Want A Dancer's Body?

Posted on: February 1st, 2012 by Rachel Cosgrove

I hadn’t been back to dance class for years and decided to go back. I used to be really good at turns – you name it – Chaines, Pirouettes, Fouettes…I could turn all day. It had been awhile since I had tried to turn.

There I was, in dance class after years of not taking class and we were about to head across the floor doing the usual walk, walk, Pas De Bourree, Pas De Bourree land in fourth and Pirouette turn! I could feel butterflies in my stomach unsure of if my body remembered how to turn. I was next, all eyes on me and my energy was a little nervous, excited and in anticipation of wanting to be able to still turn. All that energy  to turn, threw me off balance and I went forward instead of up and didn’t complete the turn.

After a few classes I realized what I was doing wrong and corrections from the instructor telling me “Your energy is going forward, think up!” The fact was, I was trying too hard. The extra effort I was using to make the turn happen was why I was getting thrown off balance. When I realized this and that I actually needed to relax and let myself balance thinking “Up and relax” my turns came back.

That’s right…I still got it…soon enough I was back to double Pirhouette turns no problem.

To balance a dancer stacks everything right on top of each other – their hips centered right over their foot, stacked right under their shoulders with their head inline. If one body part is leaning too much in any direction balancing won’t happen. For example if their hips are sticking out behind them they’ll fall backwards, if their shoulders are leaning forward, forward they’ll go. If they are in the correct position they’ll actually use less effort.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to assist Gray Cook, MSPT, OCS, CSCS, RKC (he’s really smart) of FunctionalMovement.com during his Hands On Session at The Perform Better One Day Event in Los Angeles. I was honored that he asked me to help him and excited to help the other trainers who were attending.

One of the positions Gray had us working on was the Tall Half Kneeling Position. I had become familiar with this position because we use it at Results Fitness frequently but also because we had Brett Jones at our gym teaching an FMS level 2 work shop the week before and half kneeling was a huge part of his curriculum as well.

Starting off with just your body weight, holding the position feeling your stabilizers kicking in when they needed to, but cueing to remember to breathe and almost relax in that stacked position. If you are in the right position, with your hips right underneath your shoulders, over your supporting knee you won’t have to tense up to hold the position. It is exactly like a dancer balancing for a turn. Your stabilizers will kick in to keep you balanced but you don’t need to SQUEEZE your glutes or PULL your stomach in tight trying to muscle the position and “try too hard” like I was in my turns above.

The tall half kneeling position is a great place to work on your balance, putting your stabilizers to work while breathing and relaxing into a balanced position. You’ll know you are in the right position when you don’t have to “work too hard” to stay there.

To get into the proper Tall Half Kneeling position:

Start with your right knee on the ground with a towel under it for padding and your left leg lunged in front of you with your foot flat on the ground as if you are in a “Will You Marry Me” pose. Bring your left foot in line with your right knee so you could be balancing on a balance beam with a fairly narrow stance. Your right knee should be directly under your right hip, under your shoulders and inline with your ear in a “stacked” position. Get tall and balance in that position. You will feel all of your stabilizer muscles firing to keep you balanced. Below Amy Wunsch, our physical therapist at Results Fitness demonstrates the Tall Half Kneeling Position.

Once you can balance in that position you are ready to “turn”…ok I won’t make you “turn” but you are ready to hold a load in that position that will demand that you fire your glutes and core to stay stable only using what you need.  You can add load by either adding a chop or an offset over head press. When you add load you will have to engage your bigger muscles to handle the load.

No guarantee’s that this will give you a dancer’s body but it will give you the same feeling of being centered and balanced like a dancer. Add load when you’re ready. Use this new stance with a number of the current exercises you may already be doing including chopping and over head pressing.

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