Monday, November 29, 2010

Core Strength and Me

I'll just say it outright, I have a pretty strong core.  I tend to do pretty well on sit-up tests and planks and bridges and other core related things, especially for one who rarely practices these things.  Somewhere down the line of being a teenager, I decided that these things were boring (which I still maintain), and I didn't plan to do them unless I was told to or if I had little else to do in the way of exercise.  So why am I good at them, you ask?  I grew up dancing.  Not ballet.  Not jazz.  Not modern.  I grew up with homegrown salsa dancing from the womb.  My mom is awesome.  By the age of eight I started bellydancing, thanks to the talented mother of my childhood friend.  In retrospect, this was such a wonderful start to my life for so many reasons.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  Not so much a problem for my female readers, but many of the men will get scared when they read "dance" or "hips".  Bare with me.  I also mention "striking" and "grappling" if it makes you feel better.  No one ever has to see you do my core sequence if you don't want them to.  I typically do it in front of the mirror before I get in the shower either in my room or in the bathroom.  Few people have ever seen it.  Just keep it discreet and only impress the people you want to impress, like your wife or girlfriend.  You will thank me later when you discover new things you are capable of...

Over time, I developed a changeable sequence of core articulations to make it easy for me to practice.  It's a nice way to get warm in the morning or get a little physical activity in before a shower.  It keeps me strong in some really important places, which does wonders for my back and posture, while making me feel like I'm actually digesting my food.  I have a balanced muscle tone in the torso, which creates a natural-looking waist line.  I feel that doing a lot of (boring) exercises tends to give people a square look or just a funny, overdeveloped "six pack" area and a really weak back with big "love handles".

I realize that there are special workouts like pilates and certain yoga sequences that are meant to deal with this, but I think mine is better.  The reason I think this is that, in addition to making the muscles strong and evenly developed, my sequence also encourages flexibility, full range of motion, and the kind of coordination that helps you on the dance floor and in the bedroom (be you a man or woman).  Also, instead of holding poses or doing small articulations, you are really moving the torso in all different directions, which according to me just feels really good.  Plus, this kind of functional core strength helped me a lot in martial arts, both striking and grappling.  I'm not a big girl and my arms and legs are not super strong, but I can pull my own weight because of my core strength and flexibility.  I may gain or lose fat, but the muscle and strength are always there.  By the way, if you have a weak core, increasing strength in that area will likely cause you to gain weight (muscle weight) with little to no change in size, so don't be alarmed if you put on a couple pounds and don't know where they are.

So what is this, "Core Sequence"?  Essentially, I took all the basic bellydance/latin hip and torso movements and strung them together in a way that incorporates various articulation points, ranges of motion, and types of motion including some movements that are not as practical for this type of dancing but very practical for training for this type of dancing.  That said, you can do them to music if you want, but I tend to just pop out the sequence in sets.  I like to do the whole thing together in sets of 30 reps per movement.  If I haven't done them for awhile, I will do 20.  If I am doing them frequently and have the time, I will do 40 of each.  I would recommend 10 for anyone just starting.  It is important to keep the same number all the way through so that the body stays balanced.  No fair doing more of the ones that are easier or the ones that you think will tone one specific area the prettiest.  That would be ridiculous.  This takes me anywhere between 30-45 minutes, depending on how quickly I do it, so it's a pretty good core workout.

I will be posting videos to demonstrate the movements via my YouTube channel.  These will accompany written explanations (see below) and be grouped by movement area and type.  Eventually, I may put together some more dance related combinations to practice (once you adventurous types master the movements) so you can dance like Shakira and impress your friends.

Disclaimer:  I am in the process of getting back into shape myself, which is very difficult during the good food season, so just ignore the little belly you will most likely see in my videos.  I have recently dropped 25lbs of fat, so please don't think that that little belly means my methods don't work.  They do.  It's really just a matter of time before I have my old body back.  And before you all ask, no, I wasn't pregnant.  I put on weight largely due to stress and a couple of other factors that made me unresponsive to things like good food and exercise for quite awhile.  I've sorted that out.

My Core Sequence, Introduction to Isolating Movement
My Core Sequence, Part 1: Lower Body Circles
My Core Sequence, Part 2: Lower Body Linear Movements


  1. Excellent explanation, and video tutorials! Thank you for sharing this with us, serious people, who really want to get in shape, and do not have the equipment or the means to get out in the weather and travel to a gym! Such as myself find this so helpful! Your techniques were also, hypnotizing as well :-)

    I just started my fitness routine a few weeks ago. I do not have any weights or equipment currently at my house. I am using just a glider for cardio, and basic bodily movements, such as push-ups, hip thrusts, etc. . . I appreciate you taking the time to make a fitness blog!

    Thank you & Peace out to both you and your husband :-)


  2. Thanks, man. I'll be posting other fitness related things eventually in case you're interested. Good luck with your YC improvement project!

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