What happens when you have an energetic Lead, a Heart Rate Monitor and a near endless Resource of Follows?


Years ago a friend of mine had a debate of how much of Lindy Hop was Aerobic cardiovascular training (low intensity with oxygen) or anaerobic cardiovascular exercise ( moderate to high intensity without oxygen). For years I always speculated because with a lot of the explosive movements utilized in the dance, I had my qualms with a utilization of ONLY low intensity aerobic training by dancers to improve endurance. Which led me to a pretty awesome and fun experiment utilizing a heart rate monitor and follows from all over the mid west.

The Experiment

When I became a Fitness Professional at Lifetime, we’re required to have our own heart rate monitor. Us wearing the watch is part of our uniform so we can show them off to the members and show them the different functions rather then just tell them about them. I was equipped to see how exactly the cardiovascular system functioned during a night of endless dancing. I wanted to figure 2 things from this experiment 1. How many calories do I burn in one night of dancing and 2. was Lindy Hop primarily aerobic or anaerobic.

With this in mind, I decided that one night I’d go to a dance with my heart rate monitor ready to track my heart rate through out the night and track the number of calories burned. After utilizing the information gathered from a peak VO2 treadmill test at Lifetime, I knew exactly when I’d be working aerobically and anaerobically based on my heart rate. I tracked calories burned and heart rate zones on my Polar RS300  (web link to see what it looks like). The watch breaks divides my heart rate into 5 Zones. Zone 1 is a warm up zone that teaches the body how to burn fat more efficiently, Zone 2 is where I build my aerobic endurance, Zone 3 is where I then start to become  more anaerobic utilizing more carbohydrates to function this is where anaerobic endurance is improved, Zone 4 is nearly “balls to the walls” this is how you improve your VO2  at this workload one can only last really a minute at best unless they’re an elite level endurance athlete. Zone 5 represents my absolute maximum and really I shouldn’t be getting that high honestly.

I conducted this experiment twice the first didn’t render enough data going to the  dance  BAM, which is a  dance that is focused on intermediate and advance dancers in Dallas takes place last Friday of every month. There were too few people and so I didn’t dance very frequently and other people weren’t dancing much as it was mostly a practice and experimentation kind of night. Due to that my heart kept plummeting out of my registered zones and I really never got my heart rate up above the bottom of my Zone 2. So the simple answer to this problem; go to a dance with more people and by more people I mean follows. What better event to go to then a workshop weekend that is follow focused!!

All Follow’s Eve Friday November 1st, 2013

Ok, so here’s the situation All Follows Eve was put on by the lovely ladies of the  Fort Worth Swing Dance Syndicate. There follows were able to get instruction from the fabulous Laura Glaess, Miranda Longaker and Joanna Lucero.  With that we had the pleasure to rocking out to the Solomon Douglass Quartet with Allyson Dreyfuss. Along with all follow performances from the Houston Hepcats (Houston, TX), Dallas Divas (Dallas, TX) and Shiny Stockings (Witchita, KS).

In short ya’ll should come dance in Fort Worth. Now I did the experiment on the Friday evening dance because I didn’t want my watch to clash with my threads Saturday evening. The rules were set, I was going to dance just about every song the only time I could miss was to change shirts and I’d get water while finding my next dance partner (I have this down to a science). This was easy to do as I attempted to dance with every follow at least once as the night went on but it was like they never stopped walking in. It literally seemed endless great classes and I ended up getting great results dancing with follows from Minnesota, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma, Kansas City, Wichita, Kansas and more. Learned a great deal from the classes on being more attentive as a lead and allowing my follow to shine as a dancer. Ok, back to the results and findings.


Now I danced just all but 4 songs through out the entire dance missed 1 because I had to check in and put my shoes on and make sure they were tied tight enough. The other 3 were all for shirt changes with this minimal rest I succeeded in burning 1600 calories in that single dance. Now while looking down at my watch through out the night, I spent the night mostly in my Zone 2 heart rate zone, which makes a good claim that the dance is mostly aerobic cardiovascular training.


Based off the evidence presented you can conclude that low intensity cardiovascular training would be sufficient to help improve a dancers endurance to hold up for an entire night of endless dancing. Though 2 things that happened over the weekend that I know I need to take a look into again. I feel that training for a lead and for a follow may have to differ as they have different stresses on their bodies. I found when I followed my heart rate was higher then when I was leading but I didn’t start following till the end of the night and that could’ve been because of Cardiac Drift as I was able to keep my activity level the same and so my heart rate went up. So in the future this same experiment would need to be done with an experience follow or myself following for an entire night to see if cardiovascular training needs to be more intense for a follow then it would for a lead. Also, try a night where there is faster music overall, live bands tend to be faster then dj’s because while dancing to the Solomon Douglass Quartet, I realized I had more lactic acid building in my legs after dances, which side effect of anaerobic conditioning and the cause of that burning sensation with prolonged sprinting. So it leaves room in the future for this experiment to be done with a live band performing to see where my heart rate goes with overall faster music. So with this in mind you can plan out how you want to do your cardio and if you have any specific questions be sure to let me know because there is way more to cover on this subject. I just wanted to put out this experiment to get peoples wheels turning. Love ya’ll and God Bless 🙂


A Needs Analysis of the Dance We all Love


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.


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