My The Dailey Method obsession has only intensified since my last Dailey series workout (and if you missed it, check out how to get toned arms here!). From their killer barre classes to my new love of ELDOA and Melt (more on both of those soon, so so so good for your back!) as I’ve recovered from my back injury I’ve upped my Dailey visits to 3-4 times a week. I not only am getting in killer workouts (seriously, you’ve never been sore until you’ve done an intense Dailey class) but I’m also protecting my back thanks to their focus and commitment to spinal health, which is so unique to them. Naturally, a big part of spinal health is having serious core strength, and part of that is knowing how to engage all the parts of your core.
This core workout will not only get you looking more toned and defined than ever before, but it will also ensure that you’re truly strengthening from the inside out (including your pelvis, corset muscles, etc!). Seriously, I’ve learned so much about my body from becoming a Dailey devotee and I can’t wait for you to head into the studio and experience it for yourself! But whether you’re near a Dailey Method studio or not, you can do this workout at home or at the gym with minimal equipment.
Now, a quick explanation about the details for this workout – this isn’t your typical “crunch 15 times” workout. Because The Dailey Method is so committed to the integrity of each move and of course, spinal health, both they and I really wanted to ensure that you have all the info you need to do the workouts properly. While it might seem like a lot to read through at first, trust me, once you do it a few times your body will start to naturally move into the positions it SHOULD have been all these years (but that fitness mags and trainers often neglect to detail, resulting in injuries, burnout and ineffective training)! So get ready to really revolutionize how you tighten your core!
What you’ll need: a resistance band, yoga mat and Pilates ball.
1. Neutral Spine on the Floor
Start by lying on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, hip distance apart. To find a neutral spine, tuck your hipbones toward your ribcage to feel the lumbar spine (lower back) touch the floor. Slowly tilt hipbones towards the ceiling until the lumbar spine just lifts off the floor. You should be able to slide a few fingers under the lumbar spine and your hip bones will be parallel to the floor when you’ve found neutral.
Lift your pelvic floor by engaging the muscles that, well, stop you from going #1 and #2 (yep, both of them, not just the pee muscles!). Engage the “corset” layer of your abdominals by narrowing your hip bones towards each other together and draw your navel to your spine. You’re looking for a tightening sensation of the deepest layer of your abdominals. Ensure your spin is still in neutral position (i.e. you could slip a hand underneath your low back).
Pull down on resistance bands to encourage core engagement, gently press the back of your ribcage down into the mat and bring right knee up to rooftop position (knee over hip) without letting the pelvis move. The more still you can maintain your pelvis, the deeper you will feel this!
Bring your left leg up to meet the right while keeping the core engaged and still.
With an exhale, begin alternately tapping one toe down at a time, only bringing toe down as low down as it can go without losing the engagement in your core (again, try to keep the position through the core and pelvis still the whole time).
Do 10 times each side.
2. Clamshells Flatback on the Floor
With both legs in rooftop, tuck your pelvis until your lumbar spine meets the floor. Keeping the toes together, open the knees like a clamshell on an inhale, exhale to narrow hip bones and draw knees back together, focusing on pressing your whole spine into the floor and drawing your navel to your spine. To make it more challenging, move your knees away from you to increase the load in your abdominals, making sure the lumbar spine can stay pressing down into the floor the whole time. feet slightly higher than knees, With perfect engagement in core, bring knees into clamshell and return to closed in controlled movement. Use band resistance to engage core.
Do 10 times.
Hug knees to chest to quickly reset spine for next moves.
3. High C-Curve
Seated with legs bent, feet flat on the ground and hip-distance apart, place your hands on your shins, tip your hipbones towards your ribcage and lean backwards until your arms fully straighten and you are resting on your sacrum (between your tailbone and lumbar spine). Move hands to your outer thighs with elbows bent to the side, lift sternum and widen your collarbones. Engage pelvis and grip the outer thighs, elbows pointing out. Rock back until you’re on your sacrum. Deeply tuck pelvis to create engagement. Option to put ball at lower spine for support if you have back issues.
Challenging your core stability, bring your hands to prayer and hold for 30-60 seconds.
With hands still in prayer position or holding on lightly back at your outer thighs, begin the Dailey tuck and curl. Tuck your pelvis deeply (hip bones to bottom ribs) lengthening your spine and creating serious engagement throughout your core, and then curl just your bottom ribs over the abdominals, creating a tiny motion. Repeat 20 times.
Bring hands back to outer thighs to reset and then extend arms forward, holding for 30-60 seconds for your final hold.
4. Low C-Curve
Set up: place the ball behind your upper back, between your shoulder blades with your pelvis down on ground, knees bent over ankles and feet on the ground hip distance apart. If you punch up alternating arms, the ball should shift side to side, hitting the tips of your shoulder blades—that’s how you know you have it in the right spot!
Make a fist with each hand and place them just under the base of your skull to support your head and neck. Make sure you don’t tuck your chin into your chest at any point—visualize keeping an orange there. Allow your pelvis to sit naturally in your body. Because of the C-Curve position the spine is in, your pelvis will naturally tuck under following the shape of your spine. Ideally your low back and navel will be grounded to the floor. If you can’t quite feel them touching the ground, visualize your back body (lower back) connecting down to the ground.
Engage: Take a deep breath in and on your exhale and lift the pelvic floor, draw your navel towards your spine and engage your core, visualize knitting your hipbones together and bringing all the four sides of your waist in and down. Repeat 4-5 more times. On every exhale, engage core deeper and begin to softly elevate shoulders higher off the ball. Keep your head heavy resting into your fists.
Movement: Once you’re at your deepest point, place your hands behind your thighs (like in our earlier moves) and engage your abdominal muscles to create small movements, curling your ribs up and over and down. Think of “only up”—this will keep you from sinking lower into the ball and keep your core engaged! Repeat 20-30 times.
Stabilize: Return hands back into fists and place them behind the base of your skull. Reconnect with your breath and engage your core at your deepest point for 10 seconds.
With control, bring one leg up one at a time into tabletop and keep your abdominals engaged at your deepest point for 10-20 seconds. Focus on not pulling onto your thighs (your hands are just lightly holding on) and think of reaching the crown of your head to the back wall, elongating your spine and you draw your navel down to the floor.
Optional challenge: extend your arms out at any point during the hold to up the intensity.
Return your hands to fists behind the base of your skull, take a deep breath and reengage core.
Movement: Bring 1 knee into chest and reach the other leg forwards to about 45 degrees. Gently hold on to the knee that’s bent with open hands and begin to curl up and in, keeping the movement small and using core muscles to maintain a deep core engagement times. Repeat on other side.
Finish by extending legs up (toes point to ceiling), reaching the crown of your head to the back wall and deeply engaging your core, holding for 10-20 seconds.
Set up (align): place your mat halfway up the wall and half down on the floor. Next, sit down on the mat so your shoulders are resting against the mat and your sacrum is positioned on the lower part of the mat (for me, this usually means I’m right at the edge of my mat).
Engage your abdominals to tuck your pelvis under (notice a theme?), feeling your hip bones energize up to your ribs and ribs down to your hips. Lightly hold your outer thighs. Keep your chin away from your neck and the back of your neck stays long.
Holding that stable engagement, press your left hand up into the barre (or any surface) above to deepen your abdominal AND back body engagement. Slowly lift your right leg up in a tabletop position so that your knee lines up over the hip. From there you can either, 1. straighten your leg and take hold of your calf with your right hand (most challenging) – this lengthens the back of the leg so not only are you strengthening your core muscles, but you’re also getting a bonus stretch down the back of the leg and into your back muscles! Or 2. if your flexibility isn’t quite there you can keep your knee bent in a tabletop position and hold on to the back of your thigh while pressing the other hand up into the barre. This keeps your core engaged without drawing your body out of alignment.
Movement: Keeping your core engaged extend your left leg forward out in front of you, pointing your toes. Keep the leg elevated at 45 degrees off the ground. Slowly walk your left leg up to meet your right leg (or as close as it will get) and slowly walk your left leg back down to 45 degree, just hovering above the ground. Repeat 4-8 times keeping movement slow, controlled, without using momentum and really focusing on keeping your pelvis stable.
Alternate on other side, remembering to switch up your arms as well. Finish by holding both legs up (toes pointing towards ceiling) for 10 seconds, holding deep abdominal engagement.
Optional challenge: press both hands up into the ballet barre, pushing up for added intensity as you focus on drawing your navel down.
Do this 2-3 times a week to increase your core strength! Stay tuned for legs and booty coming soon, they will burn both out!
Be sure to check out The Dailey Method here and a big thank you to Jen, Stephanie and the whole team at my Kits studio for helping pull all of this together and for welcoming me into the Dailey family! So happy I have a fitness home that allows me to stay strong while recovering!
Photos by Alicia Fashionista (beach) & Natasha Grant (studio)
Disclaimer: if you have a serious injury or condition, please consult your doctor