Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Core Muscles Control

 Core Muscles Control

 Core Muscles Control

There is a difference between the Pilates description of pulling the bellybutton to the spine, which works well especially when lying down, and the ballet usage of your lower abs.

It is indeed in the very low and deep abdominals, and if you pull those up you'll see your bellybutton lift up. That movement pulls the abs up and flat, like a supportive wall. It doesn't bunch the muscles up.

These deep abs, along with your turnout (rotator) muscles, your thighs and some support by the gluteals, stabilize the core area.

The gluteals (butt) muscles do not need to be clenched, but will automatically activate when you turnout.

The back will tense in response to sucking in/up those abs, as the muscles work together. However, you don't need to focus on maintaining that hold, focus on the abs. Tension and release is fluid, and that is part of the control gained by years of ballet/sports/fitness training. Ribs and shoulder areas are always moving slightly. If the core is strong, the upper torso can be balanced and stable, but you can still breathe properly and allow easy head movements and easy back bends. By that I mean, the same, a strong core area that allows the back bend and recovery without strain.

Fluid Tension In Dance And Life

The one exception to the fluidity of tension is the deep low abs, your support that holds strong. This abdominal support allows the lower ribs to expand for effective breathing. Done correctly, this actually helps fluidity as opposed to weakening the tight hold, which should be in the low abdomen.

Hopefully this fluidity flows down to your finger tips. Your thumb muscles like to take on a lot of tension, and many dancers/exercisers work with thumbs sticking up to some degree, or clenched into their palm.

Also, a held spiky finger formation, especially an index finger sticking up, shows a chronic strain and lack of core control. (In ballet, it is also an affectation that can be copied from a teacher or another dancer. Energy running through the hand, slightly straightening the palm and fingers, is different than tension).

Get the core muscle control you want, to be a healthy you.

Best Hip Flexor Stretch - Easy To Learn

Every dancer needs an exercise that stretches the hip flexors. This will help you stay upright when you lift a leg behind you, or derriere, in ballet terms.

To get your leg up to the back, or, to do an arabesque, you need to get really flexible in the psoas muscle. This is a postural support muscle that runs from the top of your thigh to the spine. Attached at the front of the spine, this muscle controls the bending of the body at the hip joint. (Say you sneeze and one of your knees lifts up when your abdomen contracts. You bend at the hip joint).

If flexible, this muscle also allows your spine to bend at the waist (a spine extension), when you raise your leg to the back. Here is one of the best hip flexor stretches you can do, to stretch this large, important muscle.

For Non-Dancers an excellent video


For dancers and athletes - best hip flexor stretch:

You do not need ballet turnout to do this, so I am going to describe this exercise with your legs in parallel.

A Standing (Psoas Muscle) Hip Flexor Stretch

Stretch out one leg to the back, about a yard or meter behind you. Place the back foot flat on the floor. Hold onto a ballet barre or the back of a chair to support your balance.

Now straighten the back leg, and keep your spinal position as straight as you can. Your pelvis may tip back a bit. You will feel a pull up the front of the back leg thigh and hip. Pull up the lower abdomen muscles, and you will increase the stretch feeling.

Twist away from the back leg, a little. You will increase your flexibility this way, by getting into this position which is good for the hip stretches.

Twist toward the back leg, and again you will feel the stretch move somewhat in the hip joint area.

Hold each position for thirty to sixty seconds. Repeat the stretch at least three times, each position, each leg.

Always stop and decrease the position if you feel pain. Stretching means a stretchy feeling, a little tension, but not pain.

Get yourself a balanced lower body (with some dynamic upper body stretches) DVD flexibility workout including hip flexor stretching exercises.