Ballerinas are some of the most incredible athletes in the world. They spend years in training to achieve the balance, flexibility, and strength required to perform gravity-defying dance routines. But don’t let that intimidate you. These very simple, low-impact ballet exercises will beautifully tone your legs, no pirouetting required. To modify any of the positions, you may lightly rest a hand on a chair for balance.
Here are a few key principles to keep in mind throughout your workout:
-Always engage your core – this will help you maintain a straight, graceful upper body while protecting your lower back from strain. Also key for balance!
-Keep your pelvis tucked in and hips squared–this will also help protect your lower back
-Fully straighten your legs after each bend–this will help form long, lean muscles
-Fold in a few stretches between each exercise–ditto those long, lean muscles 🙂
-Keep in mind that sometimes what isn’t moving (like your core, your arms, or your standing leg) is working just as hard as what is. Staying balanced while resting gravity builds endurance and strength.
1. First Position Plié (A fabulous leg lengthener)
Stand up straight on your mat with your arms in first position. (Arms gently extended in front of you and forming a circle. Hands are aligned with your waist.) Bring your heels together and point your toes out. Your toes should be in line with your knees as you bend – turning them past your knees may result in strain. Bend your legs until you can no longer bend them without raising your heels. Straighten both legs. This is one rep. Repeat for two sets of ten reps.
2. Second Position Plié (This secretly works your arms, too.)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out. Extend arms to second position. (Arms are aligned with the shoulders and are gently rounded toward the center. Keep your elbows lifted.) Repeat the movements from Exercise 1. Try to plié to the point where your thighs are parallel to the ground. Repeat for two sets of ten reps.
3. Relevé in First Position (A.K.A. your calves’ best friend)
Return to first position legs and raise your arms into fifth position. (Both arms are lifted above your head in a circle). Raise onto the balls of your feet to come into demi-pointe. You are now in a relevé. Keep engaging your core to stay balanced. Repeat for 2 set of 10 reps.
4. Tendu Front, Sideways, & Back (Full body toner!)
Don’t brush off the humble tendu. Although they require only a small range of motion, they’re one of the most fundamental steps in ballet; even professionals start each company class with these (along with plies). After several reps, you’ll feel the burn in your inner thighs and butt.
Begin in first position legs and second position arms. Front: Point your right foot and extend in the direction in which your toes are pointing. Rest only your toes on the mat, and shift your weight to your left (standing) leg, and pause. Return to first position. Side: Following the same principle, brush your right toes directly to your side, pause, and return to first position. Back: Extend your active leg toward the back, keeping your toes pointed, pause, and return to first position. Repeat ten times in each direction then switch sides.
More workouts: Barre Dumbbell Exercises for All Over Toning
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Photos: Mary Hood