There’s no booty like a ballet booty. Ballet dancers are able to execute those impressive moves from strict training that focuses on strengthening the legs and glutes with their own body weight. As a result, they not only develop long, lean muscles in their legs, but also a strong, perky booty!
Ballet training always starts with barre work. While the barre is there for support, the goal is to eventually move everything from the barre to the center of the floor by relying on your core strength and control for balance. Growing up, my ballet teacher would always tell us to hold the barre ever so gently as if it were our best friend. Many beginners tend to rely too heavily on the barre, putting most of their body weight on it, which is not correct. With the core engaged correctly, the back of a sturdy chair does just fine in replacement of a ballet barre. Only light pressure with the hands should be placed on the back of the chair to help stabilize your movements. This way, anyone can do these moves at home and still achieve a ballet dancer’s booty!
1. Attitude Arabesque Lifts– Standing with your feet in first position, heel together and toes apart, face the back of the chair. Lightly place your hands on the edge of the chair for support, doing your best to hold yourself upright with your back and core during the exercise. Start warming up the leg by sweeping one leg behind you keeping your turnout. The knee is slightly bent when you raise it. Straighten it every time you lower the leg back down to first position. In all of these exercises, the standing leg is getting worked as well as you are constantly squeezing that glute to help stabilizes you. After doing this for 20 seconds, hold the leg up behind you in attitude arabesque and pulse it up towards the ceiling for another 10 seconds. Think of lifting the leg from the back of the glute and thigh rather than your foot. If you feel too much strain in your lower back, you can pitch your body slightly forward. Repeat on the other leg.
2. Side Leg Lifts– This exercise isn’t a traditional position in ballet because of the internal rotation but it is a Pilates and barre exercise used to strengthen the outer glute area. With one hand on the chair, stand with your legs in parallel. Lift on leg up to the side slowly with the foot flexed, making sure to keep the hip and leg facing forward and not turning it out. You may lean slightly over towards the bar to get the leg a little higher but do not put all your weight onto your hand. The free hand may be placed behind your head or on the hip. Bring the leg back down and repeat the slow leg lifts for 30 seconds. For the last 30 seconds on this leg, hold the leg up and pulse it even higher. You may soften the knee of the standing leg to keep the focus on the working leg if you are having a hard time keeping it straight. Repeat on the other leg.
3. Side Leg Circles– Holding the same position as you did in the side leg lifts, circle the leg in one direction for 15 seconds before reversing the circles for another 15 seconds. Repeat on the other leg. These can be done without a break after the side leg lifts to really burn out the glutes or you can give the leg a break before starting the leg circles. The circles should be as close to hip height as possible and about the size of a cantaloupe.
4. Relevés– This is a great exercise to lift the glutes. Standing with your feet in first position facing the back of the chair, place both hands on the edge of the chair. Squeeze your glutes as you do slow calf raises for 30 seconds, taking 3 counts to go up and 3 counts to go down. For the next 15 seconds, speed it up to 2 counts up and 2 counts down. For the last 15 seconds, take only 1 count to go up and 1 count to go down. The key to this exercise is to squeeze your glutes like crazy. The more your squeeze your glutes, rather than just use the calves, the faster you will be able to move and the more it becomes about the glutes.
5. Jumps in Second Position– Ballet dancers also get those nice glutes from all of the jumping they do. If you have bad knees or prefer not to jump, you can do sumo squats in this position, making sure to keep your navel pulled in and glutes squeezed tight on the way up each time. Facing the chair, turn your legs out and separate your heels about a foot and a half apart. Make sure your feet are far enough apart so that when you squat down in this position, your knees do not surpass your toes. Do several squats in the position before jumping. If you choose to jump, make sure to start and finish every jump with your knees bent. Contract your glutes, and leg muscles when up in the air and soften your landing by keeping your abdominals engaged and landing toe then heel. You may keep your hand on the chair or challenge yourself like a ballerina would in the center of the floor and hold your arms out in second position while jumping. Careful not to collapse your torso during each landing. Keep your body upright by engaging your back muscles and abdominals.
6. Glute Stretch– After burning out those glutes, you need to make sure to stretch them so that they don’t continue to gain strength without any flexibility. Take a seat and cross one ankle over the other thigh into a figure four. Lengthen your back from the base of your spine as you fold over your thighs to get deep into the glute of the leg that is crossed over. Hold each leg for at least 30 seconds to allow time for the muscles to relax into the pose.
Whether or not you’re a ballerina, your butt will be lifted and toned after these exercises. Grab a chair and try it for yourself!
Also by Crystal: 4 Pilates Exercises for Deep Breathing (Video)
Related: Advanced Ballet Leg Routine
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Video: Crystal Chin