The “holy grail” of our abdominal work at the barre is definitely our curl series. Focusing on your entire core (transverse abdominals, obliques and back strength), this series is a rockstar at flattening and tapering your waistline. We like this think of this position like “human Spanx” – simply shaping you in, all the way around your waist!
The KEY to a successful curl series is knowing yourself and the posture you should have & never pushing yourself so far that you lose your posture. When your posture fades, you will no longer be receiving the strengthening benefit for you abdominal wall, but rather start to feel the work carried in other parts of your body. When doing abdominal work correctly, you should feel it in your waistline, not your lower back, shoulders or neck. If you ever feel pain in these areas (or are having a hard time keeping your feet on the ground – another clue), it is a sign that you should reach your hands lightly back onto your thighs and hold on rather than taking the deeper challenge, or use a ball for lower back support. We always say, quality over quantity, or in this case, posture over taking challenges – if you’re feeling the work in places other than your abs it’s a sign you’re carrying the work elsewhere and you might get sore in places other than your abs – not your goal! So step back and take your modifications. Your strength will get there – but only if you take the modifications now to build your strength properly!
Here are the essentials to make sure you make the most of this position in class:
- Keep your feet flat on the ground (again, if you are having a hard time keeping them anchored, it may be a sign that you need to think about a modification with a ball or holding onto your thighs)
- Always begin by leaning on your elbows to set your shoulder height – shoulders should remain lower than your knees to stay in the proper “working zone” – and you will benefit more from staying in this working zone by taking modifications than taking challenges but sitting up higher or lower
- Take a light hand grip on your outer thighs – your hands may remain here the entire series or you may release one or both hands – the key is listening to your body and to keep checking the mirror to make sure your form maintains
- Throughout the series, keep your gaze where the ceiling meets the wall in front of you (this will subconsciously cue your shoulders down) and keep your shoulders relaxed and out of your ears – as you move, the distance between your chin and chest should not change – you are moving your entire torso as one unit
- You want to have a concave feeling throughout your tummy as you curl – imagine your abs pulling in and down to move you, rather than sticking out (constantly think about pulling your naval to your spine)
- Breath: as you exhale, think pull your naval down deeper and bring your ribcage closer to your thighs, over you lower abs, as you inhale return to your starting position (you should feel your tailbone and waistband on the mat)
- All movements should be just 1-2 inches
- When twisting to work obliques, again think naval pulling to spine – twisting through your waist like you are wringing out a towel
- For obliques, you are working your upper oblique, or oblique opposite to the direction you are twisting – really think about moving from that same shoulder and reaching through your fingertips to bring about a twist and work that oblique
- When using a ball between your thighs, this is really an opportunity to work your core deeper, as well as challenge your inner thighs – squeeze the ball like you mean it and you will feel a deeper burn through your abdominal wall!
- When using a ball behind your lower back for a modification, constantly think about lifting up off of the ball and carrying your weight with your abdominal muscles, rather than letting all of your weight sink into the ball – you will cease to reap the benefits of all your hard work!
As always, let us know any questions you may have so we can help you make the most out of your workout!