While many people see ballet as simply a graceful art form, it is so much more than that. This style of dance can also offer a great workout for just about anyone, even those without a background in ballet. There are a variety of ballet-based exercises you can try to increase muscle definition and strength. Best of all, most of them can easily be performed right at home at your own convenience.
What Ballet Can Do For Your Body
Ballerinas sometimes look thin or fragile from afar, but these dancers are actually quite athletic when it comes to muscle definition and strength. Both women and men who practice ballet tend to have very strong leg muscles due to the types of dances and exercises they perform. Beginners who are looking to try ballet can expect exercises that focus on developing long, lean muscles, especially in the legs. Unlike exercises that focus solely on the quadriceps, ballet utilizes the inner thighs and the backs of the thighs as well. This gives legs a longer, leaner appearance overall rather than a bulkiness that can result from some other workouts.
In addition to getting well-defined and sculpted legs, those who use ballet exercises can also expect an increase in strength in their core muscles. Because so many ballet exercises focus on accuracy, posture and balance, the core muscles in the abdomen and lower back are at work almost the entire time. For the best results in this area, exercises should be done carefully and precisely – a sloppy performance may mean that the core muscles were not engaged properly. Building up core muscles also helps those who use these techniques to develop better posture overall, not just while doing their ballet exercises.
Finally, ballet exercises also increase flexibility. The focus on slow, careful movements and stretching the limbs results in better flexibility, which can be helpful in preventing injuries and increasing athletic performance.
Who Can Benefit From Ballet
You don’t have to be a ballerina to try ballet workouts. In fact, it is a great type of exercise that anyone – men and women both – can use to get fit. In fact, men can really benefit from the improved flexibility that is offered through ballet exercises since they tend to be much less flexible than women. Just about any person can perform ballet workouts, although those with physical restrictions may need to alter certain movements to meet their needs.
You’ll also need good balance for doing ballet. Those who have problems with balance or who have a condition which affects their stability may want to consult a doctor before trying this workout.
What You'll Need
One of the great things about trying ballet exercises is that you hardly need anything to do them. Unlike a traditional ballet class, you don’t have to wear a leotard, tutu or ballet slippers in order to try these exercises. Those with ballet experience might feel more comfortable in these items, but they aren’t necessary for doing the exercises properly. Instead, just wear comfortable, stretchy, workout clothes that won’t get in the way, such as a tank top and yoga pants, for example. You can wear sneakers, but many people find that they are more comfortable going barefoot for this type of workout.
Since many ballet exercises are based on the idea of the ballet bar found in many dance studios, it’s helpful to have a sturdy chair around that you can use for balance and guidance. Make sure the chair has enough weight so that if you are using it to balance yourself it will not tip over or move. Additionally, you may want to use a yoga mat while trying ballet exercises. These can be helpful for giving you a firm surface where both you and the chair will not slip.
Sample Ballet Workout
The following are just a few examples of beginners’ ballet exercises you can use to form your own workout:
- Toe lifts: Stand with one foot flat on the ground, the other pointed down and held just behind the other leg. Raise your arms in a soft arc on either side of your head. Gently raise your body up by flexing the leg you are standing on until your weight rests on the ball of your foot. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position, then repeat.
- Leg lifts: Lie on your left side with your left arm extended out on the floor for balance. Your left leg should lie flat on the floor with the right leg resting on top of it. Point your right toe and bend your leg until the toe reaches your knee. Then, extend the leg up and out until the toe is pointed up towards the ceiling with the leg fully extended. Slowly lower your leg back to the starting position, keeping the leg extended.
- Hip lifts: Lie on your back with your arms down on the ground at your sides and knees bent so that your feet are just a few inches in front of your buttocks. Raise your body up so that you are balancing on the balls of your feet and your body creates a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Raise your right leg straight up into the air and point your toe, then begin gently lifting and lowering your hips in a vertical direction. Continue with several reps, then switch legs and repeat.