Physie is all about being fit, healthy and happy. BJP’s motto “Mens sana in corpore sano” means a healthy mind in a healthy body. One of the key things for a healthy body is having a strong core to keep you upright and help all the parts of your body work properly and safely, especially when you’re dancing. A strong core means that your abdominal muscles are just as strong as your back – and most of us don’t work out our abs nearly as much as we should. Even more importantly, we need to work them out in the right way.
Often when people think of abs they immediately think of getting a ‘six pack’ by doing sit ups and crunches. But the upper abs are only part of the story. It’s just as important to strengthen your lower abs and your obliques (sides). If you lie on your back with your knees bent and lift your head and shoulders up (like picture 1) you are only working your upper abs and often the neck is strained in the process. To avoid neck strain, try holding an orange between your chin and your chest as you sit up, keeping your eyes on the ceiling. Or you can use a towel to hold the weight of your head using your arms and disengage the neck muscles. (see picture 2).
To do a sit up using your lower abs, try it with your legs straight and feet flexed, heels pushed into the floor. (You may need to work on your lower abs before you can sit all the way up with straight legs). Other variations on this include situps with your feet in the butterfly position (knees bent and soles of the feet together) or with your legs astride, reaching through the legs as you sit up (picture 3).
To work your obliques, raise your legs off the floor and twist from side to side (slowly) bringing your opposite shoulder towards the outside of your knee (see picture 4). The lower your legs are towards the floor, the more you are working your abs – BUT make sure you are not using your back.
For a real challenge, try going from flat on your back to a tail sit (picture 5) and back down to flat again. This must be done slowly and with control. Relax your neck and don’t use your arms to pull you up.
Next time we’ll talk about other ways to increase your core strength, other than doing situps…