Those who practice yoga, pilates, or just good old-fashioned strength training, are familiar with the term “core”. In pilates it’s often called “powerhouse”. Call it whatever you want, it all means basically the same thing: the human torso and the muscles within. Why don’t we just say “abs”?
No part of the body is more worth the time and effort to strengthen than the abdominals. And for an art model, it is the single biggest favor you can do for yourself if you want to perform with poise, stability, and endurance. Yes, I know, doing crunches can be a drag. I do mine, but I confess I have to muster up the motivation. But I never regret it, because the abdominals are an amazing reservoir of strength, energy, and stamina. Art models should use them, abuse them, and exploit them to their advantage. Why? Because your abs can take it, that’s why. Like a good boxer can take a punch. They are daring you to “bring it on”. So bring it! It’s ok.
Let’s say a model takes a pose where the body’s weight is on one leg. If she “activates” her core, some of that weight is alleviated. It’s not visible to the eyes of the artists, but the model feels it inside. There is an incredible “lifting” effect that takes place when the abs snap into action, like it’s absorbing the movement of the body to spare the limbs. Shouldering some of the load, so to speak.
When settling into a long pose, art models should ask themselves, how will I delegate the “strength” for this pose? Your body might be asymmetrical, or leaning on something, or twisted, or whatever. That’s all fine, but it’s not the point. The larger question is, what does human anatomy provide me with? Where is my most dependable reserve of strength? A foot? Eh. So-so. An elbow? Bone. Forget it. An ankle? NEVER!! Bad, bad idea always. A thigh? Not bad. Quads are strong muscles. But they’re not centrally located on your body. A forearm? Well, if you’re leaning then that’s going to find its way into your shoulder blade and deltoid pretty fast. Not so great. Hands? Practically worthless. There’s just so much strength one can have in their hands. And fingers will go numb and the next thing you know they will be slipping out from under you.
The abs. The core. That’s your body’s workhorse. Let it work. Activate the core and the effects throughout the rest of the body will amaze you. Your core is perfectly equipped to carry your weight, stabilize you, balance you, and concentrate the energy of your body. Concerned that your abs will be sore afterwards? Sure, maybe. It’s happened to me. But consider the other options and put them up against your sturdy abdominal muscles. They look like bench players. Second fiddle. Who do you trust to pull you through a 40 minute pose? Your triceps, or your rectus abdominus? No contest, my friends.
I am pretty strong in my rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus. Less so in my obliques. But through yoga and pilates and moderate weight training, I am able to rely on my abs enough to get me through full time art modeling.
I’m not suggesting, by the way, that art models should have six-pack abs. Not at all. Abs can be plenty strong without looking ripped. The “teaser” move in pliates is one of my favorites. I like it much better than crunches. It’s a fabulous exercise because it strengthens the deep abdominals, and that’s why they don’t produce “ripped” results. You’ll get some definition in the transverse, but more importantly, very strong, controlled abs.
The Pilates Teaser: