Friday, July 23, 2010

Pump and Lift, Episode 13: Lower Body Exercise-a-Palooza!

WARNING: The author of this blog entry is NOT a professional fitness trainer, and therefore cannot guarantee any results - good OR bad - from the exercises shown here. We highly recommend that you consult with a real professional to develop the exercise program that's right for you. Mahalo!

In exercise terms, this is a basic squat:

And this is the squat's dance-y cousin, the basic plie:

(Take it from me: You don't have to do this position exactly as shown in the video above! Just putting your heels on the floor is fine - and much easier on the rest of your body, if you ask me.)

As a former ballet student, I am quite particular about the distinctions between the two. The plie shown above is based on the second position, which - I think - is especially important for engaging as many leg muscles as possible, which means that this is the position of choice for executing jumps and lifts. In fact, I've seen the second position used as a starting point for powerful moves in jazz and hip-hop.

Squats, on the other hand, are more of a unisex power move; in fact, squats are always paired with barbells in gyms as a means of developing leg muscles. While it does look a tad less graceful than the plie, you can still use squats as a basis for jumps and other moves - this, for example, is what I'm practicing right now as part of my program - and it will definitely do the rest of the job just fine.

In any case - regardless of which moves you execute - remember these tips to injury-proof your reps:
  • Always keep your upper body lifted and your abs engaged. Do not stick your butt out too far; not only will it ruin the line, but you might also risk injuring your lower back as well.
  • Try to imagine that you're sitting in a chair while doing these exercises; this not only keeps your butt in line, but it also prevents your torso from going past your knees, which also creates the risk of injury.
  • As much as possible, make sure to keep your weight distributed evenly throughout your feet. 
  • Finally: Use as much control as possible to execute these moves, and proceed at your own pace. Do not, under any circumstance, rely on momentum alone!
And, as a bonus, a few more videos to see these exercises in action...

Hey, it's Coach Nicole from SparkPeople! (And you don't even have to be an SP member to access these videos, since they already have a YouTube video channel of their own. And you can also get full compilations of them - complete with better music and editing - on DVD.) 

And speaking of DVDs... Collage Video's preview of the New York City Ballet Workout, Volumes 1 and 2. (Also available from

1 comment:

kuri said...

ooh, thanks for all the info. I'll check these videos out tonight.