Do you want to improve your taconeo in flamenco? Besides going to the studio to pound out some escobillas (in compás!!!!), try these exercises next to the copy machine, while waiting in line for coffee, or watching reruns of Game of Thrones.
This exercise strengthens your whole lower body and really works your stabilizing muscles. You might be asking how strengthening your legs and butt can help with your footwork. Well, your footwork is powered by the strength of your legs and glutes. The feet themselves help with the articulation of the sound of footwork, but it’s the rest of your lower body that provides the power.
So….Pick up a really heavy dumbbell or a small child (really!) and hold it in front of your belly. Your legs are apart, wider than hip width, toes at a comfortable angle either parallel or slightly turned out. Squat as far down as you can go while keeping your abs engaged and your back straight and not straining. Then slowly come back up to starting position, really paying attention to activating your glutes for the movement. The weight should be heavy enough that you have to concentrate for each rep but not so heavy that you pull your back. Do 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps.
Sit on a chair so that your feet are flat on the floor. Throw a bunch of marbles on the floor in front of your feet. With your heel stuck on the floor, grab one marble with your toes and move it to the other side and let drop it. Bring your toes back to pick up another marble, bring it to the other side and repeat until all the marbles are to the other side. Remember to keep that heel stuck on the floor! Then bring them all back to the starting position. Repeat with the other foot.
Don’t have marbles? Try legos, pencils, hand towels. Get creative!
Tennis Ball Stretch
This feels so amazing after class! Get that tennis ball and stand on it with one foot. Then roll it around underneath your foot while standing for a great massage. It stretches all the intrinsic muscles of the foot as well as your calf muscles. You can even try other small round balls like the ones kids use to play jacks. Remember that game?
Pointing and flexing my feet is such a staple in the warmup in my classes. But you can do this anytime, even while sitting.
Alternatively point and flex your foot but with real mindfulness. You want to feel your toes and plantar almost really crush and engage when you point and then you want to spread your toes wide while you flex and feel a good stretch in the calf. You can finish it off by doing slow circles with your feet at the ankle in both directions. But really use that ankle!!!
Walking barefoot is such an amazing way to build strength in your feet and legs. Face it, our bodies are not meant for shoes….. even though shoes are faaaabulous. I’m not suggesting you go out and buy some monkey feet Vibrams to wear out in public. I’m just saying at home, take off your shoes or slippers and walk as much as possible in bare feet. If this isn’t a habit of yours, you will notice a difference immediately. You might be sore at first, but the feet get used to it rather quickly as long as you keep that ribcage down and abs engaged.
So, that’s it! Five easy exercises you can throw in whenever you can and you’ll notice a difference in your strength, stability and awareness of your lower body.
Let me know how these exercises work for you if you try them!