Dancers, strengthen your abs with Pilates

Having a strong core is crucial for a dancer. It protects our back, helps with posture, and affects almost every aspect of technique. Watch this 3 minute video I made on how to do the Pilates hundreds exercise to strengthen your abs, and read the essay below, which I wrote on the Pilates – Basic – Preliminary DVD from Dancing for Him Ministries.

Preliminary Pilates: This DVD gives an excellent introduction to Pilates. It contains two sections: The first can be used to run through the entire workout without stopping long for explanations. Throughout this section, Pastor Lynn provides coaching on how to maintain proper form throughout the exercises. The second section, “Form and Modifications,” gives even more detailed teaching on the proper form for Pilates as well as modifications for beginners as well as for ways to increase the difficulty of the exercises.

In Pilates we pay careful attention to form and breathing, the movements are small and controlled, and the focus is on developing the core muscles, which are so important for dancers. In the basic Pilates position, you keep your  naval to the spine, feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Several of the exercises begin from this position, including the ab prep, the hundred, the roll up, and the shoulder bridge. There are two basic positions for the pelvis/back: There is the neutral position, in which you keep the natural C-curve of the spine; and there is the imprinted position, in which there is little to no distance between the low back and the floor. The imprinted position provides more support for the low back when doing exercises in which the legs are extended.  Several exercises, like the hundred, the spine twist, and the oblique stretch, require you to bring the neck and shoulders off the floor. To keep proper form when doing this, you want to tuck the chin, without jamming it, before lifting the head and shoulders off the ground and also to keep the shoulders elevated but not hunched or rising up.

Doing this DVD made me want more. I can feel the strength required to do the exercises correctly, and felt I could do more. I appreciate the modification for the hundreds and find this one of the most satisfying exercises because it makes me sweat and takes the most perseverance.  Since having strong core muscles is so important for dance, and for overall health, I can see how valuable Pilates can be for a dancer.