Sunday, December 30, 2012

What have I been doing last fall?

I know I have been more busy than ever. Here's a recap video of last September. Other clips should come up eventually! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Understanding the system part 1: follow the money

Why does capitalism works so well? Because it is based on self preservation and fulfilling self interest. I will do as I usually do and use my sledgehammer which seems to be the only tool I know how to use properly.

I will start with a neutral example. If you go and consult a massage therapist to help you with a pain in your lower back, what do you think would be in his best interest? Businesswise, a returning customer brings you a lot more money than having to find new costumers all the time. Of course, the treatment has somehow to seem effective, or else you will find someone else to heal you. If the therapist wants to make as much money as possible, he should then offer the best  temporary release and help you to rationalize why you need to come back later for another treatment.

Of course, this the coldest hypothetical situation, but the truth remains, this is a system relying on good faith. I like to think that most people would consciously rather step on their self interest for the greater good, but what is going on unconsciously, that we will never know.

This is in fact a typical scenario in the martial arts world. The master will only show his secrets to his most advanced students to keep them as long as possible. What do you think happens when a student is as good as the master? Not only will he stop taking classes with his former master, but he might also become a new competitor in the same area.

Is the system very different in swing dancing? The short answer is no!  Why do people keep on doing swing dancing? Because it satisfies certain needs. A short list would look like this:

  • Feeling like part of a group and position yourself within that group.
  • Having a good time
  • Easier to socialize and meet people.
  • Impression of exercising.
  • Getting better at something or being on the impression of.
I don’t think most locals classes, weekend workshops or even private classes are design to help people reaching the top, but rather to give them the impression they are on the right track. Don’t get me wrong, those settings are great from what I observed for pre-advanced dancers. Also, I believed everybody is well intended and nobody really has an evil agenda of any sort.

Follow the money! It is in everybody’s interest, both instructors and promoters, to keep students at that level where they fulfill all their needs and they have the impression the product/service they’re buying is what will help them getting better. There are two ways to drop retention: people who quit and people who get so good they don’t need the products/services anymore. The level system also contribute to that illusion. Of course one feels like he progressed since last year, for he used to be in Intermediate and he is now in Intermediate/Advance.

We can easily notice how few new superstars, full time instructors, there are in the swing dancing world in the past 5 years or so even with that many more very good dancers around. Beside few dancers who got their game above everybody else, most of them are now obviously interchangeable. Do the new guys really have a shot in the current settings, maybe if they play their cards right, but they will most likely try really hard to make a name for themselves until they fail and quit. The system however will keep making them believe that all they need is another year of competing, just another year…

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Methods & findings in swing dancing

In an Era, where certification is all that matters, it is so hard for self taught like myself to get any credibility in fields like fitness and nutrition. It’s alright for the moment though, for I have no intention to turn that knowledge into a business anytime soon, and if I do one day, I know I will need some monkey paper to prove I’m good. Well, that’s life in the 21st century.

The most useful certification I ever got was my degree in Ancient Studies. It sounds farfetched doesn’t it? Well, that degree was so difficult, du to a bunch of enthusiast over qualified teachers that it forced me to develop a learning method that works for me.

I have started martial arts and then swing dancing pretty much in the same period. It struck me right away, coming from a hardcore academic program, how unstructured and amateurish those fields were. Most of the talented dancers or martial artists I looked for to teach me had a hard time passing away their knowledge.

I eventually found decent teachers, but having developed a method in my earlier years is what served me the best. It become obvious to me what the basics were and that I had to work on them neglecting everything accessory. Fortunately, I never had a hard time managing my ego, so while people who started dancing about the same time I have were working on fancy stuff, I kept on working on the basics. Then when I’ve mastered them enough I moved to the fancy stuff and it became obvious to everyone that I have become an advanced dancer at that point.

This is about the time I started wondering about how they train in similar professional disciplines such as gymnastic, other form of dancing, circus, partner skating and so on. I was coaching a team with the Swinging Air Force back in those days, but the way they trained, mostly treadmill and machines, didn’t seem like something that will truly help me out.

My first clue was Pilates. If this is a well kept secret of the ballet dancers, it’s probably worth checking out. So, I taught my Pilates with books and videos. This is about the time P90X became very popular among star dancers.  I decided to give it a shot after a couple of months starting with the videos that develop abilities Vs. those that develop muscles. It worked great! This is why I will never spit on that program. It gave me a bunch of clues about athleticism and what I should work on. So, I focused mostly on core workouts, a lot of yoga, Pilates and mixed with Insanity workouts. This is also when I started noticing that Pilates seemed only to improve when mixed with other workouts which rang a big bell to me!

The drawback with such a regimen is that if you dance and workout 6 days a week, it becomes very taxing for the body. Studying anatomy, reading a lot of books, watching a lot of videos and surfing the web finally put my on the trail of strength training.

I finally discover that beside some cultural differences, this is how most of professional athletes are doing. They treat strength as any other skills they have to master to improve in their respective field. And the great news was, there is no such thing as a specific program depending of the sport you practice. Despite the different strength programs, theories and schools, the basic ideas are always there: low reps, heavy weights, lot of rest between sets and you should feel energized after your workout and ready to practice your sport. Forget about ‘’cardio’’, crunches, machines and other non sense. 2 or 3 big bang exercises such as deadlifts, squat, bench press, overhead press, pull ups or any of their variations is all that you need.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  Well the major obstacle to success, especially in a world without anyone to guide you is yourself. Our fitness background tells every one of us that we should sweat, work hard and be sore after a workout and if we did a good job, we should even feel it for a couple of days. Even for someone as open minded as myself, it took me months to finally accept that I should do less and keep my workout very short and very efficient.

Guess what? It works! And the results were almost immediate. 8-10 weeks were all I need to note a real change in my athleticism, even while doing too much. I would move faster, jump higher and could throw my girls like never before for an incredible amount of repetition. How about my cardio? I got better as well! That is the beauty of it. What being stronger really means is that everything physical that used to be hard becomes tolerable and everything tolerable becomes easy. The stronger you get, the easier it becomes to do what you could not or barely could do before. Strength is a skill and should be treated as such. Plus, working out 3 days a week for 30-40 minutes or so and focusing most of your time on your dancing skills put all the pieces together.

Despite some adjustments I am still doing on my method, it seems to be surely what a professional swing dancer needs to differentiate himself from the others. As we often hear in the world of strength: ‘’at equal skills, the strongest opponent wins’’. It does sound better when talking about UFC fighters, however facts remain. The objective is not to be as strong as a power lifter, but simply stronger to maximize your other skills!

Fred Barbe
Personal Website
Swing Dance Montreal
Rock’n Swing
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Sunday, September 9, 2012

New strength protocol since August 22nd

One word: simplification. After all my readings this summer, far away from any gym or pressure to perform, I realize I was probably still doing too much with too much variety. Inspired from Pavel’s programs, what I do now looks like this:

  • Deadlift 10 reps total in 2 or 3 sets
    • Initial Weight: 196lbs
  • Side press 10 reps total per side 2 or 3 sets
    • Initial weight: 45lbs
  • Dumbell swings 10-20 reps (no kettlebell at my gym!)
    • 75lbs (I quickly switched for 95lbs and then 100lbs)
  • Ab wheel 4-6 reps

Some important side points in this protocol:
  • Magic number 10. No matter how many sets (but for singles), I target 10 reps total.
  • Wave cycle on 6 weeks. The 6th week is my final objective (for me 310 lbs). (A, B, C), (B, C, D), (C, D, E), etc.
  • 5 minutes minimum between exercises, even for switching sides.
  • 3 workouts/week.
  • No warm up. Some mobility exercises if needed. For the deadlift, I will lift about 100lbs a couple of times to get into the groove and remember my form.
  • No belt, no glove, no shoes. Only me, some chalk and the barbell.

I still cherish the idea of improving my pull ups without overtraining. What I do now is try to do super easy reps (in my case 2) each time I go under my pull ups bar with at least 5 minutes between sets. At the end of the day, I do 10-20 reps per day. 3 weeks later, I feel lighter…. It might just be me! Next week or so, I will go for 3 reps.

Fred Barbe
Personal Website
Swing Dance Montreal
Rock’n Swing
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on twitter @FredBarbe
Follow me on Google+

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bodyweight strength training until I'm back

Since I'm leaving next Tuesday for Europe, I have switched for the last  month already my workout toward a bodyweigth program. Inspired most by Paul Wade's Convict Conditioning and Chad Waterbury's blog, I reduced my workout to very few exercises according to the same principles I have been practicing since the beginning of this blog. My target zone is max tension for 2-5 reps.
  • 1 hand assisted push ups right side
  • 1m rest
  • Wall assisted bridge
  • 1m rest
  • 1 hand assisted push ups left side
  • 1m rest
  • Glute-ham raise
  • 1m rest
  • repeat 3-5 times (before I start feeling weaker)
  • 2-4 min rest before 2nd block

  • 1 leg squat right
  • 1m rest
  • Abs roller
  • 1m rest
  • Pull ups
  • 1m rest
  • 1 leg squat left
  • 1m rest
  • Handstand push ups
  • Repeat 3-5 times (before I start feeling weaker)
I also planned on taking 2 weeks off from training. I have never done that since I started and I think my body greatly needs it. Because doing absolutely nothing sounds way too much to handle for my overproductive personality, I will focus on the 8 mobility drills Michael Boyle suggests and that should do the trick!

Fred Barbe

Monday, July 9, 2012

Art fears business fears art (re-blog)

I find Seth Godin's blog usually very insightful. Here's the original article.

The artist says, "that sounds like business, and I want nothing to do with it. It will corrupt me and make me think small."
The businessperson says, "art is frightening, unpredictable and won't pay."
Because the artist fears business, she hesitates to think as big as she could, to imagine the impact she might be able to make, to envision the leverage that's available to her.
And because the businessperson fears art, she holds back, looks for a map, follows the existing path and works hard to fit in, never understanding just how vivid her new ideas might be and how powerful her art could make her.
There's often a route, a way to combine the original, human and connected work you want to do with a market-based solution that will enable it to scale. Once you see it, it's easier to call your bluff and make what you're capable of.

Fred Barbe

Friday, July 6, 2012

4 Steps to Effectively Coaching Exercises (re-blog)

This is an awesome article from Mike Robertson about coaching a movement. Of course, it first targeted gym coaches, however almost everything in this article is applicable to coach swing dancing. Have fun!

One of the most important things we do at IFAST is teach.
It goes further than just teaching our clients; we’re convinced that teaching our interns and starting them on the path to becoming a great coach is part of what makes us great at what we do.
A few weeks back, I was grilling our current crop of interns on the various soft-tissue, mobility, and acute corrective exercises we use. One common mistake they made was failing to properly introduce a new exercise.

When coaching new exercises, I think it’s imperative to follow a four-step process.
  • Step #1 – Name the Exercise
  • Step #2 – Describe the “Why”
  • Step #3 – Show It
  • Step #4 – Coach It
Let’s examine each of these points, along with why each one is critical.

Step #1 – Name the Exercise

The first thing you should do when introducing a new exercise is to tell them the name of the exercise. If you have a typed or written program, pointing to the name while saying it will really help the visual learners in your gym.
This part is pretty simple, but telling them the name (and showing it to them, if possible) will help them remember the exercise in the future.

Step #2 – Describe the “Why”

This may be the most important part of our equation. Furthermore, this is a critical component of the selling process.
(Keep in mind whether you’re selling your services in a gym or selling your program to athletes at your school, this always applies – you’re always selling).
When you write a program for a client, each and every component of said program should have a rationale behind it. You don’t just randomly pick exercises, sets and reps, tempos, etc.
Instead, every component of your clients’ program has reasoning behind it, and it’s your job to explain how this specific exercise will help them achieve their goals.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t always need to be incredibly in-depth or technical. 98% of your clients don’t care about their psoas, thoracolumbar fascia, or lateral pterygoid!
Instead, they want to know why those muscles in the front of the hips are causing their back pain, or why they shouldn’t stretch the big muscles on the back of their thighs.
Describing the “why” in a down-to-earth and easy to understand fashion is a critical component to your success. I firmly believe the more you coach and educate your clients, the more they will trust and respect you!

Step #3 – Show It

Once you’ve named the exercise and explained why it’s important, the next step is for you to physically perform the exercise for them.
This is where you need some modicum of exercise proficiency yourself!
If you work with an elite or professional athlete, you may not need to perform the exercise with the same amount of load, but you need to be able to demonstrate the exercise correctly and with solid technique.
This reminds me of a conversation I had a few years back with Carolina Panthers strength coach Joe Kenn. He told me that his goal was to be able to power clean, front squat and back squat 135 until he was 60 years old, because that would keep him in the game and show his athletes he could still walk the walk.
After demonstrating the exercise, you need to highlight a few of the key points or things to focus on as well. The goal isn’t to overwhelm them or give the 101 things to think about. Instead, give them a few big focal points, and then let them give it a shot.

Step #4 – Coach It

You’ve name the exercise, you’ve stated why it’s important, and you’ve demonstrated it.
All that’s left is actually watching them and coaching them on the lift!
I like to focus on one or two big cues per set. Obviously, if they are doing something that is blatantly injurious, that’s the first thing you need to fix! The last thing you want is someone getting injured on your watch.
A big issue I’ll often notice with interns once they start to “see” what’s going on is overwhelming the client with cues, like:
  • “Your right foot is turned out 2 degrees too far,”
  • “There’s the slightest hint of hyperextension in your lumbar spine,”
  • “Your neck is 3.73 millimeters away from neutral,”
and so on. Yeah, I’m exaggerating, but not by that much. :)
It may help to think of coaching exercises as a pyramid. The base of the pyramid is the big-ticket items that absolutely must be correct in order for them to execute the exercise correctly.
These are the things you want to focus on and address first and foremost.
From there, as your client improves the quality of their movement and technical proficiency, you work your way up the pyramid and you start to fine-tune the little things you want to address.
But if you try and build the entire pyramid at once without prioritizing, you’ll not only overwhelm the client, but you’ll reduce their likelihood of success as well.


Coaching new exercises is something that we do as coaches and trainers every single day.
If you’re not already using the method outlined above (or one similar to it), give it a shot for the next 3-4 weeks. I think your clients and athletes will really like this streamlined approach to coaching!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fred Barbe swing pratices & workouts : May 24th to June 6th

I haven't been lazy lately, just busy! Here's some footage from the beginning of the month. And if you think I don't know my Collegiate Shag is still lame... If it's hard, it must be good, right?!

Fred Barbe

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Demo from Isabelle & I of the different styles we offer at Swing Dance Montreal dance school

Here's a routine we prepared to show the different dances we teach at our studio. I kind of like the final product and it's very usefull to have for many opportunities when clients have no money. Most of it is a paste from different existing routines with small variations such as the Manhattan, Tranky doo and the California routine. Only the Ballrooming and Balboa part is original.

Fred Barbe

Friday, June 22, 2012

Maharaja Mashup by Jeremy Otth & Laura Keat

Because hard work  should be recognize, I would like to share one of the major accomplishment in the balboa community. When Max, Annie & cie  did the same thing with Hellzapoppin', I had exactly the same reaction. Reproducing the best of an era is, I believe, an important step to be taken before moving forward.

Fred Barbe

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fred & Pat - Ninja Performance - EBC 2011

This video is for whoever has never understood the relationship between Balboa and Ninjas. Fred Barbe and Patricia Brodeur are kicking and punching in that Balboa performance at the Eastern Balboa Championships 2011. 

Fred Barbe

Monday, June 4, 2012

warrior's diet first measurements

You remember me saying that measurements are important...Well, before switching my diet around last Wednesday on June 30th, I took some :

Weight : 179lbs
waist 33''
Butt 39 1/4''
Chest 39''
Right thigh 23 1/2"
Left thigh 24"
Neck 15''

After a week later, I'm still not sure I aadapted completely to the Warrior's diet.  For people unfamiliar with it, this diet has two phases.

The under eating phase
  • 16-18 hours
  • You can eat very small quantity of fresh vegetables and fruit (or freshly made juice)
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Best time for supplements such as minerals, probiotics, greens and enzymes.
  • You can have stimulant drinks such as coffees (preferably black) and teas (preferably green or white for anti-oxidant or red for digestion).
The over eating phase
  • 6-8 hours
  • 1 Big Meal. You can eat again later during that phase if you feel like it.
  • Start with live food such as a salad or other veggies, then protein, fat and finally carbohydrate.
  • Eat as much as you want.
  • Stop eating when you're satisfied or when you feel more thirsty then hungry.
Ori, the author, is pretty convincing about using high quality food, especially if you only eat 1 meal a day and absorb way more out of it than you would usually do, because of insulin sensitivity.

I thought it would be easier to do in the summer, since I will be travelling in Europe for about a month for the Studio Hop Bal Camp and more. For those who tried the slow carb diet....well, you better cook everything yourself, because eating out with those restrictions is harder than being a vegan or gluten allergic. I'm already missing the legendary binge day!

Fred Barbe

Friday, May 11, 2012

Strong Words - repost

This is some inspiring words from Mike Robertson's Newsletter.

 "A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work." - Colin Powell

A few topics I've talked about extensively on my blog are change, focus, etc.

But one thing I haven't talked about enough is flat-old, old-fashioned, nose-to-the-grindstone hard work.

Look, we can't control everything in our lives.

And often, things happen to us that are beyond our control.

But one thing that we can always control is our work ethic, and how hard we work.

It's not enough to want something...

It's not enough to dream about it...

It's not enough to have good, or even great, ideas...

Because until you start taking action and working hard, success will always be just beyond your grasp.

One thing that I always fall back on when things aren't going well is to re-focus and just start working harder.
Have I been slacking in any way, shape or form?

What is something I can get better at?

What can I do to take my own performance to the next level?

Not only does this give me a feeling of control, but quite often, it pays off in numerous others ways as well.

When I'm working hardest, that's when I'm the luckiest as well.

Next time you're struggling, down, or not seeing the type of success you want, go back to basics and just start working harder than those around you.

Chances are, the results will speak for themselves!

Fred Barbe

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fighting back Resistance

Just as Steven Pressfield, I believe in Resistance. How would I not? And the day you think you beat it off, it is back in your face with a loaded gun.

Resistance is so cunning. It told me I should stop looking for a competition partner. That even if I find someone new, she won't be ready for the next year or so and chances are I will be disappointed.... again. Plus, I'm leaving a month this summer in Europe, so why should I bother right now. And anyway, there is no need to be proactive about it, because if I have to meet a formidable dancer, she will magically appeared. Rationalization.....deadly if you are not careful.

Fred Barbe