Plies Leg Exercises

Plies aren't squats. Don't stick your bum out.
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Former New York City Ballet Dancer Suzanne Farrell once famously remarked, “Plié is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master.” For ballet dancers, there are so many components to a good plié: musicality, even turnout of both legs, coordination, weight distribution and body alignment. Even if you’re not an aspiring prima ballerina, it pays to execute this deceptively simple exercise properly. When done with good form, pliés help develop the long, lean legs that ballet dancers are famous for.

    Step 1

    Stand with your feet together and place your hands on your hips.

    Step 2

    Engage your leg and pelvic muscles by feeling your inner thighs, upper thighs and buttocks pulling together. At the same time, engage your abdominal muscles, pulling your belly button toward your back. Lengthen your back, all the way from your tailbone to the top of your head.

    Step 3

    Bend your knees slowly, making sure that your knees move directly over your second toes and that your heels stay on the floor. You might feel a stretch on the backs of your calves when you bend your knees. This is a normal sensation. As your knees bend, your buttocks will have a tendency to stick out. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged and your back lengthened to prevent this common problem.

    Step 4

    Straighten your knees slowly, feeling your leg and pelvic muscles coming back together.

    Step 5

    Repeat eight to 12 times.


    • Once you’ve gotten used to the basic coordination of a plié, you can try the exercise from first and second position. To get to first position, start with your feet pointing forward and your legs straight. Without bending your legs, open your toes out to the sides. Keeping your legs straight will keep you from forcing your turnout, a common problem when working in turned-out positions.


    • In second position, your toes point out to the sides, and there is about 12 inches between your two heels. When you do pliés in first or second position, you have to use your turnout muscles, also known as the external rotators. As you bend your knees, direct them to the sides of your body so that they remain aligned with your second toes. Make sure that you don’t let your feet roll in, as this can twist your knees.


    • Press into the floor with your little toes to keep your weight distributed properly. These actions will engage your turnout muscles and help tone the little muscles located where your thighs meet your buttocks.

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