Tango Argentino > Changes to Your Tango After Starting a Fitness Routine

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by TomTango, Jan 23, 2015.

  1. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    I was curious if anyone here has started a fitness routine after they started dancing, and how it affected their dance.

    The effects and benefits of stretching/pilates/yoga are obvious, so we can leave those out. I'm mostly interested in cardiovascular fitness (running/swimming/biking) and weightlifting.

    Did it help/hurt any joint pain you were experiencing while dancing? How about postural issues? How about quality of movement?

    Follows typically connect to their leaders chest while dancing, barring large height differences. Follows, do you feel the firmness/softness of your leaders chest affects your connection at all, everything else being equal?
  2. Someday

    Someday Member

    Funny you should ask since this is an outlier discussion among my tango friends. Unfortunately my tango friends aren't as athletic as me and even think the discussion is sort of strange. So, it's nice to be able to discuss with someone who cares. Tango has seriously helped my downhill skiing and mountain biking in many ways:

    * Disassociation - watch a good skier go down the hill (one example:
    ). Their chest is always facing down the slope of the hill and while their skis (and feet) are whipping between a 3:00 and a 9:00 position constantly, their chest is calm as is their head. There are better example videos than the one above, but it's enough to give you the idea. Disassociation is an important attribute in tango dancing as the chest is often leading the follower in the direction of intent prior to the rest of the body moving. I found that my efforts to improve my tango disassociation measurably improved my downhill bump runs. I went from being able to hit 15 moguls uninterrupted (i.e. without stopping) I could do 30 moguls on the same slope. Ok, but try and talk a skier into taking tango because it will improve their skiing...it usually doesn't go over great.

    * Posture & Balance - Understanding how your body 'works' and where it is in space (proprioception) is key in any sport and especially in fast paced activities as it requires a lot of anticipation (like navigating the milonga floor!). I have found that the sense of my axis and body posture has improved my technical mountain biking which requires a lot of precision in balance. Having that sense of exactly where my balance point is in space enables me to make very tight switchback turns while descending and picking my way through a rock garden while ascending.

    * In running, I don't find a strong overlap with my tango skills. There is balance, foot placement, trail awareness to be sure, but it's mostly just cardio going in a straight line. It does help to be in shape for an easier time on the tango floor, but there are many not-slim tango dancers whose skill I would gladly trade for putting on a few pounds.

    * I used to do a lot of weightlifting before I got into tango. Based on my limited experiences, I think that weightlifting works against the 'tango body' to some degree. The gym can be used to improve flexibility but if it's only to build bulk muscles, it seems to me that it doesn't focus the mind and body on the small, discreet, sensitive but intentful movements needed in tango. I'm not saying it's not useful, but I'd put somatics (a fav of mine), yoga, and flexibility improvement for disassociation and balance ahead of weightlifting.

    Lastly, there is a great book by Desmond Morris, called The Soccer Tribe in which he shows how ballet dancers and soccer players have a similar sense of body awareness, movements and speed skills ( http://www.amazon.com/Soccer-Tribe-Desmond-MORRIS/dp/022401935X ). You can watch any NFL games as well and see some amazing zigging and zagging of running backs like Frank Gore (49ers) who have amazing skills. Lots of athletes are great dancers!

    John Bro likes this.
  3. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I did a lot various sport over extended period of time. And what I got was body awareness which overtime I was able to apply to tango. At first it was hindering my progress. Now when adjusted it helps me tremendously. What also I got was timing, as in sport you need to do stuff in correct time.
    What also I got it a feeling of my partner movements and learning how others move. You know you have to raise your defense skills in sport. And then you watch how others move. I adapted that skill to tango and I am able to lead and follow almost at the same time and to feel what I can lead at specific time.
    And when I combine those timing skills and leading/following skills while dancing the term "mistake" is gone. Because I adapt so fast that from the side is invisble what was really led. My partner notice how I follow her and she get relaxed and eventually dances much better.
    My adaptation for new partner decreased dramatically over time. The bad thing that I am so subtle in my leading so I need to adapt to certain followers.
  4. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    During the last 10 years I have noticed that if I want to dance about in same way I need my cardio training, otherwise I will be panting after the first tanda. I am doing some light cycling and an easy cardio/pilates 5 days a week following a workout in youtube. (fitnessblender channel is fantastic!)

    Last spring I noticed that the years of pilates have not been enough for my ankles so I started to pay attention to them and my balance has improved significantly. I am not doing so much because of the warning - muscles are responding much faster than joints and ligaments and the unbalance there can cause injuries.
  5. koinzell

    koinzell Active Member

    Weight training definitely helps, but it depends on what movements you do because "weight training" can mean a lot of things. If you want your fitness routine to support your dancing, two of the best exercises are front squats and deadlifts. These exercises improve your posture because you have to maintain extension in your thoracic spine.
  6. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    This line of thinking came about when I noticed some improvements to my dancing when I switched my workout routine. I was using a squat-heavy weightlifting routine, which gives a lot of work to the lower back and quads. At the same time I was neglecting abdominal work. If you're familiar with postural mechanics, you know that quads/lower back form a force couple, while hamstrings/abs form an opposing force couple. If either couple is significantly stronger than the other, it can cause anterior/posterior pelvic tilt, which I had.

    Now I'm doing less squatting and more cardio/abdominal work. Stronger abs+stronger glutes/hamstrings (from biking) has started to fix my pelvic tilt. Also, while I was never winded from dancing, I've noticed my head is clearer when dancing on a day I hit the gym, leading to better improvisation.

    I think the opposite discussion, using tango to improve your other physical activities, is a fascination one.
  7. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Follows, do you feel the firmness/softness of your leaders chest affects your connection at all, everything else being equal?

    Connection, no, but comfort, yes.

    I avoid the firm chests of body-builders and prefer to sink into the soft chests of milongueros viejos, especially those with extra weight around the middle.
    dchester likes this.
  8. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    I can see how a pillowesque chest could be comfy. Do milongueros viejos all have soft chests? No bony ones?
  9. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    I think this 30/20/10 training is the most efficient way to push up your basic cardio condition I ever came accross. Still a short term evaluation after a few weeks training. I use only 5 mins a few times a week - still in starting mode. I am using a indoor bicycle

    Have you heard about it? tested? what do you think?

    Here a youtube video

    and on my page you find a Biagi song prepared for this training.
  10. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Exercise came first for me, but
    • A couple of people told me to think of skiing when I was trying to do dissociation -- that really helped
    • One lady asked if I did sports (I do several). She said she could tell because I had a "good spatial sense"
    • Weight lifting can give a nice "handle" area between the bicep and deltoid for the ladies (for open embrace, anyways)
    • Once DW wasn't doing a move to my satisfaction, so I just picked her up and put her down in the right spot -- I don't think I would have been strong enough for that with Tango alone (she still laughs about it)
    • Contra and Blues are definitely more exercise, they make Tango seem easier to do (for endurance)
  11. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Can't remember having ever been impressed by weightlifters dancing tango. But martial artists, yes.
    j_alexandra likes this.
  12. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Moderate exercise is the key ;)
  13. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    This looks like a modified high intensity interval training (HIIT). I tried doing something like this and hurt myself in the sprints. If I did it again, I would definitely do a few weeks of normal, low intensity running to prepare my joints and tendons for the intense bursts of effort this requires.
    raindance likes this.
  14. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    I think there is a Japanese variation called Tabata too. I have only tested those options but they are usually quite long, ordinary workouts so one difference is the time which is 12 mins total including 2 mins pause for this method. I have seen instruction that there should be at least 48h between the training occasions.
    I do only the first part, 5 mins, a few times per week but I have been able to rise the intensity of the tandas to a level I had for maybe 6 years ago and that is great fun for me and for my partners too!
  15. LivingstonSeagull

    LivingstonSeagull New Member

    it is great to see people here that realize that dancing is an athletic activity and requires general fitness! I see too many people in the tango scene here on the West coast that don't seem to think that tango requires any physical fitness. Sadly, most of the instructors don't even bring up any exercise routines for the students. I train with a professional dance couple (professional performers as opposed to professional teachers) and at the ladies technique workshop the lady instructor gave us tough sequences of exercises - squats, stretches, foot strengthening exercises, balance exercises, etc. I could not believe my ears when several attendees were complaining how "this is not followers technique, I didn't sign up for a gym session, etc." Apparently they felt that high boleos and embellishments constitute followers technique - not the ability to maintain your balance and axes no matter what, or be able to make large powerful steps in 10 cm heels in response to leader's steps because your legs are strong enough.
    I am fairly athletic, been doing several sports throughout my life - tennis, figure skating etc. - but once I started dancing tango I realized that I needed to supplement general fitness with dance-specific fitness with emphasis on balancing, strong feet and ankles, and dissociation. I incorporated several ballet exercises to help my tango and noticed marked difference in my dance.
  16. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    I would be very much on the pupil's side here, and leave the class (probably after demanding a refund). You should find other teachers, those ones are frauds.
  17. LivingstonSeagull

    LivingstonSeagull New Member

    Those are very strong words, newbie, especially without knowing the teachers.
    To each - their own, obviously, and those who don't think that strong balance is not essential to followers technique are happily doing their embellishments elsewhere. The students of my two teachers are noticable within the community for their rapid and marked improvement. And I believe the quality of the teachers is manifested in their students improvement of skills.
    In addition to that, I come from a school of thought that any dance requires strong fitness program - ballet, ballroom, folk, jazz - or Argentine tango - in order to excel in it.
    It is my opinion, those teachers that teach complex, off-axes moves or complex embellishments to students that can barely maintain their balance are at least irresponsible. But that's what many instructors do - because that's what students would like to learn, and that's what pays money. I am proud of my teachers not being like that.
    JohnEm likes this.
  18. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    One the one hand, those exercises would be super helpful for those really invested and spending a lot of time improving their tango. But most people in workshops usually have limited time to work on improving, and might be served better with more conventional technique tips (extensions, axis management, dissociation, foot articulation, etc.). So I can see why there was some grumbling.

    On the other hand, it's to be expected for stage performers to emphasize things that lend themselves to a more training-oriented approach to tango. So it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise that they took that route to the class attendees. Maybe the class wasn't branded appropriately.
    dchester likes this.

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