If you were walking on the street and stopped to ask every woman you saw if they’d ever want to have ballet dancer legs, I don’t think you’d get many no’s. The legs of a ballerina are something to be envied: they’re strong, they’re sculpted, and they’re lean. But you know what? You don’t have to be a professional ballerina to get legs like a ballerina. It takes, you guessed it, a proper diet and exercise.
It might sound crazy to say that a proper diet makes dancer legs. But, it’s true! A proper diet, I’ve found, is the solution to a lot of our problems. Eating well clears up your skin, helps you sleep better, and helps fight disease.
But I digress. Why would a proper diet help you get dancer legs? The answer is simple: eating well means you don’t have unnecessary fat on your legs. That means you’re already halfway to the lean look that you want. (Notice I said unnecessary fat, not NO fat. Everyone has some fat and it’s normal and healthy).
Exercise is of course a major factor in the quest for dancer legs. The type of exercise you do plays a big role in how your legs will look. Please know that I do NOT think that one type of “leg look” is better than another. As long as you are healthy and happy, that’s what matters. But, if you want the lean, but still strong, look of a dancer in your lower half, try these exercises.
Every exercise here requires you to turn out. But turn out doesn’t mean just face your feet to the side. You must turn out from the hips. To find your natural turn out, stand with your feet parallel and touching each other. Shift your weight to your heels, pick your toes up off the ground, and turn them out as far as your hips will allow. This is your natural turnout.
The word “plié” (plee-ay) in French means “to bend.” When doing a plié, you are bending your knees. But, it’s more than that. To do a proper plié, you are actually bending your leg in three places: the ankle, the knee, and the hip. Plié is the first exercise done in a classical ballet class.
There are two types of plié: demi and grande. Demi means “half” – this is the kind of plié you do when you take off or land from a jump. Grande plié is what we want to focus on here, because it is essentially a squat, just in a turned out position. If you do them right, you’re going to feel the burn in muscles you never knew you had.
Start in your natural turnout position. Hold on to a chair or something else that is steady. Begin bending your knees, tracking them out over your toes. Keep your heels pressed into the ground as long as you can until they just HAVE to come up. Continue to bend until your shins are roughly parallel to the floor, and then push back up. Do not sink into the position.
Keep your back straight and your core tight the entire time. You should also feel as though your inner thigh and butt muscles are trying to wrap around to the front in a circular motion. Do 3 sets of 8 and then repeat in a wide turned out squat position.
Tendu is the second exercise in a classical ballet class after plié. Begin in your natural turnout position. Keeping your heel pressed into the ground as long as possible and your knee straight, slide your foot along the ground in front of you.
As your heel is forced to leave the floor, point your foot. You should feel as though your leg is reaching as far to the front as possible, without letting your hip or upper body move forward. All your body weight should be anchored on your standing leg. Like in a plié, you should feel as though your inner thigh and butt muscles are wrapping around to the front the entire time.
Reverse the move and bring your foot back into your natural turnout position. Do 3 sets of 8 to the front, side, and back.
This exercise is going to work your butt, quads, and calves as well as develop strong ankles and feet. Begin in your natural turnout position. Bend your knees and go into a demi plié (not as far as you did in the grande plié exercise). From there, spring up to your toes. Be careful to straighten your knees before rising to your toes.
Once again, imagine your inner thigh and butt muscles are wrapping around your legs from the inside. Do 3 sets of 8 and then try 3 sets of 8 on each leg for an extra burn.
If you repeat these exercises daily, you’ll find your muscles getting leaner and tighter. You’ll also find your legs, ankles, and feet getting much stronger.
If this helped you, leave me a comment! I want to hear how you’re doing! And be sure to check back next month for part 2 of this series: Strong Booty and Core: Dancer Version.