3 Common Plank Mistakes (& how to fix them)

Planks are a great full body strength exercise! Take note of these common mistakes to get the most out of your planks (and avoid injury!).

1. INACTIVE LEGS

flx ball plank

While practicing plank, it's easy to lose activation in the legs. Try your planks with the FLXBall under the tops of your feet, it will make it impossible to forget to activate the legs! 


2. SUNKEN SHOULDERS

flexistretcher plank

If you tend to drop in the shoulders, practice your planks with the foam of the Flexistretcher around your shoulder blades. Dropping in the shoulders can cause unnecessary tension in the upper back!


3. LOWERED HIPS

When the abs become fatigued it's easy to let the hips dip low. Always be sure to keep the hips in line with the body (otherwise you can injure your lower back!). If full plank is too much pressure, practice with your knees lowered to the ground! 

The #Flexistretcher // Your Personal, take on the go, Reformer

4 Pilates inspired exercises with your #Flexistretcher

PILATES ROLL UP

SETUP //   Begin in a supine position. Place foam center around the ball of your feet with the hands in loops on each side, arms lengthened long.

ACTION //  Begin by bending in the arms to slowly assist your to rolling up fully. Sit up tall, and then reserve the movement.

REPETITIONS // Repeat 10 times

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FLEXISTRETCHER HIP LIFTS WITH RELEVÉS

SETUP //  With the center foam of the Flexistretcher around the shins, take hold of both metal pieces.

ACTION //  With control, curl your hips off the ground, feeling your knees move towards your toes.

Hold the position and slowly articulate the spine to the floor, returning to your starting position.


#FLXtip : Keep a straight line through the front side of your body, avoid letting the ribs pop out.

STRETCH & STRENGTHEN // SUPINE MIDDLE SPLITS

SETUP //  Replicate a pilates reform by placing both feet in the loops of the Flexistretcher, with the center under you mid spine.

ACTION //  Engage your inner thigh muscles to slow raise and lower the legs 2 inches.

#FLXtip : Keep a neutral pelvis for the duration of this exercise.

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PILATES HUNDRED

SETUP //   Place foam center around the arch of your flexed feet with the hands in loops on each side.

ACTION //  Begin pumping your arms up and down, inhale for 5 pumps, exhale for 5 pumps.

REPETITIONS //  10 sets and rest.

How is the Flexistretcher different from the Therabands

FLEXISTRETCHER VS. THERA-BAND…..

What’s the difference? See what sets the Flexistretcher apart :

"The main difference is going to be the most obvious and most important one - that the Flexistretcher is designed with both elastic and inelastic components. I find that this combination design in conjunction with the adjustability and the neoprene comfort sheath make this a far more sophisticated tool than your traditional resistance bands." ~ Leigh Schanfein, Research Associate at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries
flexistretcher vs theraband

1. METHODOLOGY // Designed by a professional dancer recovering from injury the Flexistretcher and it's training methods are researched and tailored to compliment the ever evolving demands of ballet technique while benefiting anyone looking to increase their flexibility and strength. The Certified FLX Conditioning Specialist course leads attendees through a comprehensive outline many of stretches and exercises performed with the Flexistretcher as well as setting up a training program to teach all levels.

"through the training I discovered this thoughtful comprehensive training program and I was really surprised and impressed" ~ Leigh Schanfein, Research Associate at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries

2. DURABILITY // Unlike a flimsy Thera-band, the Flexistretcher won’t snap or break. The Flexistretcher is made of sturdy elastic and stiff nylon which makes it much more durable than a latex band.

3. DESIGN // Built to withstand the daily use of professional dancers, the Flexistretcher’s sturdy construction and custom designed parts are guaranteed to last.

4. ADJUSTABILITY // Adjustable straps conform to any flexibility level and are used for hand or foot placement in an array of exercises.

5. COMFORT // The Flexistretcher's neoprene center is designed for added comfort and user easability.

6. SAFETY // The Thera-band cannot withstand the stretches and exercises performed with the Flexistretcher. It’s intended for smaller movements, such as toe exercises and arm exercises. The Thera-band will snap and break if trying to perform Flexistretcher exercises and stretches.

7. EFFECTIVITY // Working with the Flexistretcher allows one to simulate dance-specific movement patterns concentrating on improvements in execution and mobility. There is an inherent elastic resistance training approach to every stretch and exercise which requires the working muscle to voluntary contract against the tension. Instead of using your arms to pull the leg into a new range of motion, this active muscle contraction is required when working with the Flexistretcher allowing you to work safely within your range of motion while building strength.

"Because the band has elasticity, it makes you have to work in the stretch in all directions. It helps stabilize but won’t hold it for you." ~ Leigh Schanfein, Research Associate at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries

2 Exercises to Challenge Your Plank

Challenge your standard planks by adding these #Flexistretcher variations to your workout!  

VARIATION 1 : 

#FLEXISTRETCHER PLANK // Use the center of the Flexistretcher around the center of your back and actively push up into the Flexistretcher to maintain correct alignment.

 

VARIATION 2 : 

#FLEXISTRETCHER PLANK & PUSHUP // With the same setup as above, challenge this exercise by adding pushups. Press against the tension of the Flexistretcher to encourage correct alignment.

5 Beginner Stretches With the Flexistretcher to Add to Your Holiday Routine

Get your stretch on as you dive into the holiday hustle & bustle. From carrying bags to waiting in lines, prevent sore, achy muscles with a proper stretch routine. 

TRY THESE 5 BEGINNER STRETCHES WITH THE FLEXISTRETCHER 

 

 

10 Reasons the Flexistretcher Makes the Perfect Gift!

What makes the Flexistretcher top the holiday wish lists of dancers & athletes everywhere?  

Here are 10 reasons the Flexistretcher makes the perfect gift this holiday season:

  1. The Flexistretcher is a researched approach to strength & flexibility training. The inventor of the Flexistretcher is former ballerina and fitness enthusiast Rachel Hamrick, who developed the product after a devastating injury put her dance career on hold. Her invention is a combination of training methods, researched technologies and measured resistance for the most efficient & effective flexibility & strength workout. 

  2. It is a facilitated stretching technique that safely stretches while strengthening muscle groups. While working with a Flexistretcher, a facilitated stretching technique is applied, allowing the user to ‘actively stretch’—engaging isometric contractions through out the stretch to achieve greater flexibility.

  3. It is a multi-purpose training tool. The Flexistretcher’s size & shape allows it to be used in full body stretches (such as a ballet arabesque), but it can also be adjusted to target specific, smaller body parts (such as shoulders or hamstrings). 

  4. It's widely used & preferred by the professionals. The Flexistretcher is the professional dancer's tool of choice for strength & flexibility training.  It can be found in the dance bags of ballerinas in a number of esteemed companies, including American Ballet Theatre, StaatsBallett Berlin, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Dutch National Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet, to name a few. 

  5. The Flexistretcher doesn't allow you to cheat the movement. Utilizing the elastic allows for a variable resistance, not relying on gravity and promoting muscle activation throughout the exercise.

  6. It creates a more efficient yet effective workout. As the strap is stretches the resistance increases, the muscles are challenged to respond with increased effort which promotes muscle growth, strength and power. 

  7. It's the only stretching strap you'll need for a while. Built to withstand the daily use of professional dancers and athletes, the Flexistretcher’s sturdy construction and custom designed parts are guaranteed to last!  

  8. It goes perfect with other FLX products. The Flexistretcher can be purchased as a part of the FLX Ballet Conditioning Package - a bundle of portable, durable training tools to target all areas of the body.  Give yourself an abomdinal boost and enhance foot strength with the FLX Ball, or roll out muscle groups after a workout with FLX massage. 

  9. The Flexistretcher isn't just a tool for dancers.  It is used to enhance training programs in a variety of sports & fitness routines - from synchronized swimming & gymnastics, to yoga, Pilates & soccer! 

  10. Did you know you can become certified in FLX training methods? Whether a yogi, ballerina or fitness enthusiast, you are now able to learn the researched, scientific approach to working with the Flexistretcher & other FLX products by attending the regional training program!  For application details and upcoming training information, email admin@flxnyc.com. 

 

Single Leg Hip Lifts with the Flexistretcher

Practice this series of Single Leg Hip Lifts with your Flexistretcher!

SETUP:

Lying supine with your legs bent feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart. Place the Flexistretcher center pad around your right shin and grab nylon straps in each hand. Arms are long close by your sides and pulling the elastic center to a slight tension.

ACTION:

  • With control, curl your hips off the ground, feeling your knees move towards your toes.
  • Hold the position and slowly articulate the spine to the floor, returning to your starting position.
Single leg lift

REPS:

  • Hip lifts 5 reps.
  • Heel lifts 5 reps.
  • Hip lifts with heel lifted 5 reps.

SETS: Repeat single leg series 3-5 times on each leg.

CUES:

  • Keep leg parallel and engage back of the leg to lift.
  • Keep feet parallel [Dancers watch out for the external rotation to take over!]
  • Knees line up over toes
  • Arms stay hugged in by your sides.
  • Head stays in line. [Do not turn head side to side]

When adding this exercise to your routine remember the principal of overload. Jacqui Green Haas supports the idea of keeping in mind this principal in order to increase strength.  Greene Haas asserts:

“If you want to increase strength, you must continue to work the targeted muscle group past your normal load. The exercises are executed at maximal contraction throughout the entire range of motion.”

These exercises require less repetitions since the muscle is targeted and experiences more resistance-working the muscles to a fatigue.

In addition, it is important to remember that  all exercises require control through the full range of movement. Initiating movement with momentum does not allow for experiencing the full physical benefits of the exercise. Allowing gravity or loss of awareness to finish the movement can also bring negative results. Begin each exercise with a slow, precise control and maintain that control throughout the movement.

Bicycle with your FLX Ball

The Bicycle is an exercise that both works on stabilizing the core and coordination. It is valuable to train coordination and gain a greater sense of proprioception states the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science.  Proprioception is a sense that is more than just a feeling of movement. It is intimately tied to our feeling of muscle tone, perceptions of effort and of balance.  Specialized nerve endings originate in our muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments, joints, and some scientists even include the skin.

Flexibility exercises should be incorporated into dance-specific training with real space-time values in order to gain greater proprioception. Such exercises, like the bicycle, include making sure to achieve motor programming through repetition of goal-directed movements. In these movements dancers utilize multiple degrees of freedom to stimulate different neuromuscular pathways. In other words, practice a variety of moving positions, taking all muscles from full shortening to full lengthening, and returning to the neutral resting length of the muscles and joints during an embedded rest period (constructive rest).

Something as simple as the bicycle can really make a difference in your overall coordination!

SETUP: Lying supine on the floor, place the FLX Ball under your sacrum at your lower spine. Legs are bent with feet flat on the floor and arms are long by your sides with palms face down.  

ACTION:

  1. Lift one leg to tabletop then the other and extend both legs straight up towards the ceiling.
  2. Begin by lowering one leg and then bend it in, feeling heel pull towards your sitz-bone,and straighten leg up towards the ceiling.
  3. As the first leg bend in, begin the same movement pattern with other leg.
  4. Keep switching legs as if you are riding a big bicycle.
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times

To finish, bend both legs in towards you and rest feet on the floor.

4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Stretching Routine

Looking for the best results from your flexibility routine? These 4 stretching tips, when followed on a regular basis, will help you see results.

Flexistretcher Middle Split

1.) Frequency

Actively stretch at least 3-5 times per week.  It is important you practice your stretching routine often if you are looking to achieve results.  Stretch on your own before your workouts or class as a part of your warm up and after class as a part of your cool down.  

2.) Intensity

Slowly stretch, find your edge and never work to a point of serious pain. Stretching with a prop, such as the Flexistretcher, will allow you to increase resistance and intensity of a stretch when performed correctly.   Facilitated stretching with the Flexistretcher is an active way of stretching that engages isometric contractions to achieve greater flexibility. Utilizing elastic resistance allows for a variable resistance throughout out an exercise, not relying on gravity, and requires muscle activation throughout the stretch.  This muscle activation challenges the muscles, allowing a full range of motion.

Take it up a notch! The shorter the straps are adjusted the tighter the tension, raising the intensity of the exercise. Working against this resistance forces the muscle to respond with increased effort, which promotes muscle growth, strength, and power.

3.) Length

Hold each stretch for at least 10-15 seconds while slowly working towards more lengthened stretches.  Holding a stretch for the proper amount of time is key to effective, efficient flexibility training.  Holding a stretch for a very short period of time may defeat the purpose, while holding a stretch too long can exhaust muscles with potential to cause injury.

4.) Repetition

Perform each stretch 3-5 times.  With respect to the length and intensity of a stretch you perform, performing a stretch multiple times will allow for you to go deeper into a position.  

MORE STRETCHING TIPS:

  • Avoid bouncing while performing a stretch.
  • Maintain normal breathing throughout each stretch.
  • Focus your attention to releasing the stretched body parts and try to limit movement elsewhere in the body.
  • Incorporate stretching into your warm up and cool down routines.

 

Finding the C-Curve for an Effective Abdominal Workout

The C-Curve position is used in a variety of abdominal-focused exercises. Understanding how to find the position aids in the effectiveness of an exercise; thus, achieving maximum results. The FLX Ball helps to achieve correct alignment in this position and working against the instability of the ball's surface forces the muscles to respond with increased effort for a quicker, more efficient workout. 

Here are some key tips and cues when performing abdominal-focused exercises in a c-curve position:

FINDING A C-CURVE POSITION

  1. Sit on your sitz bones with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Take the FLX Ball and place it at your lower spine.  
  3. Rock off your sitz bones, creating a C-Curve, while maintaining contact with the FLX Ball.  
  4. Place your hands behind your thighs to assist in creating the C-Curve.  

 CUES

  • Concentrate on activating your abdominal muscles.
  • Emphasize your abdominals.  While maintaining the flexion of the upper spine, tuck the pelvis in a posterior tilt and sink the abdominals in.  Use the FLX Ball to assist in the deepening of the curve of the spine.
  • Feel your ribs “fold over” your stomach.  
  • This is an active working position rather than a static resting pose.  Feel your navel constantly pull in and up.  At the same time, you are working to fold forward, feeling a scooping or rounding position of the spine.  
  • Breathe into your spine to complete the curve and assist in hollowing out the abdominals.

Increase Abdominal Strength for Ease of Movement and Balance

“Increased abdominal activation and awareness promotes improvements in ballet movements such as maintaining a balance, turning, holding extensions and jumps. Body coordination is required to successfully accomplish many of these movements and learning to recruit strong abdominal muscles to perform complicated movements will result in noticeable advancements”

-Rachel Hamrick; professional ballerina and flexibility, strength and conditioning specialist

ABDOMINAL FLEXION EXERCISE

SETUP:  

Place the FLX Ball at your upper back between your scapula. Legs are bent with feet flat on the floor and hands are behind your head with elbows wide.

ACTION:  

With slow controlled movements, lift the upper torso gazing in at your belly button and return to a slight spinal extension.

CHALLENGE:

  • Add a twist.
  • Fold up as you twist to the right.
  • Roll back in the twist, rotate to center as your upper back extends over the ball.
  • Fold up as you twist to the left.
  • Roll back in the twist and rotate to center as you move into a little extension.
  • Repeat 20 times.

Now try an added challenge with a different arm variation:

SETUP:  

Legs are bent pressed together with feet flat on the floor and arms are straight over head with fingers interlaced and index fingers pulling arms straight behind head.

ACTION:  

With slow controlled movements, lift upper torso gazing in at your belly button and return to a slight spinal extension.

Repeat 20 times.

Advanced FLX Ball exercise: twist and switch

FLX Ball twist and switch

SETUP:

Begin by lying on your back and place the FLX Ball at your upper back in between your shoulder blades. Legs are bent and feet flat on the floor. Place hands behind your head and keep elbows wide.

ACTION: Lift legs to a table top position and pull the abs in.

Slowly, twist to the right as you bring left elbow to right knee with left leg reaching out on a high diagonal.

With control, twist to the left bringing right elbow to left knee.

Pull the abdominal muscles in to deepen the twist.

Repeat 20 times.  3-5 sets.

CHALLENGE:  Both legs are straight and scissor as you twist.

CUES:  Sink belly button in towards spine and with the help of the ball, feel the rib cage fold up and over the stomach.

Hug the inner thighs as you scissor the legs. Watch out from rocking side to side.

Pilates Teaser

This exercise requires coordination, balance, flexibility and control to perform correctly and successfully.  The body often compensates for some weakness to complete the movement and engages incorrect form and muscle activation. Weakness in the hip flexors or tight hamstrings and lower back can hinder the progression in this movement.

Try completing this exercise with the Flexistretcher by utilizing it’s elastic resistance to guide you through the complete movement, allowing full concentration on correct muscle activation and alignment.


Joseph Pilates named this exercise "The Teaser" because it teases gravity. So true!

Try these variations of the Pilates teaser for an added instability and challenge to the exercise.


PILATES TEASER WITH THE FLEXISTRETCHER

SET UP: Lie down supine with the foam pad around the soles of your feet and the loops in your hands, with the legs pressed long and glued together. Arms are slightly bent with palms facing you pulling the straps to small tension.

ACTION: Begin by lifting your head up, pulling the straps towards you.

  • Peel the spine off the floor as you simultaneously lift the legs to a high diagonal. Arms finish out by your sides with palms facing back, pressing into the straps.
  • Balancing on your sit bones, deepen out the abdominals, as you press into the straps to maintain a long spine. Hold for 10 counts.
  • Fold the elbows in by your sides as you begin to articulate the spine to the floor slowly lowering your legs to the starting position.

SETS: 5

LEVEL: Intermediate-Advanced

FULL TEASER 1 WITH FLX BALL

SETUP: Lying supine, hold the ball in your hands with your legs pressed together.

ACTION: Move arms over head and roll up.

  • As you roll up lift both legs (ball is touching the shins).

REPETITION: 4 times.

SETS: 3

MODIFICATIONS: Begin setup with legs bent and feet flat on the floor.

LEVEL: Advanced

FULL TEASER 2 WITH FLX BALL

SETUP: Lying supine, place the ball in between your ankles with your arms stretched long and fingers toward the sky.

ACTION:  Begin rolling torso up off the floor as your legs lift and extend to a high diagonal.

  • Fingers are reaching towards toes.
  • With control begin to lower your legs and torso at the same time to end up in your starting position.

MODIFICATION: Legs bent in a table top position.

LEVEL: Intermediate-Advanced

With stronger a strong core, flexibility and freedom of the body can improve. Stretch your limits.


Remember to apply Joseph Pilates methods of “contrology” based on the idea of muscle control. All exercises should be done with muscular control working against gravity and the resistance of the spring (on the apparatus) or other props, this activation controls the movement of the body and the apparatus. 

“Contrology is gaining the mastery of your mind over the complete awareness of your body.”~Joseph Pilates

Weekend Workout: Get Your Fitness On With This Series!

Every flexibility routine should be paired with a strength routine. Strength training, or resistance exercise, has been used for performance enhancement in rehabilitation and sport-specific activity for years. Working with the Flexistretcher allows one to simulate functional dance or sport specific movements, while increasing strength with a more targeted focus.  Each exercise in this series is designed to target specific muscle groups and when practiced together combine to make a quick and effective, total body workout. 

Benefits of the FLX Ball

Abdominal strength plays a key role in any training routine. For a dancer a strong core can help with your turns, jumps, and flexibility! For an arabesque movement you not only have to have back flexibility and strength but must have the counter contraction of the abdominals to successfully perform the movement correctly.


Strong Abdominal muscles stabilize the spine and help to prevent lower back pain. Certain movements such as an arabesque require spinal hyperextension. In these cases the potential for related injury can be reduced with appropriate co-contraction of the abdominal muscles so that the amount of hyperextension is limited and controlled,  emphasizing the length of the entire spinal curve. Many people with a hyper mobile back naturally sink and relax into the lumbar spine causing stress. Creating flexibility through out the entire spine requires the development of extreme abdominal and upper back strength that can take years to develop. A good imagery exercise is to think of the spine creating a continuous long arch rather than allowing yourself to sink into the lumbar region.

FLX Ball

Being all about flexibility and strength, the FLX BALL is the perfect portable toy for your gym bag! This 9 inch inflatable ball is perfect to put in your bag and whip out for a 5 minute abdominal workout. Performing abdominal exercises with the FLX BALL targets the abdominal muscles in a way where your abs will be shaking after 20 seconds. Now you will never have the excuse to not do your daily abs!

Warm up with the Roll up

SETUP: Sitting up with your legs extended long and pressed together, wrap the center of the Flexistretcher around the soles of your feet. Hold the loops in each hand and create a little tension.


ACTION:

  1. Pull your belly button in towards your spine and tuck your tailbone to begin rolling to the floor, one vertebrae at a time. Use the help of the Flexistretcher by folding your arms towards you, creating tension, until lying on the floor.
  2. Nod your chin to your chest, and as you bend your arms, use the tension to sequentially roll up, finishing with your forehead towards your knees, and pulling your belly button into your spine (as if you are rolling over a ball). Keep pulling your hands toward your hips so that you maintain the tension.
  3. Then roll up as if you are rolling up against a wall. Finish in a seated, tall position, maintaining the tension in the band.

REPETITIONS: 3-5 reps.

CUES:

Actively press the legs into the floor. Deepen abdominals in and up. Use the help of the band so you are able to concentrate on your abdominals.

DANCER FOCUS:

The roll up works to slowly increase the heart rate and blood flow in the body in order to prepare the body for class and/or rehearsal.

Need an Abdominal Boost? Try this Ballerina-Inspired Ab Series!

 

Repeat the entire series 3-5 times. 

  1. Press and Hold: 10 counts.
  2. Knee Walks: 10 walks.  CUE: Thighs stay pressing into the elastic center as you walk. 
  3. Hip Lifts: 5-10 reps. 

CUES FOR THIS ABDOMINAL SERIES:

  • Hold the Flexistretcher by the elastic center, shoulder width apart and pull to a tension for the duration of the series.
  • As you curl your torso up, press the center of the band into the legs and the legs into the band.
  • Up for a challenge? Repeat the series with legs straight up towards the sky.   
  • Needs to modify? Complete the series with head on the floor.

For the full length FLX Strength Workout, click here: http://bit.ly/1wlmXQv

 

Plank with the FLX Ball

The plank is an isometric exercise that targets your abdominal and back muscles, and it’s used for developing core strength, balance and endurance.


FLX Ball Plank

SETUP: Come on your hands and knees, place the FLX Ball under the tops of your feet and press your legs and feet together. Walk your hands out to a half plank (with knees still bent) or out to full plank.  

ACTION: With the tops of your feet still pressing into the ball, straighten legs.  Shoulders should be over your hands.

Hold for 10 counts, walk hands back, and rest.

REPETITIONS:  Hold for 10 counts up to one minute.

SETS:  3-5 sets.

CUES:  Tuck pelvis slightly under to engage the abdominals and take any strain out of the lower back. Pull up on the thighs to activate the quadriceps. Make sure to keep head in line with spine.

MODIFICATIONS: Bend the knees to the floor or come onto your forearms to perform a forearm plank.

CHALLENGES: Lift your pelvis towards the sky and return to your plank position, 10 times.

FLX Ball plank and pushup

Add hip twists by dipping the right hip bone towards the floor and then the left hip bone, 10 times.

Perform small push ups by bending the elbow in to your sides, 10 times.

TARGET MUSCLES: Rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis.

DANCER FOCUS and BENEFITS: Strengthens the core and upper body and is used as a core warm up. A stronger more stable core can help to improve turns, jumps and balances.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Injury to the arms, back or shoulders.


LEVEL: Intermediate