Barre VS Bar #4

Aba – daba – doooooooo!

(That is the title of this weeks blog and I am sticking to it).

Wanna get this out of the way now because I am a little uncomfortable with sounding boastful. I have generally always had a pretty flat tummy. Sorry, please don’t throw things at me.

It’s true, between a highish metabolism, having a very active lifestyle and working hard to maintain it, my tummy is usually flatish, with a 4-6 pack semi-visable. Most dancers will agree this applies to them too because of the nature of dancing.

BUT . . .

I have never… NEVER seen my abs look the way they do right now – like I swallowed a turtle shell whole. Its awesome!

Thanks to clever Angela Rey’s coaching I am engaging/bracing my core in a way that is totally different to dance and it has proven to be super effective.

Contemporary dancers are always told to breath through the movements, it visibly shows in a performer if they are breathing with the choreography and the music. The routine should look weightless and weighted, it ebbs and flows like breath. Its beautiful to watch and to do, if you get it right.

Even in the exercise world, we are largely told to exhale on the exertion, to breath out on the hardest, pushing phase of the movement. This remains the best advice for heaps of exercise styles but not all – take yoga for instance. Yoga manipulates the breathing pattern to find better core control and allow a deeper calm to wash over the body. Lifting weights is no different. It has its own breathing pattern to assist in accurate, safe movement. I learned all about this as Angela taught me to hold my breath.

HERES WHY…

The ‘core’ refers to all the muscles around your trunk (I just love the word trunk while referring to the torso, makes me giggle, is it like trees or elephants I wonder?) That means:

All the different layers of your abdominal muscles

The obliques

The muscles through your back that hold your spine tall

The pelvic floor at the bottom 

The diaphragm at the top

All of these muscles keep us upright every day, they allow us specific movements when we need them too and they support us – keeping our back safe while working other body parts hard. Like lifting a box from the floor, we are taught to lift with our legs and keep our backs straight. Your back doesn’t magically stay straight – your core does that.

Seeing as we were just discussing breathing, let’s come full circle and talk about the diaphragm. As we breath, this large flat muscle lifts and lowers making the lungs fill and empty. This creates natural pressure changes in the body and also quite a lot of wiggling around. The ribcage moves, the muscles in the shoulders move, the tummy moves, all to aid the breathing process. It’s a wonder we can think or do anything else at the same time at all!

The idea is that by taking a breath in and bracing the core we can create tension and pressure throughout the trunk. We can then keep all those wiggly bits still and safe while we lift something thats really heavy and which could potentially harm us.

Here’s my squat tech, broken down: Once I have the weight on my back, I sort my feet out and choose a place to rest my eyes. I take a breath in, hold it, brace and grip my abs tight and perform the move. Once I have done it, I release the breath. I breath as I need to for a moment then I repeat. Tadaaaaaaaah! It made me feel light headed at first but now I am used to it, it all makes sense.

My back is safe, my abs are helping me carry the load and my legs can go ahead and do their thing.

THE RESULTS…

My tummy is flatter then ever and looking pretty popping too! Naturally I am pretty surprised, I haven’t exactly been doing 10 minute planks everyday since I started (so sue me!). I feel more in control of my centre while in dance class. I am stronger overall now, I can use my abs for everything.

In other exciting news I managed to add weight to my front squat before the plan told me too. ROUGE! It feels great. Basically I did the move 8 times, had a break, did 8 more and in the second break I realised that this didn’t feel as hard as it used too – maybe because I am more confident with the movement or maybe I really am just stronger! So, before the last set – I popped another 1.25kg on each end.

It was something small but I am really happy I took the initiative. And it worked. Next time you are in the gym I dare you to ask the question ‘Am I really done?’ I bet you £10 you could do another few reps or perhaps just try 3 more reps with a heavier weight.

As usual please contact me with any comments about my blog, i have already had an awesome response from some close dancer friends of mine who have found the same results or are thinking about trying strength training :)

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are my usual haunts so please follow, add and like away. Until next time. My last week of the programme.

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