Ballerinas have amazing bodies, and workouts that feature ballet exercises are speedily gaining popularity as workout routines that incorporate dancers' movements flood the market. Ballet leg and feet exercises target small muscles in the thighs and the core, slimming the body while adding strength and power. But you don't need to be able to perform incredible flying leaps to get all of the benefits. There are plenty of easy ballet exercises for the legs and feet that anyone can do.
Rather than working your quads, ballet targets smaller muscles and inner thighs. Thigh work is essential not simply for power but also for slender limbs for tight poses. Doing leg lifts in different ballet positions at the barre, or using the back of a tall chair, works the same muscles. Standing on your toes, lift one leg directly behind you and bend it at the knee. Using primarily thigh muscles, lift your leg and lower it for 30 seconds before changing to the other leg. This is referred to as the scorpion movement in Richard Giorla's Cardio Barre workout routine. You can also extend your leg for lifts directly behind you and aimed at the corner for more exercise options.
Hamstrings and Buttocks
In an interview with Elle magazine, Mary Helen Bowers, ballerina and creator of the Ballet Beautiful workout, says that ballet poses require engaged thighs and squeezed buttocks to perform, which is what gives ballerinas a beautiful, long, lean look. Use ballet leg lifts to work the upper thigh and derriere. Get down on all fours on a mat. Keeping your shoulders and hips straight, lift one leg and bring the knee into your chest. Then push the leg back out behind you as high as you can lift it. Repeat this 30 times and then change legs.
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Strong feet are key for big leaps and perfect form. Calf raises at a barre, known in ballet as releves, are an essential element of a ballerina's workout regime. This movement strengthens the arch of the foot and the calves. Lay your fingertips lightly on the ballet barre or the back of a tall chair. Turn your feet out, which means keep your heels together and separate your toes as far as you can to each side. Lift onto your toes, keeping your body straight. Lift and lower yourself quickly for at least 60 seconds. After this exercise, make sure to do a calf stretch.
Sweep the Leg
Ballet exercises don't just add beautiful muscles, they also increase flexibility. Use a leg exercise to open up your hips. Stand perpendicular to the barre or the top of a chair and lay the fingertips of your right hand on it. Raising up on your right toes, bring up your left leg and hold it in front of you, bent. Swing your leg from front to back, bending it again behind you, allowing your left toes to graze the ground during the pass-through. Use your abdominals to keep your upper body straight as you swing your leg back and forth for 30 seconds before changing sides. This Cardio Barre leg and foot exercise works your core, thighs, calves and hips.
- New York Times: Lining Up to the Barre
- Elle: Ballet Exercise: Natalie Portman's Black Swan Workout
- Cardio Barre; Richard Giorla
Meredith Berg received her B.F.A. in directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Now living in Los Angeles, she works as a film and television writer, comic-book editor and director of plays and films. In addition, she loves tackling paleo recipes, workout routines and DIY projects.