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.

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

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!