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How to Do Callanetics

By Elle Di Jensen

When the late Callan Pinckney experienced health and back problems in the 1980s, her solution was to use her classical ballet training to develop Callanetics, an exercise method that works the muscle groups using small, precise contractions. These "pulses" are done slowly to ensure they work your muscles on a deep level to strengthen and tone. The original Callanetics was designed around full-body exercise, dedicating a portion of each one-hour session to muscles ranging from your neck to your feet. A Callanetics workout typically includes moves that activate your arms, neck, quadriceps, trapezius and core muscles, including your obliques. Callanetics also incorporates various ballet-style moves including plies and variations of arabesques, with the lifted leg held just off the ground as the leg muscles are tensed and pulsed, and some yoga-style exercises similar to Revolved Triangle Pose and Half Lord of the Fishes. The number of pulses that are performed for each exercise varies anywhere from 10 up to 75 to 80 pulses.

Practice the Pulse

The key to doing Callanetics is mastering the "pulse." That's what Callanetics instructors call the deep but gentle muscle contraction that each exercise centers around. Certified personal trainer Jani Roberts has beginners start with contracting their glute muscles to get the idea of the pulse. Just squeeze your glutes as hard as you can as you tuck them under, then release your glutes as you squeeze the muscles in your lower back. Each squeezing movement is considered a "pulse" and is only held for a second or two at a time.

Keep Your Core Engaged

Instructors at the Callanetics Studio continually remind exercisers to keep their "check points" engaged, conveying how imperative it is to activate your core while doing Callanetics. Those check points are the pelvic region, the glutes and the abs. The proper form to keep during most Callanetics exercises is to focus on keeping the pelvic bones even and pushed out and keeping the glutes tucked and abs taut. When engaging your abs, imagine that you're drawing your belly button toward your spine.

Do the Exercises Regularly

Twice a week is how often the official Callanetics website recommends performing the exercises. This recommendation fits in with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Once you've reached your goals, just one hour once a week will keep you in shape. If your schedule makes it difficult to fit an entire hour of exercise in at once, breaking it down into 15-minute sessions will bring the same results. The exercises are low-impact but effective because they are isometric, meaning they involve contracting muscles without moving them considerably.

Warm Up and Stretch

It's vital to warm up before participating in any type of workout, even a low-impact one such as Callanetics. The American College of Sports Medicine advises that you increase your heart rate to get your blood flowing first. Walking, running in place, biking or jogging are all effective ways to warm up. Stretching your muscles once they're warm and before you start your Callenetics workout will prepare your muscles, joints and tendons for the workout and decrease your chances of injury even further. Another session of stretching after the workout will help you cool down.

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