The familiar strings of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker” might remind you of swan-like ballerinas. How they dance on stage in their ethereal costumes. How they plié and relevé, their perfectly toned legs and buttocks peeking from underneath wafer thin stockings. Their legs and bottoms hold the secret to a strong lower body: Exercises for a tighter backside and firm legs.
Classic Ballet Beautiful Bridge
This movement mirrors the classic yoga Bridge position, while adding the ballerina twist: Pointed toes. The Classic Ballet Beautiful Bridge works the butt, abs and thighs. Begin on your back with your legs bent. Place your hands on the floor, along your stomach. While inhaling, tighten your abs and lift your pelvis toward the ceiling. Imagine an invisible line pulling your pelvis up. As you do, exhale and come to your toes. Do not lift your shoulders, head or neck during the exercise. While breathing freely, lower and lift your pelvis doing four sets of eight classic bridges.
Firm the toes to the tush with the kicking motion of grand battements. Stand against a wall or chair to steady yourself. If you're in the mood to challenge yourself, place your hands on your hips. Begin by bringing your feet into a "V" position. Your heels touch and your toes point away from each other. Then, keeping your leg straight, raise your right leg as high as it will go. Raise your leg to the front, side and back. Do all three and then lower the leg. Repeat this on the opposite leg, doing the exercise four times on each side.
In a traditional ballet class, relevés are done at the barre to strengthen the calf, ankles and hamstrings. If you don't own a barre, you can do this exercise against a wall or sturdy chair. Begin with flat, shoe less feet, hands bracing against a chair or wall if you're unsteady. There are different relevés depending on the position your feet start in, but the basic movement is the same. Quickly come to your toes and then lower your heels. Do two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
The most iconic ballerina move is the plié. With its squat-like movement it's ideal for strengthening the thighs, hamstrings and buttocks. Start by standing with your legs more than shoulder-width apart. Then turn your feet so that your toes point out. Next, bring your arms out to the sides, tighten your abs, and squat down. Sink into the squat, going as low as possible without your knees extending past your toes. Come up and repeat the movement. Do as many pliés as you can for one minute. Hold a pair of light to medium dumbbells to strengthen your biceps.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.