Images of graceful ballerinas gliding effortlessly across the stage are deceptive. Ballet demands considerable strength from muscles all over the body, including the inner thighs. The inner thigh muscles -- also known as the adductors -- are involved in the first steps that dancers learn in ballet. Focusing on the role of the muscles -- bringing the legs together -- will help activate and strengthen them. A couple of targeted cross-training exercises can build additional strength.
The first exercise of a ballet barre, the plié, strengthens the inner thigh. Perform a plié from first position, concentrating on keeping your knees pointed directly over your toes as you bend your knees. When you straighten your legs, imagine that you are wearing a long skirt with a zipper down the front. Zip your legs together as you come back up from your plié. This activates your inner-thigh muscles. Every time you perform a plié in your ballet class, focus on this zipping action of the inner thighs.
The second exercise of a ballet barre, the tendu, also strengthens the inner thighs. Begin in first position and perform a tendu to the side. As you close back into first position, think of closing with both of your legs, not just the leg that moved to the side. By emphasizing the action of both legs, you’ll activate your inner-thigh muscles and strengthen them.
While they’re not a traditional ballet exercise, scissors are often included in beginning ballet classes specifically to strengthen the inner thighs. Ballet teachers also often include them later on when students are ready to start learning entrechat quatres and other forms of batterie. Lie on your back and lift your legs so your toes point toward the ceiling. Open your legs as far as possible to the side and then bring them back together. Repeat the opening and closing motion a total of 12 times. You can also perform this exercise with your legs in fifth position. To begin, cross your right foot in front of your left. After opening your legs to the side, close your right foot to the back. Continue alternating your legs until you complete your desired number of repetitions. Try adding ankle weights to make this exercise more challenging.
Single Leg Adduction
You can also strengthen your inner thighs one at a time. The advantage of this exercise is that it works your legs in parallel, targeting muscle fibers that don’t fire when your legs are turned out. Lie on your right side and place your left foot on the seat of a chair. Your body should be in a straight line from head to toe. Lift your right leg up to meet your left leg and then lower your leg to the floor. Do a total of 12 reps with your right leg, and then switch legs.
Kat Black is a professional writer currently completing her doctorate in musicology/ She has won several prestigious awards for her research, and has had extensive training in classical music and dance.