Intent on making 2017 your Best Year Ever? We can help with that, thanks to our 2017 Coach of the Month series. This April, ABT Principal Dancer Misty Copeland shares some tips from her just-released fitness and nutrition guide, Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You. In her last installment for the month—each one an excerpt from the book—she reveals the do-anywhere, anytime exercises she loves.
This has become one of my favorite exercises. When you get into your groove and really activate the right muscles, you feel like you can jump from any position, or even fly. Ha!
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Both Posting and the Torso Turn (following) can be done at any time of day. A few repetitions at a time can be enough. Never force this or any other movements or exercises. This exercise is like posting to the trot on a horse (the up-and-down motion riders use in rhythm with a horse’s trot), but you do it while sitting in a firm, stable chair.
- Sit with your feet well planted on the floor, parallel, about hip distance from each other. The hands may rest, palms down, on the thighs, with arms relaxed, while you maintain good posture.
- Gently press the soles of your feet (even inside shoes) firmly against the floor.
- Find what my floor barre instructor, Marjorie Liebert, likes to call the bookends (the sides of the body running from your armpits to the outside of your heels). Feel energy from the bookends evenly pulling toward each other. Imagine that you’re holding the body as bookends supporting a row of books. If this is too large an area to identify, first begin with the sides of the pelvis and upper thighs. The legs and inner thighs (adductors) should remain parallel and symmetrical. We strive for symmetry, as much as possible. This will encourage good posture as well.
- Once you’re in this position, it is easier to squeeze the hamstrings gently toward each other and release, repeatedly, without igniting the tuck-under muscles (gluteus maximus), as we do not want to tuck under. The squeeze should bring you up on the chair and release you down as you let go, like posting on a horse. Isolating these muscles can serve you well for pretty much everything, whether you’re dancing, playing a sport, walking, or simply sitting. It directs energy to the hamstrings, which radiates to the rest of the body, including lifting the glutes. Here’s a more advanced approach to sitting up without having to bend the knees, then straighten them. But do not try this too early in your workout journey, as sitting and lying down this way is more difficult than any of the exercises.
THE TORSO TURN
- Hold your back strong without disrupting or bending anywhere but at the hip.
- Hold your arms out at your sides on the floor, hands a bit above your shoulders, with your palms facing down.
- Keep your knees straight as you use your arms and the backs of your legs to press into the floor, with your energy going through the floor and out of your feet.
- As you lift your chest up toward the ceiling, propelling your torso to come off the floor and forward to sitting, try not to release at the rib cage or the waist (no arching or collapsing the spine). The same is done in reverse as you lie down.