A few weeks ago I picked up this book from our bookcase:
Callanetics For Your Back, Callan Pinckney, 1988
I wasn’t having back pain. I was just curious what she had to say. I’d done some of the back exercises over the years but not much more.
Callanetics was popular in the mid-1980s. It is a series of exercises that could, according to its developer Callan Pinckney, make you look “10 years younger in 10 hours.” This book of exercises for the back was published a few after her introductory book. It was a bestseller then and the exercises, based on the “pelvic wave,” continue to be recommended for back pain sufferers.
It is a system of exercise involving frequent repetition of small muscular movements and squeezes, designed to improve muscle tone. The programme was developed by Pinckney from classical ballet exercises, to help ease a back problem that she was born with.
The theory of callanetics is that the surface muscles of the body are supported by deeper muscles, but popular exercise programmes often exercise only the surface muscles. According to callanetics, deeper muscles are best exercised using small but precise movements. Exercising the deeper muscles also leads to improved posture, which may result in the appearance of weight loss even if very little weight was lost.
She’s not kidding when she says “small movements.” For some exercises, she brings her thumb and forefinger almost together and says, “one sixteenth of an inch!”
Here’s Pinckney demonstrating her stomach exercise, which she is keen to say, “This is not a sit up!” Sit-up use (and abuse) the back. Notice here that the lower back is always on the floor, always in repose, not arched: