Remember when it was popular for football players to take ballet classes? The ideas and reasoning behind such a recommendation was so they would become more agile, graceful, light on their feet, and to increase their flexibility.
There are many football players who have taken ballet training, as well as Pilates, yoga and dance, but probably the most famous example is Lynn Swann. In the 1970’s and 1980’s Swann was a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, (my husband’s favorite team), and his ballet regimen was well known. He took various types of dance (jazz, tap, and ballet) for over 14 years and credits his body control to dance.(1) He was known for his valiant catches, grace under pressure and defying gravity. Swann played in four Super Bowl games and was inducted into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
There have been numerous articles written about male athletes training in an exercise modality in which women typically partake. This is not such an article. The above example is used to demonstrate that this is a good idea, and should be the norm, not just a rare sighting of a man in ballet class.
WHAT IS FUNKTIONAL?
FunKtional is a combination of fun dance-based exercises, Pilates core-centric controlled exercises, functional training for activities of daily living, balance challenges, dynamic funk moves, agility exercises, jump training and mind/body awareness. Blended together, this makes a fun, functional and “funky” workout format. So be ready to move as if you don’t care if anyone is watching! Finally, why not take this concept a step further and move the program into the pool?
WHAT IS PEYOW FUNKTIONAL BARRE?
Peyow is the Mandarin word “to float”. Peyow FunKtional Barre is built upon the four Peyow FunKtional Training Concepts:
- 1. Pilates & Dance Based Exercises – Pilates moves along with basic ballet barre exercises, which include footwork and jump training from a dancer’s perspective.
- 2. Stretch (Eccentric) Training – Not only dynamic stretches, but intentional use of the eccentric phase to bring about flexibility.
- 3. Postural Ease Of Movement – Postural imbalances corrected through stretching the tight muscles and strengthening the under utilized muscles.
- 4. Kinesthetic Awareness – The knowledge of which muscles to use, how to relax the unnecessary ones, awareness of body alignment and increased balance and coordination.
Peyow FunKtional Barre not only pairs the sports and dance worlds together, but it works to lengthen and strengthen the average adult in the workforce who is glued to their desk and computer. Anyone (young or old, male or female) who spends the majority of their time in a seated position will ultimately have alignment issues.
Inactivity can lead to a higher mortality rate, and osteoporosis for both genders. Men are an under- evaluated and under-treated population for hip osteoporosis screening; 48% of the hip fractures in men occur under the age of 80.(2) Lumbar and pelvic alignment can be strained by tight hip flexors, whereas shoulders may be pulled forward by tight pectorals. Neck tension may be caused by tight cervical extensors and spinal alignment may be compromised by core and spinal extensor weakness.(3) Our goal is lengthening the tight areas while strengthening the opposing muscles.
PEYOW FUNKTIONAL BARRE SAMPLE EXERCISES(4)
• NOODLE PRESS WALKING SIDEWAYS – LATERAL ROTATION 2nd position to 1st position
Start Position: Hands resting on noodle with arms completely relaxed, legs laterally rotated, in 1st position, heels together, toes apart.
Inhale: Step out to 2nd position, right leg.
Exhale: Step close to 1st position with left leg, simultaneously, press noodle just under surface.
Repeat: 15-30 each direction, or travel length of pool.
Focus: Activation of inner thighs, pelvic floor muscles and gluteals when closing to 1st position.
Activation of the latissimus dorsi and lower trapezius as the noodle presses under surface of the water.
Tip: “Press your elbows down slightly.”
• STANDING KNEE PULL ROUND BACK TO “T”
Start Position: Hands resting on noodle, parallel legs hip distance apart.
Exhale: Flexing hip and knee, lift one leg towards chest, simultaneously press noodle over in front of the knee, rounding the spine to a “C” curve from lumbar to cervical.
Inhale: Extend leg behind towards water’s surface, extend torso along water’s surface as arms reach noodle to surface.
Repeat: 15 times.
• BASIC WATER BALLET STRETCHES
Start Position: Parallel legs, noodle under bent knee, in front of body, approximately hip height. Exhale: Quick staccato breaths, lifting the noodle a few inches, accenting the upward movement. Inhale: Relevé on standing leg.
Exhale: Lunge forward into floating noodle, stay on tip toe of the back leg. Stay: Breathing and sculling hands in water causing turbulence and instability. Inhale: Stop and reach hands out of water
Exhale: Return to standing position.
• Plié, Relevé, turn one-quarter turn away from noodle, Plié, Relevé, laterally rotate
Start Position: Laterally rotated legs, noodle under bent knee, to side of body, approximately hip height. Exhale: Quick staccato breaths, lifting the noodle a few inches, accenting the upward movement.
Inhale: Stop pulsing
Exhale: Lunge sideways into floating noodle, other foot on pool bottom in plantar flexion. Stay: Breathing and sculling hands in water causing turbulence and instability.
Inhale: Stop and reach hands out of water
Exhale: Return to standing position and repeat the series on the opposite side.
The detailed movements are controlled, and best taught by layering each component of the exercise on to the previous component. This requires patience and persistence, but the payoff empowers the students and creates better body control and grace!
Since the 1980s, Lynn Swann has not given up his lifelong love and belief in dance. In fact, he has provided over 100 youth scholarships for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Other Steelers continue to be drawn to the dance world, Steve McLendon trains in ballet to keep injury free. “It’s harder than anything else I do.” – Steve McLendon 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers.(5)
- 1. Sports Illustrated interview Lynn Swann 2014. http://www.si.com/nfl/video/2014/01/31/lynn-swann- super-mvp-or-ballerina
- 2. Chang, K. P., Nguyen, T. V., & Eisman, J. A. (2004). Incidence of Hip and Other Osteoporotic Fractures in Elderly Men and Women: Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. doi:10.1359/JBMR.040109
- 3. Kendall, F. P., McCreary, E. K., & Provance, P. G. (1993). Muscles, testing and function: With Posture and pain. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins.
- 4. Anne Pringle Burnell Peyow Aqua Pilates FunKtional Barre’ Manual p. 2015 / Peyow Aqua Pilates Water Ballet Stretches DVD, c.p. 2012.
- 5. CBS Sports. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/22954120/steve-mclendon-ballet-is- harder-than-anything-else-i-do
Anne Pringle Burnell has been a featured presenter at national and international conferences including IAFC & ATRI. She is also an education provider for AquaStretch™ Foundations and Stott Pilates™. Anne created the Peyow™ Aqua Pilates program, and the Stronger Seniors™ Workout Program. Anne teaches for Northwestern Medicine, Galter Life Center/Swedish Covenant Hospital, Peninsula, UIC, and Stott Pilates™ Certification courses. . For more information: www.aquapilates.net or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in AKWA magazine – October/November 2015.