Dancers' lean bodies and toned physiques stimulated a nationwide exodus. No longer are you bound to endless hours on the elliptical trainer or weight machines. Instead, you can sweat to ballet-inspired movements and techniques that use your body weight and light dumbbells for resistance. A well-programmed ballet workout can raise your heart rate, improve balance and tone your muscles.
The Barre and Center Practice
A horizontal wood barre lines the walls of most fitness studios that specialize in ballet-inspired workouts. Expect to hold the barre lightly with your fingertips for balance during movements like plie or attitude. Some barre exercises may include small equipment such as a rubber ball, a yoga block or a mat. The barre is also often used to stretch. Center practice is movement performed away from the barre. Center practice can be more difficult than barre exercise because you rely on your unassisted balance and strength to complete a movement. Some fitness studios include small hand weights in their center practice.
A plie means bending at the knees. Stand with the barre at your left side, your core tight, feet wider than hip-distance apart, and your left hand placed lightly on the barre. Gently rotate your legs from the hip so your toes are facing diagonally away from your body. Slowly bend your knees to 90 degrees as you lower your hips toward the floor while keeping your chest lifted and your shoulders relaxed. At the bottom of the plie motion, check that your knees are going in the same direction as your toes and have not rotated inside or outside of your foot position. Return to standing by pressing through your heels and squeezing your glutes and inner thighs as you extend your knees.
An attitude is a one-legged balancing position that features a bent leg extended behind your body. Stand facing the barre with both hands placed lightly on top for balance. With your feet hip-width apart and turned out at the hip, draw your right leg behind you so your right toes are on the floor. Lift your toes off the floor by bending your right knee to 90 degrees. Keep your chest lifted and your core tight as you elevate your leg behind you by contracting your right glute. At the top of the attitude motion, check that your right knee is higher than your foot. Return your leg to its starting position by extending your knee as you lower your leg toward the floor. Complete all repetitions on the right before switching to the left.
Lay face-up on a mat for a center practice curl. Keep your core tight to stabilize your spine as you elevate your legs off the floor while maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Extend your arms off the floor, reach your hands toward your feet and lift your shoulder blades off the ground as you contract your abdominals in a curl. Slowly release back to the floor by reversing your curl and relaxing your abdominals. Keep your legs lifted and your core tight until you complete all repetitions.
Amanda McVey has been teaching fitness and personal training since 2008 in the San Francisco, New York City and Seattle markets. She is an ACSM certified personal trainer, AFAA certified group fitness instructor and UGI master trainer. McVey has many credits to her education including indoor cycling, pre- and postnatal, TRX, rip training, and trigger point therapy.