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Ballet Talk for Dancers
Magdalena

'Abs' Muscles

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Magdalena

What are the different muscles in the area usually called the abs? I really don't like that term, because I'm pretty sure that the 'abs' are actually a lot of different muscles, and some can be stronger than others, which I'm pretty sure is the way mine are. What excersizes can I do to figure out which of my core muscles are weak?

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Mel Johnson

You're going to have a hard time figuring out a new name for the abs because all the major muscle groups in the abdomen are called "abdominals", or in Latin "abdominis". There are the obliques external and internal, the rectus, and the transverse. In each case, you have to specify "abdominal" because there are obliqui, recti, and transversi on other muscle groups besides.

 

On one of the old Dick Van Dyke Shows, there was a gag about Alan (played by Carl Reiner) not liking the word "butter", so he started a competition to rename it. "How do you like 'mooshlik'"?

 

Now, as to what's weak - which direction do you flop to? That might sound facetious, but it's serious. If you fall out of steps because you topple to the side, it might be a sign of weak oblique abdominals, among many other things. If you fall out because your back collapses, then the rectus abdominis and the back muscles aren't working in harmony. If you look like you have a kangaroo joey in a pouch, your transversi aren't working very hard.

 

And these are not really the "core" muscles, they're mostly the surface layer of trunk muscles. The core muscles are the big long deep-down muscles like the iliopsoas.

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Magdalena

Thanks.

 

Most of my problems seem to be inability to hold my leg up. When I have to hold my leg in extention, to the side or front or back, but especially ecarte, it always seems to just drop lower and lower, and sometimes it seems like I'm sort of curving my lower back forward a little and collapsing in the front, almost like slouching, except with the upper back and shoulders straight. What part of my abdominals do you think is weak?

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Mel Johnson

Developpés to the front and side are especially supported by the lower abdominals, which is the lower part of the rectus abdominis. The lower part of the transversi are also involved. They're the ones that are beneath your belly-button! They have to pull inward and upward to support the working leg.

 

"Good God, man, draw up your bowels!"

-Maj. Gen. Emory Upton (1864)

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Magdalena

Thank you.

What sort of excersizes can I do that will help?

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Mel Johnson

Pull inward and upward with those lower abdominals. Do it all the time. Even while not dancing.

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