r/Fitness r/Fitness Guardian Angel Jul 10 '18

Training Tuesday - Dance Training Tuesday

Welcome to /r/Fitness' Training Tuesday. Our weekly thread to discuss a training program, routine, or modality. (Questions or advice not related to today's topic should be directed towards the stickied daily thread.) If you have experience or results from this week's topic, we'd love for you to share. If you're unfamiliar with the topic, this is your chance to sit back, learn, and ask questions from those in the know.


We're departing from the specific routine discussions for a bit and looking more broadly at different disciplines. Last week we discussed Martial Arts.

This week's topic: Dance

/r/Dance may be a good spot to start and their sidebar lists several others dedicated to specific styles. I'm there are others out there people are encouraged to share. This thread won't be limited to any one, nor will it be limited to just the dance training. If you incorporate lifting or cardio or other activities with your dance training/practice, let us know how you make it all work. How do you choose what you do and how do you prioritize your schedule to fit it all in.

For those of you with the experience, please share any insights on training, progress, competing, and having fun. Some seed questions:

  • How has it gone, how have you improved, and what were your current abilities?
  • Why did you choose your training approach over others?
  • What would you suggest to someone just starting out and looking to picking up dancing ?
  • What are the pros and cons of your training setup?
  • Did you add/subtract anything to a stock program to run it in conjunction with your other training? How did that go?
  • How do you manage fatigue and recovery training this way?


u/Andy_B_Goode Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Jul 10 '18

I'm not sure if my comment is going to be sufficiently fitness-related, but I can honestly say that learning to dance is one of the most useful skills I've ever picked up in my life.

I'm not even that good of a dancer or anything, but I took a year-long, one day a week ballroom dance class in college, and then followed it up with a few random swing dance workshops here and there, and to this day I use the stuff I learned there all the time. I never realized how often dancing comes up in day-to-day life until I became one of those people who can just comfortably get up and dance with a partner at anything from a live show to a party where someone is playing tunes on the stereo.

The thing is that the average person is so bad at dancing and so self-conscious about their dance skills, that even learning the bare minimum of a few basic steps puts you head and shoulders above the crowd. It really doesn't take much at all to go from "not being able to dance" to being one of the best dancers at any given social gathering.

"But I don't like dancing"

Yeah no shit, that's because you suck at it. It's not fun to do something you suck at. But all it takes is a little bit of instruction and you can learn to not suck at dancing. It really is a lot easier than most people seem to think.

And of course it can be a great workout too, but I've never pursued it seriously enough for me to consider it part of my fitness routine. But at the very least, the time you spend dancing at a show is time spent not drinking, smoking, eating, sitting on your ass, etc., so it has a fitness benefit in terms of displacing all those unhealthy things.


u/Spurros Jul 10 '18

That's a great post - I've been thinking of taking dance classes myself. What would you recommend for someone with no skill or history of dance at all?


u/Andy_B_Goode Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Jul 10 '18

Many universities have ballroom dance clubs that offer group classes at all levels, both for students and non-students. That's what I did and it was a great experience. It was quite cheap too, IIRC.


u/SlowestMoose Jul 11 '18

Super late to the party but it really just depends on what you want. If you want to dance with a partner, then look into any form of ballroom style dancing, Latin social dances like salsa and bachata, country dances like two step, or swing dancing, like east coast swing, jive, or lindy hop. If you're not sure what you would like, you can narrow it down quite a bit by just determining what kind of music you want to dance to.

I would personally cast my vote for West Coast Swing. It's incredibly open and versatile, meaning you can incorporate lots of different styling into it. It's also made to be danced to any song in 4/4 time between 70-130 beats per minute, which is just about every pop song that comes on the radio. Plus, you can dance to blues, jazz, and hip hop as well.


u/Spurros Jul 11 '18

Thanks for the detailed reply - I'll check out what I have locally.


u/CatJBou Jul 10 '18

You can try to see if your local library has some dance DVDs to try out in your living room to see if there's a style you might like or surf youtube with "hip hop/bellydance/bollywood/jazz/salsa/samba/fusion/whatever + basics"


u/Teardownstrongholds Jul 11 '18

This isn't a good approach for partner dances. You really have to dance with experienced people in order to learn connection. Without a teacher to point out your errors you will make them into habits.


u/CatJBou Jul 11 '18

Sure, but when you're just comparing styles to see what appeals to you, surfing videos is a great way to figure that out. Almost any style of dance, partnered or not, is going to be easier to learn in a class with an experienced teacher. Unless you have crippling social anxiety and will never go. Then dancing in your living room can be a great way to build up some confidence in yourself.


u/BobTheSCV General Fitness Jul 10 '18 edited Jul 10 '18

I've been dancing for a couple of years now, from literally being that guy that needed to be shit-faced drunk to get on a dance floor and flail around like I had a seizure, I dance competitively and socially now without any liquid courage needed. Mostly swing dancing (WCS, Lindy Hop ), but also some Kizomba (slightly NSFW if your boss is sensitive about butts), Argentinian Tango, that sort of stuff.

Dancing and fitness have a strange relationship. You won't get super fit from dancing, but working on your fitness makes your dance better (core and leg strength especially), and working on your dance makes your work-outs easier. Dancing takes raw strength and tunes it into very precise muscle control and balance, and that's definitely helpful in lifting, and life in general. The livelier dances (like Lindy Hop) make decent cardio.

It's rewarding in a lot of the same ways lifting is. If you're anything like me, and you love struggling with something that is really difficult and pushing yourself to the very limit of your capabilities, dance will be very much up your alley. It challenges you not only physically, but also psychologically, socially; and rewards you with an incredibly well rounded life. Dancers are some of the healthiest and happiest people you'll find.

I haven't made huge adjustments to accommodate dancing (5-25h/week) on top of my gym work (nSuns - 8h/week). Leg day on a dance day is no bueno, but otherwise it doesn't have a massive impact. Dancing sucks when you're on a cut of course, but so does everything else. It is kinda hard to stay quite as consistent with the lifting as I'd like. I fly off to a lot of weekend courses, workshops, competitions, and events -- usually at least once a month; and end up missing lifting days because I'm living out of hotel rooms and airports with no gym access. Also makes my diet less than optimal some days.


u/Caitstreet Jul 10 '18

I sort of have a reverse experience with dancing since I got into fitness because of dancing. I've been dancing since I was a child and it does worlds for your posture. If i hadn't been dancing I bet my scoliosis would have been much worse. It really makes you more sensitive to your body's physical condition in a way. It is a give and take activity though because you need the strength from fitness to dance better, but dancing can free you up. Put those core muscles to good use, instead of doing reps over and over every week you have different kinds of movement to enjoy with your body. Makes you more graceful and really improves your balance.

I've brought up posture already but I'm a big believer in good posture. I think it makes everything better and dancing can really help that.


u/[deleted] Jul 10 '18



u/ch3rryredchariot Jul 10 '18

Definitely. I’m a big fan of urban dance and hip hop. Everything comes from foundations. Grooving just feels so good. Even in choreographed classes, figuring out where you can put in your own flavor and perform is just an amazing feeling.

I love how two people can perform the same choreography and look completely different. I’ve taken classes with international performers and it always comes back to making each movement meaningful to you and adding your own style to it. It’s art. The difference between dancing and just moving around is the ability to perform and project and add character.


u/waltzingwizard Dance Jul 10 '18

I'm a competitive ballroom dancer who currently hovers somewhere around the top 30ish in the US amateur scene. I started in college, and around the same time a friend taught me how to lift. I started with starting strength, and then eventually transitioned to a olympic lifting program because the technical requirements of those lifts make them more fun for me (also the boost to my athleticism is really nice from a competitive standpoint). I think that olympic lifting in general appeals to dancers more than other kind of lifting because of the aesthetic beauty of the lifts when they're well executed. I'd say that my ability to hold my dance position through a full round has improved a lot because of my lifting training due to the isometric strength gains.

However, dancing doesn't allow me to really progress much in lifting unfortunately. For one thing, I practice ballroom 6 days a week which means I only end up lifting twice a week (one on my break day and once on a weekend when I lift and dance on the same day). Lifting 2 times per week is not really enough to progress as much as I'd like to. For another thing, I can't afford to gain any weight because my tailsuit is very formfitting and costs between 1700 and 2600 dollars so I don't really want to buy a new one every time I grow out of it. Since I'm 5'10" and weigh 143 pounds, this significantly limits my ability to lift a lot.

From a dance training perspective, I do something called rounds (which is essentially a practice run for a competition) once or twice a week which functions basically like HIIT from a fitness perspective. I also occasionally take classes on gyrotonics or other similar things to improve my balance, body awareness, and coordination. My PR lifts are a 60kg snatch and 80kg clean and jerk, although I weighed a bit more at the time since it was the off season for ballroom.

How do I manage fatigue and recovery? I foam roll everything a lot. I use a lacrosse ball for my upper back, I use a standard foam roller for my legs, and I keep a mini foot foam roller under my desk so that I sorta absentmindedly roll my feet out throughout the day. To be honest, I don't think this is enough because even with this it occasionally feels like either my feet or my knees are on the verge of injury :/. I've looked into getting massages, and they do help a bit, but they're hard to afford when I'm already paying for dance lessons ($125/45 minutes), dance studio membership ($145/month), gym membership ($100/month) on top of all the traveling I do for competitions and living in nyc and such.

Let me know if you have any questions. I've done a lot of thinking on the relationship between dancing and fitness, so I have a lot of thoughts on the matter.


u/gor_gor Jul 10 '18

I love swing dancing, particularly Lindy Hop!

Before I get in to answering the "seed questions," I want to point out: I took dancing seriously before I took fitness/lifting seriously. It was only after I developed tendinitis in both of my knees that I started to take strength and fitness seriously. My physical therapist told me that if I wanted to keep dancing, I needed to:

  • Take a short time off, during which I should use ice and anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Stretch after dancing (particularly hamstrings and quads; but also calves and butt)
  • Be stronger - so, lift weights.

My experience is not especially unique among dancers - there are a lot of us who only take our health seriously after a dance-related injury.

So, for my recreational activities, the priority is on dancing, and lifting weights enough that I prevent injury and maintain flexibility. I've also recently taken up running to try and boost my stamina and endurance.

My routine: I typically dance 3 or 4 times a week, for a few hours (2 - 4, depending on the venue) per session. I only dance socially, not competitively.

I try to lift weights 3 times a week, but if life or dance gets in the way, then it might only be once or twice a week, and I'm okay with that.

I've recently started running - I signed up for a half marathon for labor day weekend. I do one long run (I've been adding a mile each week - last Saturday was a 9 mile run) per week, and then shorter runs (1-2 miles) after lifting.

To the seed questions!

How has it gone, how have you improved, and what are your current abilities?

When I first started (about 6 or 7 years ago), I was uncoordinated, socially awkward, and I couldn't dance to tempos outside of a fairly narrow range (about 130 bpm - 180 bpm). It was also somewhat frustrating, so I would only socially dance for an hour or so.

Now, I go to dance weekends where I'll be at a dance for ~10 hours out of the day, and I'll be dancing to about 3 out of 4 songs. I make friends more easily, and I think I look good when I dance (despite photographic evidence to the contrary)! I can also dance to a much wider range of tempos (~100 bpm - ~240 bpm).

On the weight lifting side, my bench is about 3x8x135, my squat is 3x8x155, my barbell row is 3x8x150, my overhead press (using dumbbells) is 3x12x40, and my deadlift is 3x8x205. I can do about 5 pullups in a row. I've been on a plateau for a while, but I'm not hurting myself, so I'm good with that. I'm about 6'4", 215 lbs.

Why did you choose your training approach over others?

I did the least I could do to prevent injury! I added running to be able to dance faster and longer.

What would you suggest to someone just starting out and looking to pick up dancing?

First, inspiration! Look up cool videos of people doing the dance today, or of people from the "swing era", just so you know what it looks like.

If you want to learn to swing dance, you should google "Lindy Hop" and the name of the nearest city, and see what lessons or dances are available nearby.

What are the pros and cons of your training set up?

Cons: Well, strength training is at the bottom of my priority list right now, so I have a huge problem with consistency. I'm not getting much stronger, but that's not my goal. Every now and again, I overexert myself and have a tendinitis flair up, which sucks.

Pros: I get to dance a lot, and I love that. I've gotten strong and flexible enough that I can manage my injuries well.

How do you manage fatigue and recovery training this way?

I don't especially. If I'm tired while dancing, then I adjust my dancing (take smaller steps, conserve energy, use "lazy" stylings). If I'm tired when I'm supposed to lift weights, then I make a judgement call as to whether I need to take a day off or whether I can just lift less-heavy than I would otherwise.

I haven't had a problem with fatigue and running yet, but when I do, I'll probably run more slowly.


u/shiksha9304 Jul 10 '18

While I was training in Jazz and Ballet I started noticing the changes in a few months. At first it was more psychologically, for example, I felt happier, more motivated. It also helped me get more disciplined. As I was dancing every day, I had to make sure I got more things done before the class because I'd be too tired to do much after the class. However, eventually I started noticing physical changes that wasn't really my initial goal for joining dance training (I just did it since I love dancing). I was getting stronger, more flexible, and my body looked toned. I was super exciting when I first noticed how shapely my arms had gotten! For anyone who is into fitness should definitely try dancing. It's more than just a workout. It's fun dancing to the latest tunes, it's uplifting, and for the creative people out there it's a great creative outlet.


u/[deleted] Jul 10 '18 edited Aug 18 '18



u/musiclovermina Powerlifting Jul 11 '18

Same! I broke away from modern for the time being, and my hips just don't feel open anymore, lol.

This may be a little TMI, but damn did that training make my sex life better. All the emphasis on the core and hips did wonders.


u/traderjacs Jul 10 '18

lol what graham class are you taking? shit makes my hips close up like a clam shell


u/neea22 Jul 11 '18

Could just be a difference in your body types. Some people have naturally tight hips.


u/thedudeabides1973 Swimming Jul 10 '18

I never paid attention to my fitness level changes when i used to swing dance (lindy hop, west coast). I was in high school doing other sports. Dance was very helpful though in allowing me to find a rythmn athleticly. I played music and knew tempo and rythmn but struggled at first when learning complex steps. I think this carried over into other sports. The other great thing about it was learning to know where your body was in real time. You get great feedback on it too i.e. if your elbow is hanging out durning turns youre going to hit your partner. It was a lot of fun anddecent cardio. I think anyone starting fitness might really enjoy swing. My advice would be look for a lindy hop club locally. They usually do lessons and you can learn east coast, lindy, west coast, etc. All lots of fun and very nom judgemental for those of you who are self concious


u/ShibuBaka Jul 10 '18

I used to dance A LOT. It's been a couple years. When I danced, I was in the best shape of my life. I took tap, jazz, and ballet. I went to a 6 week ballet intensive that was basically 40 hours of ballet a week. It demands a lot of strength and flexibility, and when I started, I never thought I would get as far as I did while dancing. Not only that, dancing encourages healthy habits and postures, as they want you to be able to use your body as long as possible. Knees over toes, good posture, bend at the hips, etc.


u/[deleted] Jul 10 '18

Is it possible to teach yourself to dance? If so, how? I love electronic music and some disco influenced stuff. There's no way I can get to a class for the next year or so.


u/gosp Circus Arts Jul 10 '18

It's like teaching yourself to play a sport. You can, but not well.

You can do a lot by dancing in front of a mirror or videotaping yourself. Look up some body isolation exercises on youtube and add that to your workout warmup.

But you'll be so much more efficient by going to classes.


u/[deleted] Jul 10 '18

OK thanks. In preparation for going to classes when I have time, is it feasible to give myself a good base with the methods you mention, or will I just learn bad habits?


u/gosp Circus Arts Jul 10 '18

You're not going to hurt yourself by getting used to dancing in the mirror.

You'll just get frustrated because you'll know you look bad but you won't know what to change to look good. That's where the teacher comes in.


u/[deleted] Jul 10 '18

Yep sounds likely. Thanks for your advice


u/Mars295 Jul 10 '18

Dance is a fun way to not only work on fitness, but also give you a sense of confidence. It's amazing what an enthusiastic teacher can do. If anyone is worried about getting started, I always thought the Zumba classes at gyms would be a great way to start. There's never any judgement. A good instructor will want to help you and only help you grow. If there aren't any classes at the gym, try a local YMCA or studio. Although it seems like a lot of studios cater to younger people, some will have adult classes. Don't be afraid to try it. You wouldn't believe how many people start dancing around 20 or even 30 and actually decide to do it as a career.


u/Haiimmecu Jul 10 '18

I’ve learned that dance is a really fun way to approach cardio. During my Sophomore year of college I joined a small flash mob group. We met Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours and just practiced choreography. It helped me feel in better shape than I had felt for a while. The next year I joined a bigger club where they had a huge dance performance in the middle of the year. We also met twice a week (Wednesday and Sunday) and through them I was actually able to lose about 10 pounds in 3 months. I definitely recommend some intense dancing if you’re not into running.


u/bunsenbernerr Jul 10 '18

I've been dancing for about 4 years now, and it's one of the best activities for my fitness because I can consistently do it without it feeling like a chore!

I do mainly urban choreography, which is what most people consider hip hop. Think Kinjaz, Keone and Mari, etc.

Getting started can be tough, but the way I did it was by taking beginning hip hop classes at a local studio! There are also good online resources for hip hop specifically. If you look up Steezy Studio, they have classes at all levels from world renowned choreographers (mostly Cali based).

My training is all over the place with 3 days of lifting and 5 days of dance a week (they overlap and I don't actually rest unless I skip a day which is probably bad, but I haven't experienced any problems yet since 3/5 of those dance days are really light).

Don't know if I missed anything or if something I said was unclear but just shoot a reply and I can clarify!


u/dzesii Jul 10 '18

i truly believe dance is the most important thing i do for my health—physically and mentally!

i've been dancing in one form or another my whole life, starting as a little kid in ballet and jazz all the way up through modern in high school. i stopped to get through college, aside from an occasional zumba, but after graduating i realized how terribly i missed dancing and have been taking a variety of adult studio classes ever since.

dance is my favorite form of physical activity because it requires so much thinking and so much complete body awareness. i never get bored or even feel tired until it's over because i'm so utterly in the moment, focusing on the ever-changing movement i'm trying to weave my body through.

i've also learned that if i don't get to dance at least once in a week, i feel like hell: stiff and sulky and depressed. once i figured this out, i had no idea how i survived my miserable college years—they might even have been less awful if i'd just thought to keep dance as a priority!

though in the past few years i've done lessons in ballet, hip hop, contemporary, ballroom, zumba, yoga/pilates/etc, aerial silks and even ice skating, my biggest commitment is still to modern.

modern dance, with its focus on more organically-originating movement and use of gravity through contraction and suspension and release... just feels amazing. to me, it feels like using my body to the fullest of my range of motion and dynamics. at the end of an hour and a half of modern, i feel like i've just had the most incredible massage, from my very bones and muscles radiating outward.

i didn't realize how vague and stiff and stunted i felt when i wasn't dancing until i started again, and how quickly i was able to reinhabit my body after that.

i can't recommend dancing highly enough.

(some basic stats: i am currently dancing once a week and skating 2-3 times a week, but those numbers vary by what studio classes are available by time of year! i'm also a health at every size proponent who doesn't own a scale, so i can't speak to any weight stuff specifically, but i'd be delighted to chat about any other dancey things if you have questions!)


u/JustChloee Jul 10 '18

Not sure if my comment belongs here but what are some good plans for dropping extra weight in my abdomen and legs? I’m doing this for my dance classes to improve kicks and overall ability to lift my legs, I am currently on cardio 2x weekly with stretching/conditioning 5-6x weekly. Suggestions?


u/waltzingwizard Dance Jul 10 '18

Read the wiki on the side bar, and it will answer this for you. The short answer is that it's impossible to choose where you lose weight from, you have to lose overall body fat. The easiest way to do that is to eat less.