If you'd like to move with balletic grace and style -- and cut a respectable figure in a leotard -- a ballet-focused workout may be the perfect fitness routine. You'll challenge your cardio, lift your saggy muscles, boost your staying power and cultivate poise while sweating in a studio, or even in your living room. Ballet exercises do not require special equipment or a major time commitment, but they can transform you into a fit and flexible prima donna.
Ballet Barre and Beyond
The New York City Ballet workouts are killer routines for your abs, back, shoulders, thighs and butt. You warm up with light cardio and dynamic stretching, hit the abs with isometric planks and crunches, and work your shoulders and back with oppositional moves like extended tables. The routines tone outer thighs, hamstrings and buttocks with leg raises, then present classic barre exercises like pliés, tendus, dégagés, fondus and grand battements, without a barre. Ballet barre classes in studios and gyms concentrate on abs, back, thighs, butt and upper body to help you achieve the lean physiques and flawlessly toned cores, legs and arms of ballet dancers. Barre classes may also rely on fusion exercise routines that incorporate yoga and Pilates poses to improve breathing, strength and flexibility.
Ballet Body Exercises
An ideal ballet-focused workout is low-impact to protect joints; burns a lot of calories; helps sculpt your body and build lean muscle mass; uses body weight as resistance as you hold poses; and boosts concentration by using combinations in center floor work. Ballet may be beautiful, but you’ll feel the burn when you focus on the moves. Sculpt yourself into opening night shape with exercises like pliés in first position as you engage your core and inner thighs. Focus on strength and stability with relevés in center floor, tush tucked under and torso square. Place your weight on one foot and do passés, touching your pointed foot to the front and then the back of your knee. Then brush the floor with strongly pointed toes and extended leg, front, side and back, in tendu. Turn a lunge into a réverénce with arms rounded in first position, shoulders down and back, and hips turned out as you step back.
A Few Good Moves
Audiences devoured the glamour and the drama in the movie "Black Swan." To prepare for her role as a principal dancer, Natalie Portman trained intensively as a ballerina. You can't get the look by working large muscles alone. Dancers use every muscle -- quads, inner and outer thighs, hip flexors, and the deep muscles of the abs. Get a globally gorgeous body with exercises from the "Black Swan" workout, like a reclining stretch with extended legs in which you raise one leg at a time and gently pull it toward your chest. Stay on your back, flex your knees, open your arms wide to accept your ovation and lift up, closing your arms from second position to rounded first position as you contract your abs. Keep your hips and feet stable on the mat as you lower back. Sit with extended legs, hands behind your hips and push up to straight arms for a shoulder and arm toner.
Ballet dancers are athletes with superb conditioning and support teams to monitor their fitness and performance levels. The rigorous workouts and rehearsals that are daily work for them can stress your body and lead to injury if you aren't careful. When you add cross-training or ballet fusion workouts to your fitness routine, be aware of their effects. Yoga can overstretch muscles if you practice too much or push deeper into a pose before you are ready. Tight hip flexors, hamstrings and calves can result from swimming, cycling and running. Add extra stretching and cool-down lunges to counter tightness. When exercising at the barre, use it lightly for balance -- gripping or leaning on the barre will throw you out of alignment and won't engage the correct muscles. Give your body a regular break from workouts so muscles have a chance to integrate the stretching and strengthening.
- New York Times: Gym Class: Ballet Workout
- A Healthier Michigan: A Workout Everyone Swears By: The Ballet Barre Workout
- Elle Magazine: Ballet Exercise: Natalie Portman’s Black Swan Workout
- Dance Magazine: Your Body
- New York City Ballet Workout 1 & 2 (DVDs)
- American Council on Exercise: How Can I Sculpt a Ballet Body?
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .