Abdominal strength is essential for any ballerina. A connected core can turn an otherwise wobbly dancer with arms and legs askew into one with supported extensions and smooth movement. But ab work is about more than just standard crunches and planks. The internal and external obliques, which wrap around the sides of the abdomen, are often neglected, though they’re some of the most valuable muscles dancers can develop. Leigh Heflin Ponniah, MA, MS, from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, suggests these three exercises. Try the whole series three days a week on alternating days.

You’ll need:

l a 5–8-pound medicine ball or free weight

l a physio ball

(Via Thinkstock)

Seated Twist

1. Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet on the ground. Hold the medicine ball or weight in both hands, slightly in front of the body at belly-button height. Lean back a bit with the torso, so your abs feel engaged.

2. Twist side to side, allowing the weight to drop toward the floor as you reach left and right. Move slowly, exhaling each time you return to the starting position.

Repetitions: 10–20 sets

 

(Via Thinkstock)

Oblique Ball Crunch

1. Lie sideways on a physio ball, with your feet against a wall. Your hips should be stacked on the ball and your hands by your ears.

2. Drape your upper body over the ball. Then, exhale as you curve your upper body up and away from the ball.

3. Inhale as you slowly lower back over the ball.

Repetitions: 8–15 times on each side

 

(Via Thinkstock)

Side Plank Dip

1. Start in a side plank with your body propped up on your elbow closest to the floor and the other hand on your hip.

2. Slowly lower your hips toward the floor. Exhale as you lift your hips back up until your body is in a straight diagonal again.

Repetitions: 8–15 times on each side

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