OK, so maybe plie squats do have a ballet background, but you can benefit from these powerful thigh and buttocks exercises without donning a tutu and pink tights. After several sets, you should feel the burn in your quads, inner thighs and glutes. Don't get careless with your form, since your knees are heavily involved. If you're breezing through the basic exercise, bring weights into the equation or experiment with a more advanced variation.
Warm up with 10 minutes of general cardio exercise. Jog in place, run on the treadmill or skip around the gym to increase circulation and prepare your legs and buttocks for more intense, focused activity. Don't skimp on your warmup; you’re only good to go once you've broken a sweat.
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent and your toes angled outward by 45 degrees. Straighten your spine and press your shoulders down and slightly back. Your chin and the top of your head should be parallel with the floor. Extend your arms downward along your sides, resting your pinkies on your inner thighs. Shift your weight back over your heels.
Tighten your abdominals and bend your knees, inhaling as you lower your pelvis between your thighs. Allow your hips to shift slightly backward, but avoid hinging your torso far forward or jutting your butt sharply to the rear. Continue bending your knees until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Keep an eye on your knees; they should stay directly over your insteps.
Exhale and push your heels firmly into the floor. Squeeze your glute muscles and inner thighs and straighten your knees, drawing your pelvis directly upward. At the top of the movement, take care not to lock your knees. That's one rep.
Repeat the plie squat 10 to 15 times for a total of one to three sets, as long as you can do so with proper form. Rest for 30 seconds between sets.
- Do the exercise in a smooth, controlled manner, without any jerking.
- You can perform the basic exercise with a barbell across your shoulders or with a dumbbell. Grip one end of the dumbbell with both hands, allowing it to dangle between your thighs as you bend and straighten your knees.
- For variation, and to better activate your calves, complete each rep with a calf raise. After sitting into a plie and straightening the knees, rise onto your toes. Don't let your ankles drop forward or fall backward; press all your toes into the floor and keep your instep directly over your second toe.
- To mix it up a little, combine the plie squat with a jump. After lowering yourself into a squat, jump as high as you can, sweeping your arms forward and upward and extending your legs in a wide, downward-facing "V." Land softly, lowering yourself back into a plie. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Rolling the knees forward as you bend into the squat puts excessive stress on the knee joint, which can result in injury.
- Rounding your shoulders forward can cause lower-back injury.
Judy Fisk has been writing professionally since 2011, specializing in fitness, recreation, culture and the arts. A certified fitness instructor with decades of dance training, she has taught older adults, teens and kids. She has written educational and fundraising material for several non-profit organizations and her work has appeared in numerous major online publications. Fisk holds a Bachelor of Arts in public and international affairs from Princeton University.