What we think of as “ballet arms” are hardly spindly or weak–delicate though ballerinas are, their arms, shoulders, and upper back are so beautifully defined with muscles. In ballet, of course, you don’t use weights–but the same principles of “holding yourself up” is what makes light weight / high rep barre arm exercises so effective. You may have heard that in order to gain lean muscle, you need to do heavy weight / low rep in order to really challenge yourself. But just 3-4 lb dumbbells can be more than challenging enough in combination with controlled, lengthening movements. Here’s what I mean:
Before you even pick up any weights, let’s start by standing tall, your whole spine elongating from the top of your head to the pelvis. Press your shoulders down and open your chest. Press your hands together in front of your chest and push against your palms–push even harder! Feel how your upper back muscles lift and your entire upper body becomes engaged?
Now, feeling that same energy from your shoulders to your fingertips, and down your back, open your arms up into 2nd position, continuously pressing shoulders down and raising and rounding the elbows.
This feeling of being lifted throughout your back is what we’re going for as we do these low weight exercises. For more challenge, please feel free to lift your heels into a releve, but the most important thing is that you maintain this sense of lengthening and lifting.
1. Small Circles 1 (triceps and shoulders)
Grab hold of your dumbbells and lift your arms into 2nd position, your palms facing front. Make sure your elbows are slightly rounded and make small circles with your weights for 16 counts. Switch directions and do another 16 counts
2. Small Circles 2 (biceps)
This time, flip your palms up toward the ceiling, activating your biceps, and make small circles for 16 counts. Change directions, then repeat for 16 reps.
3. Squat – Arm Raise
Stand with your feet in 2nd position (about 3.5 feet apart), toes pointing out, then plie. Your pelvis should be tucked in directly beneath your spine. Raise your arms up into a “cactus” position so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
Press up with your legs and arms simultaneously and come to standing, feeling the shoulder blades slide as you press your arms directly above. Come back to position 1; repeat for 16 reps.
4. Shoulder Raise
Start in 2nd position plie, with your arms this time in 90 degree angles, parallel to the floor, palms facing down (position 1). Keep your elbow stationary and raise your weights up to position 2. You may also add pulses to your plie to workout your legs further.
Just a couple more things before I let you go work those guns–1) I got a new leotard, finally!! It’s pretty confusing to put on, but that is the nature of un-boring leotards. Once you figure out where to thread your arms, it’s so cute yay! 2) If you’re in NYC and want to workout with me, come take my Ballet Sculpt class. I picked the time so you can get your workout in and feel great before going out on a Friday night. It’s amazing! 🙂
Also see: Inner Thigh Toning Moves for Longer Legs
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling