training Models. That’s just asking for an injury and that’s honestly something I hate seeing which is why I’m writing so if you want guidance feel free to ask me because I’d love to help.

4. Less can be more

The most important aspect of any training program is rest and recovery. It took me 10 years of running track for me to learn this when it came to my off season training. I trained  4 days a week in the summer 2 of those in the weight room, one on the track and I utilized Ultimate Frisbee after campus ministry as another conditioning day and which didn’t seem like conditioning because I was having a blasts. I came into the season fresher and in better shape then the seasons I trained 6 days a week over the summer. We tend to fall into the myth the more the better. The most important thing for your body is to recover the only way for these adaptations to happen is the body needs to rest and regenerate to a higher level of performance known as super compensation, Here’s the visual aid I always use to explain this point to people.

Conclusion

That’s all I have for now FEEL FREE TO ASK ME QUESTIONS. I’d love to help and totally plan on going in depth with this subject on a later post love ya’ll and God Bless 🙂

P.S.

I’m being very forward about ya’ll asking questions because I want you dancers from all around to drive the material. This is how i work with my clients at times and we’ve been pretty successful doing this. Also, Photo credit to Jamie Lynn Photography in Orlando, Florida LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU JAMIE 😀

A Needs Analysis of the Dance We all Love

Intro

As this site is designed to help inform dancers how to utilize exercise as a means of improving our swing dancing, I found that it’s only appropriate to start off revealing what components of fitness does Lindy Hop really utilizes. This will allow all of you to have an idea on what to ask questions about if you have already been doing this or directions on how and where to start.

What is a Needs Analysis?

The needs analysis is the starting point of any training program. It consists of determining the basic needs of the individual in accordance with the target activity. The analysis generally focuses on three primary areas: physiological, biomechanical and medical (Hoffman 2002). The physiological analysis focuses on determining the primary energy source used during activity (ATP-PC, Glyoclytic and Oxidative). Additional needs of the dance are analyzed by examining the emphasis placed on other major fitness components these of which being strength, power, speed, agility and flexibility. This information will give us an idea of how intense the exercises will need to be, how much rest will be needed to properly simulate dancing and adapt the body correctly in training for the dance.

My Analytical Findings

Physiological Analysis

First we must determine if Lindy Hop is aerobic cardio or anaerobic. If cardio is aerobic it’s low intensity and will utilize oxygen to burn fat for energy. Anaerobic cardio is higher intensity and utilizes carbohydrates for energy as there isn’t enough time for oxygen to be utilized to burn fat. This can be determined by looking at heart rate zone ranges going off a variety of estimation formulas. At All Follows Eve in Fort Worth, Texas in early November, I wore a heart rate monitor during the Friday evening dance and found that I predominately stayed in my zone 2 heart rate range (aerobic zone) which means I was using aerobic energy system most of the time. I crossed over to be a bit anaerobic at times for faster songs. Cardiovascular training will be covered in more depth down the rode.

Lindy utilizes a good deal of strength both for the lead and the follow. The lead has to be able to move his partner with his body as the follow has to be able to control her body while being impeded from time to time. A lot of this strength comes from the core which encompasses your abdominal muscles (abs), hips and lower back. Lower body speed, power and agility or foot quickness is a great asset to have as this allows the dancers to be able to dance to faster tempos and allows footwork variations as well. Upper body strength is vital as the shoulders and upper back are engaged the most. Flexibility is important in the shoulders for both leads and follows to avoid injury there and in the hips primarily for follows as this allows for awesome swivels and switches. Leads benefit from having flexibility in that area as well they need to be able to turn freely to complete a good swing out.

Biomechanical Analysis

While analyzing the dance there are a lot of different movements that happen in all different planes of motion frontal (away and towards body) sagittal (front to back) and transverse (rotation on axis). Depending on a dancers style you can move in all of these planes but here are the most common below and I’ll provide a chart that gives visual reference so bear with me if this gets a bit squirrely. This link will help give you a visual and explain in more detail http://www.teachpe.com/anatomy/movements.php

Starting with the shoulders you’ll have flexion and extension this occurs when moving from open to closed position and vice versa. Internal and external rotation mainly happens with  leads using the right arm to lead pop turns or catch a follow for a lindy circle or swing out. Some people tend utilize circumduction which is normally done for arm styling. Usually a follow does this arm circle when being pulled in for another swing out; watch Maeva Truntzer and Sharon Davis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY_fodTVzbk.

Hips tend to stay neutral but will externally rotate while doing circular movement as the follows internally and externally rotate to swivel. Hip abduction and adduction occur sometimes on dancer preference if they do a certain move (Bell kicks and slip slops to name a few). There’s also flexion and extension at the knees and hips for rock steps and the dorsiflexion (toes point up) and plantar flexion (toes point down) of the foot and ankle. Here’s a video of Skye and Frida in Slow motion to help you visualize this.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waYJdPx8G3s.

The range of motion varies depending on the moves a dancer chooses and the speed of force on each joint varies as some moves carry more momentum then others and song speed/tempo comes into play. The muscle action that’s most apparent is concentric (shortening) and eccentric(lengthening) and some isometric movement. The shoulder muscles use eccentric contractions to slow down pulling and concentric to start movement for leads. The muscles in the legs constantly lengthen and contract as you pulse on the dance floor. If you hold any pose you’re using isometric contractions. In the video Jamin Jackson demonstrates a lot of these actions while balancing one leg he’s pulsing and strikes isometric holds on breaks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbbNSXafeyc

Medical Analysis

This portion of the needs analysis is pretty much different depending on what an individual has had happen to them during their life. So I can’t really make a general deduction for everyone which this makes creating a workout program very individualized. As I need to do work to strengthen an ankle that I had sprained and learned to dance on and take into account a hip strain I experienced while running track and patella tendonitis and now Golfers Elbow but I can go over common places of injuries for dancers though.

While seeking the knowledge of more experienced dancers that I know and love to see what they have observed. A follow friend said most common injuries are general knee strain injuries, hip joint over-stress (from swiveling wrong), sore feet (from bad shoes), and possible shoulder injuries (usually from bad leads). As for leads Knees, hips and shoulder injuries are common due to long periods of social dancing, pushing oneself well passed the limits of fatigue. This will enlist a number of exercises and other modalities to be utilized for injury prevention and recovery.

Conclusion

So now that the needs analysis is done, we’ve set the foundation on what things we can address when it comes to training our bodies to be more efficient Lindy Hoppers and articles following this one will address a lot of the things that were touched on here feel free to ask me questions so I can answer them below or write a post about it. Take care and God Bless