This story originally appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Pointe.
You've probably heard it time and again throughout your training: Flexibility isn't all that helpful unless you have the strength to support it. Leigh Heflin Ponniah, MA, MSc, from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries of New York University's Langone Medical Center, offers this exercise to build lower-back strength to better support and hold arabesques. Try it two to three times a week as part of your core warm-up before class, and you'll be on your way to a stronger arabesque balance.
- a physio ball
- a clear space where the wall meets the floor
1. Position a physio ball under your hips. Lie facedown on top of it with your chest slightly curved over the ball and hands by the ears. Your feet should be against a wall, with the toes on the floor, heels on the wall and legs slightly bent.
2. Use your lower-back extensors, which allow backward bending of the spine, and your gluteus muscles to slowly lift your chest up and away from the ball. The body should pass through a straight diagonal before the chest continues lifting into a slight arch without crunching in the lower back. The core should also be engaged.
3. Curve back down over the ball and do 10 repetitions, increasing up to 20 as you gain strength.
If you don't have access to a physio ball, you can also do the exercise lying on the floor. However, Heflin says the ball allows for an increased range of motion in the lower back and challenges dancers' stability.