Ballet inspired leg workout. I remember when I was teaching rock climbing and someone asked me what exercises I did for my calves. I was a little bit confused, because I never went to the gym at that time and then I realized that I was taking 14 ballet classes a week. Of course, that’s a bit much for most of us, but there are a few amazing leg moves that you can easily do at home that will go a long way to giving you the beautiful, long lean legs that dancers can proudly show off.
BALLET INSPIRED LEG WORKOUT
Plie (aka wide and narrow stance squat). We spoke about this move in How To Get Firm Glutes (?) but it’s just as great for your legs. Essentially, this is a turned out version of a squat, but it’s all about the technique. It can be done in a ballet first position with your heels together and your toes turned out, or in second position standing in a turned out position with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Staying tall and keeping your abdominal muscles engaged, bend your knees ensuring that they point over your toes. Bend as far as you can without your heels leaving the ground and then straighten. As you straighten, think about squeezing those inner thighs together. Repeat 10 times in each position.
Releve (aka calf raises). See above for your positions, but now instead of bending your knees, you will engage your quads and rise up high on your toes. Repeat 15 times in each position and I guarantee you will feel the burn in no time.
Tendue (aka straight leg extension). This one is best done in socks because you’ll want to use your feet. Standing tall in first position, keep your body straight, abdominals engaged and slide your right foot forward and point your toes. Keep your weight firmly on your left foot, only one leg moves at a time. Do eight repetitions to the front, side and back and then switch feet. Tips: As you pull your foot back in, really focus on squeezing those inner thighs together.
Degage (aka leg arcs). This one you’ll do lying down on your side, but make sure you aren’t collapsing your side into the floor (this should be no different than if you were standing). Start by lying on your left side, keeping your torso still as you reach your right leg out in front of you. Now reach your toes up toward the ceiling, without tipping your body forward, reach the leg behind you as far as it will go and then return to your start position. Do 10 sets on each leg.
Rond de jamb (aka leg circles). Lying on your side (same instructions as above), lift your leg about 12 inches into the air and without moving your torso, do small circles. Do 10 circles clockwise and 10 circles anti-clockwise on each leg. If this is easy, take it up a notch. Start by kneeling on your right knee with your right hand on the floor beneath your shoulder. Lift your left leg up so that it is in line with your body and do your circles in the air, 10 on each leg.
Curtsy (aka cross-over lunges). A true ballet curtsy is a bit tricky, but this is a great variation on that. Cross your right leg over in front of your left leg so that you are on the ball of your left foot. Keeping your back tall, bend both knees and straighten. Do 8 on each side.
As with any workout, your technique matters, so take your time while doing these moves. Focus on pointing your toes and really engaging those leg muscles. Of course, dancers spend hours and hours repeating these movements, week after week, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t reap some of the benefits. By leaving the gym every now and then, you are shocking your muscles with a new workout style and although you might never be a contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance”, you can still benefit from these tried and true exercises.
What are your favourite leg workouts?