Lindy Hop Frame


What is it?

Do I have to have it?

Frame is created by relaxing and tensing you chest and back muscles the teres (major and minor), the infraspinatous, the supraspinatous, the multiple pectoral muscles and lastly the latissmus dorsi. All torso muscles. Since most people have little to no understanding of the human body (there is SO much to learn, and I learn new things everyday), I have found it best to simplify and refer to them collectively as the pecs and lats, since it gives a general idea of what muscle groups are being dealt with.

The human body is designed so that the major muscles above (determined by the relative distance to the torso) a joint control the joint. The muscles below and around control the segment in exterior to the torso.) These muscles control the shoulder joint and are responsible for how much your arm moves before your entire body begins to move with the momentum/energy being applied by your partners movement.

Biceps and triceps are NOT frame.

The more tense your arm, the less useful your frame is.

An example of the natural use of frame:

Stand, with your arms fully extended about five inches from a wall

Without moving your feet allow yourself to fall face first towards the wall

There are two mistakes your body can make. Your body thankfully will allow each mistake only once, and chances are you committed both of them many many years ago when you learned how to walk.

The first mistake is not to brace your fall at all. End Result: You kiss the wall, and your dentist can pay for another year of his kids college.

The second mistake is you brace for the fall sticking your arms out, but locked so as to keep your pretty face as far from the wall as possible. End Result: You end up with severe damage to both elbows and your general praciticioner put the down payment on a new porsche.

What happens if you do it correctly?

Your hands make contact with the wall first, your pecs and lats engage and slow your descent in a nice and controlled manner. These muscles act as shock-absornbers for your body. This natural reaction is exactly what we try and use on the dance floor.

The "springy" feel that comes from good connection is in fact both partners having a good frame and using "Dynamic Tension"... meaning that at either end of the spectrum the pecs and lats are more fully engaged than they are in the middle of the spectrum.

Think of a spring. You push the ends of spring in, at the relaxed state it is easy to do, but as the coils get coser and closer together there is more resistance and it becomes harder to do. If you pull the ends of the spring away from each other again it is relatively easy to do at first but it gets more difficult as the coils get further and further apart.

What do you do as a follow when the leader is rough?

A follow simply needs to keep her frame when dancing with a bad lead. The problem is when a follow gets jerked or muscled about she'll usually try and do the same thing, use her arm muscles or tense her whole body, to protect herself that the lead is doing to hurt her... which is wrong. She needs to relax her arm as much as possible and keep that shoulder locked down with tight pecs and lats.

A stiff arm only provides the leader with a perfect lever with your loose shoulder as the fulcrum... result... OUCH! Rotator cuff injuries are not pleasant.

The worse your partner the better you need to dance.


Well-Known Member
This is so cool. You will not believe this, but when I wrote out my dance goals for my coach last week, number 1 was "make my frame portable",
meaning, learn to maintain my frame well with good leads and bad.

Any ideas on how to tell when your frame is getting out of whack mid-dance? Here's what I find happening. With good leads, I have a great frame -- long arms, nice posture, I look like a dancer. With bad leads, I start out fine, but somewhere in the middle, everything gets tweaked.

How can I tell when I'm starting down the slippery slope?
You should very nearly always be able to see your hand. There are exceptions (like the Texas Tommy/Apache and their variants) but they shouldn't "break" your frame, instead the leader should "bypass" your frame.

If you are in a tuurn, spin, pass, whip etc. you should always be able to see your hand in your periphial vision. The frame is dynamic in swing dancing (actually it is dynamic in all rhythm dances, but the swing more so than the latin dances) so you don't want to lock it down at the very last second, it is progressively more "firm" until you have matched the compression/leveraged tension the leader is giving you, before your frame reaches that breaking point (where the hand is no longer visible).

If you find yourself with your arm getting tense, or your frame fully engaging before it has achieved half it's *stroke then you are not being as dynamic as you should with your frame.

*Stroke the distance your arm moves from its starting position to its end position where the frame becomes fully engaged preventing further independant movement of the arm from the body.


Well-Known Member
That makes a lot of sense to me, d nice. It's amazing how many times I've been in the middle of a dance and felt my shoulder (especially right shoulder) out of alignment, or felt myself just plain old in the wrong place. I'll keep on the lookout for my hand from now on. I probably won't get it right, at first, but at least now, I'll be conscious of it. Thank you.



Active Member
i know this thread is about 2 yrs old now. But before opening a new one, i'll post something in here - since what you said d nice is very nice to everyone who doesn't know about frame.

I got a question to my frame.
My teacher always tells me that i should keep my frame, I'm really trying hard, and i'd love to practice it, but except standing infront of the mirror, or trying to feel that my whole body is moving . (not just corpus, or just legs..) She tells me to move out of my center (somewhere around my belly) and have my shoulders parallel to my feet. So the conditions i have at home are:
- No partner
- a nice slidy floor
- a mirror i could use.

Any suggestions how i can work on this? Any good technique you have discovered or learned to do this?
looking forward to your answers!
The Exercise: Find a counter top, ballet bar, or some other unyeilding horizontal surface that is around the same height as your lowest rib (doesn't have to perfect but close to is best). Place your hands flat on the surface, palms down, and try and bring your arms through the surface to your sides so they would rest at the seams of your trousers.

The Exercise: Stand facing a wall with your arms extended elbows down. There should be about a foot between your fingertips and the wall. Fall towards the wall. Catch yourself and absorb the impact cushioning your fall. Did the impact jar you and create a loud noise? Did it create pain in your elbows, shoulders or face?

The Exercise: With your elbows by your sides (laying softly against your rib-cage) clap your hands so they clasp near your chin. Now without realsing or shifting your grip or elbows press you hands together.

The Exercise: With your hands in the same position of the last exercise, without realsing or shifting your grip or elbows pull your palms apart.

The Exercise: Hold on to a doorknob (preferably a handle like one, but the round knobs will work as well). Slowly back away from the knob and with every step make sure you elbow stays down and your shoulder stays seated in the socket. If you feel the pressure building up in your shoulder that would pull it out of the seat tighten the muscles you need to prevent such a movement.

The Experience: You'll find instead of your biceps and triceps engaging fully they are relatively relaxed while your pectoral and latisimus muscles are your primarily engaged muscles. This is exactly correct. Your chest and back muscles should be the ones engaging to create your frame. It is never 0% and never 100%, but constantly shifting along that scale to create compression or leveraged tension at the point of phyiscial contact with your partner. The closer or further you get to your partner the more those muscles engage.

Teachers myself included like to talk about how the biceps and tri-ceps aren't engaged at all... that is a little white-lie told for the benefit of the students. Your entire body is works in unison and we don't truly want you to isolate any aspect of it frrom another. We say that knowing that if you stop trying to make purposful adjustments with the wrong part of your body that they will engage as your body requires it. The falling against the wall example is an excellent example. In all my years of teaching partner dance and using this exercise I've only ever had one student who did the exercise wrong.That one did only because they guessed at what I wanted and tried to make it happen instead of just following the instructions I had given.

The wonderful thing about Lindy Hop is your body already knows how to do it. IT is based on natural reactions. The same way you would lead a child around by the hand without thinking is the same way we lead our partners, we move our bodies and trust that our mass once moving will take out the slack between us and will bring them along with us. The bounce we have is the same as in any athletic movement, be it jogging, basketball, tennis football/soccer, etc.

It is really easy as long as the brain doesn't interfere... and that is the true purpose of lessons and coaches, classes and workshops. Getting the brain tio shut up long enough for the body to do what it already knows how to do.


Active Member
thx a lot for the exercises! It's great to post a question like this and get a such detailed answer! I'm gonna start on some of those. I hope they help :D (I'm sure they do)

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