Dianne Miller's Health and Strength
Dancing and Bodybuilding
There are two very simple reasons for learning how
to dance as you attempt to improve upon the way you look.
The first concerns the nerves that trigger the
muscles. If only the muscles and not the nerves going to the muscles
are developed, the end result, in many cases, is a bodybuilder who
appears stiff when he walks. Most barbell or dumbbell movements are
fairly limited in movement and application. You simply will not
develop the ability to "move like a cat" by restricting yourself to a
limited range of movement with a limited number of exercises.
For those of you familiar with electrical theory,
consider this: volts (electrical pressure) times amps (electrical
speed) equals watts, or electrical power. Nerves send electrical
impulses to the muscles.
If we equate muscular strength to volts and nerves
to amps, you can easily see that failing to develop your "amps"
potential will affect your ability to produce power. You develop this
"amps" potential by learning to dance and then practicing the myriad
of moves you learn.
The second simple reason for learning how to dance
is self-evident: aerobic exercise. Any experienced body-builder knows
that cardiovascular exercise is a necessity in order to gain muscular
size, improve circulation, and prevent injury.
Most bodybuilders use treadmills in the gym for
this purpose. Have you ever noticed that someone who is clumsy when he
gets on a treadmill is still clumsy when he (or she) gets off that
treadmill after hundreds of serious hours on it, two years later?
DANCING VS. THE TREADMILL
A thought came to me one day as I was on
the treadmill. Treadmills are boring. Treadmills, while they
are of some benefit to your circulation, do less than
nothing for your overall body coordination or ability to
"move with power." In some cases, you get shin splints. An
open track isn't much better. It is my own opinion that
"running around in circles" is what describes training on a
Experiences I had had and things I had heard began
to come back to me. Joe Louis had taken tap dancing. Walter Payton had
taken ballet. The common denominator was that they both had taken
Any type of aerobic exercise had to be better than
the treadmill. Tap dancing didn't seem like that great an idea and
prancing around on my tiptoes with a bunch of people in tights was
most definitely out of the question.
What I signed up for was swing. It was a mental
strain but it wasn't boring. By mental strain, I mean trying to
memorize and apply movements that were completely alien to me. At
first I felt clumsy and awkward. Of course, I suspect that was because
I was clumsy and awkward. As I progressed the instructors showed me
the subtle ways to shift my bodyweight, foot positioning, and
communicating leads to a partner (a live weight, if you will, the
hardest thing to control). Mindful of the adage that misery loves
company, I also signed up my twenty-year-old trainee, John. The first
result John noticed about taking swing lessons was that the girls he
knew were really impressed with his new ability on the dance floor.
After a few lessons I went to one of my favorite
chiropractors, David Trybus, who used to train with the Barabian
Brothers. He asked me, "What's new?" I told him that I had been taking
swing lessons. He responded that he gets quite a few people in his
practice trying to learn swing with complaints similar to mine.
"You mean this isn't the usual lifting injury I
come in with?" I asked him.
"No, the problems you have this time have nothing
to do with lifting weights."
What this meant was that my usual lifting injuries
had been eliminated. The new injuries would also be eliminated once
all the other normally unused muscles became acclimated. The fat
around my waist and "love handles" also started disappearing.
Other things began to
surface. I noticed that the days I didn't drink a sufficient amount of
water I would lose my balance on a man's quick right hand turn (a 360-degree
clockwise rotation). I recently heard that for every twenty minutes of
aerobic exercise, a person needs to consume 8 ounces of water.
Dehydration causes dizziness.
At some point in taking swing lessons I developed
the ability to actually keep time with my body to the music. This may
seem irrelevant to strength training, but consider this. Several years
ago a book titled Superlearning was published. The premise of
Superlearning is that your memory improves when you listen to baroque
music. People were learning up to 3,000 words of a foreign language in
a single day with the techniques described in the book. The obvious
question is, since a strength athlete must have powers of
concentration in order to set records, is there some correlation with
A number of years ago Acres USA, an organic farming
publication, ran a series of articles showing the correlation between
the singing of birds and the growth of plants. The thesis was that the
vibratory notes in the birds singing created a series of vibrations
conducive to plant growth.
Years ago an old man in Arizona, who taught me how
to build the Lakhovsky Multiple Wave Oscillator, told me that his
mentor had taught him there were only two secrets to the universe:
frequency and vibration. His mentor had been Nikola Tesla.
In the last ten years some people have tried to
show that children with brain disorders can benefit from dolphin
therapy (swimming with dolphins). The theory is that the vibrations
from the dolphins affect the brain waves of the child they "play"
with. This has been written off as nonsense by the medical profession,
which hasn't been able to do anything to help the children with these
Five months after I began taking lessons in swing
dancing, I gave a seminar in North Carolina. I walk around a lot and
gesticulate often during seminar presentations. A friend of mine, who
specializes in a form of deep muscle massage, commented to my seminar
promoter that my movements were much more smooth and fluid than
before. Other people noticed the same thing.
As one of the instructors at the Springfield
Ballroom pointed out to me when I mentioned this, learning to dance is
merely relearning to walk.
ENHANCE YOUR ATHLETIC
Dancing, in addition to helping you look
good while you move, even off the dance floor, will help
enhance your athletic ability. Let us give you an example.
Sugar Ray Robinson, who won 175 fights, 109 by
knockout, and lost 19 in 25 years (1940-1965), is considered by many
to be the best fighter who ever stepped into the ring. During the
Depression, when he was twelve, Robinson lived in Harlem with his
mother and honed his footwork by dancing for change along Broadway. On
December 18, 1952 Robinson announced his retirement from the ring to
try a career in show business as a tap dancer. He announced his return
to the ring on October 20, 1954.
The great John Grimek was also quite a dancer. For
those of you too young to remember who John Grimek was, he won several
Mr. America titles back in the 1940s and 1950s, and was also a
national weightlifting champion.
There are certain dances that will help
specific athletes more than others. For instance, any of the
smooth dances (tango, waltz, foxtrot) are great dances for
any sport with a substantial amount of running involved.
This is because of the way you take the forward steps in
those dances. You reach forward with the heel but you
immediately transfer the weight back to your toes. As you
take each step you try to keep a good bend in the knees so
you have a good push with the back foot to take a long
stride. It's like slow motion running. By learning to take
strides like this it will increase speed because of the
weight staying forward. You can't run as fast if your weight
is on your heels. Putting your weight on your heels makes
you feel heavier and not able to move as quickly.
These types of movements also help develop and tone
the thigh biceps, or hamstrings.
Most weightlifters are completely unaware of the
relationship between the hamstrings and the lower back. When the
hamstrings in one leg tighten or shorten, they pull one side of the
hips down. Once the hips are tilted, the spine goes to one side. When
the spine goes to one side, the lower back often "goes out."
You might think you could properly exercise your
hamstrings on a leg-curl machine. You can exercise your hamstrings on
a leg-curl machine, but the muscle fibers you engage are limited with
a machine that allows you to exercise the muscles from only one angle.
When you use the leg-curl machine, certain muscle fibers become
stronger than other fibers. The stronger fibers take over while the
weaker fibers rest. Your muscles are actually deconditioning from not
accessing the full scope of the muscle.
Cha-cha and rumba are good to teach
precision in movement because of the hip motion and the
footwork involved. In learning how to do the slow and quick
movements of the hip motion, control is accomplished. As you
roll the hip from each weight change, you use what is called
staccato movement. This is where you have what looks like a
pause in the movement. In actuality, however, the hip motion
never stops. The feet are what slow down. In cha-cha, for
instance, the rhythm of the movements are slow, slow, slow,
quick, quick. On the quick, quick movements you want to
exaggerate the faster movements as you go into the slow
movements. It looks like you almost stop because of the
exaggeration. Being able to do this correctly takes much
time and dedication. As intricate as the technique is, even
attempting to master it will help in any sport.
Swing is probably the most vigorous of the dances
taught at the Springfield Ballroom Dance Center. Most people do not
think of swing as a ballroom dance, but it is. It is also one of the
easiest to learn.
Swing is excellent for developing the abdominals
and external obliques (the large muscles on the side of the body,
between the lowest rib and the hip). Movements like toe-heel swivels
and "the wheel" are much more vigorous exercises than "crunches" and
side twists with a stick.
Of course, doing the wheel or toe-heel swivels also
requires some fancy footwork. Practicing this fancy footwork, in swing
and other dances, is what improves your poise, posture, balance,
coordination, speed, and timing.
The cost for lessons? Very little. Regardless, are
you going to put a price tag on your body?
Pictures of Mike Brown on the Dance Floor
Mike Brown in the Gym
More Pictures of Mike Brown in the Gym
2733 E Battlefield Road #234
Springfield, MO 65804
This page was updated on
April 30, 2015