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Ballet-Inspired Fitness

Lean legs, a super-tight core, and a beautiful sense of balance – anyone who has been to the ballet knows that dancers bodies are simply stunning. You might not want to undergo the years and years of training it takes to get their fantastic physique, but incorporating a few moves from the barre will help create the same long lines that prima ballerinas are famous for.

Channel your inner Misty Copeland and try out these ballet-inspired moves to get a gorgeous dancer’s body.


Plié / Relevé

Pliés are a ballet basic. Meant to warm up the legs, they are one of the fundamental reasons that dancers have such strong muscles. To be honest, a plié is just a very fancy version of a squat that engages multiple muscles. And a relevé is just a fancy word for balancing on the balls of your feet – aka standing on your tip-toes.

To incorporate this movement into your workout, start by standing with your feet apart and your toes turned out – this is what dancers call “fifth position.” Using hand weights, bend your legs while keeping your hands towards the floor directly in front of you. When you bend, be sure to keep your back straight, your tailbone tucked, your shoulders down, and your core engaged. Then, straighten your legs and come up on to your toes to relevé. Keeping your arms straight, bring your hands over your head as you rise. Repeat this up to 24 times – or until you feel the burn.



A dégagé is another classic ballet warm up exercise. These tiny little kicks may look simple, but they are very, very controlled. The ball of the foot should brush the floor as you elevate your leg to a 45-degree angle. The entire time, your toe should be pointed, your core should be tight, and your entire leg should be engaged. Repeating this small, simple movement to the front, back, and side will engage your thighs, abs, and glutes. Try holding your arms out to the side to tone your arms at the same time.

To make this simple move even more difficult, add a resistance band. Instead of starting with your heels together, start with your working leg pointing away from you with a resistance band looped around your ankles. Then slowly lift your working leg off the floor, working against the resistance band the entire time. Repeat to the front, side, and back.

(photo from balletbeautiful.com)



A développé is the perfect ballet-inspired move. Just like ballet dancing itself, it looks beautiful but is extremely difficult. The word développé means “unfold,” and during this move your legs do just that.

Start with one hand on a “barre” or other supportive surface, standing with your heels together and your toes turned out. With a pointed toe, bring your outside leg up so until the toe touches your knee – a position ballerinas call “passé.” Then, count to eight as you extend your leg to the front, keeping it as elevated as you can without it ever lowering your leg during your extension – this is a slow movement, so try not to fully extend your leg until you reach the final 8-count. It’s ok if you can’t get it very high – the focus should be on control and working every single muscle in your leg.

Repeat this to the front, to the side, and to the back before turning around and trying it with the opposite leg.

(photo from Pointe Magazine)