Cough to Engage Your Core

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How do you engage your core when dancing? If you are like most people, it’s easy to forget about your core and let your center flop around. And, even when you do remember to engage your core, it feels like your body is locked down and immobile. So how is engaging your core supposed to help your dancing?

The answer is that your core muscles are responsible for supporting and connecting all movement through your trunk. When your core is lose, the rest of your body is disconnected. The pieces may move at the same time, but they aren’t moving as a unit, and as a result your dancing looks less deliberate.

But, most people overengage their core when they think about using those muscles. The goal is not to show off your abs or win a situp contest—your goal is to keep your trunk moving as a coordinated group of muscles. The reality is that you need much less muscle tension than you think in order to engage your core.

There’s a really simple cue you can use to train yourself how to engage your core properly: just cough. More specifically, curl your hand into a fist and put your fist on your stomach, between your belly button and public bone. Now cough. Do you feel your muscles tighten underneath your fist? Believe it or not, that’s all you need to engage your core!

Try dancing a couple of basic moves by yourself. First dance the moves as you would normally, then do the cough exercise and concentrate on keeping that feeling of engagement while you dance. Since you’re dancing by yourself, it’s okay to do the cough drill again during your patterns (e.g., on your anchor) to remind yourself to keep your core engaged.

If you have learned different body isolations before, you can try adding those in while you are dancing. You should be able to still move your body freely while keeping your core engaged. If you can’t, you are probably over-tightening; relax, cough, and try again!

This is a great drill to video yourself. It’s hard to see how much of a difference keeping your core engaged can make, but watching a before and after video should show a clear difference.

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