From perfect pliés to the more challenging arabesque, ballet moves are certainly on point at the moment. But there’s no need to head to a dance studio, with these simple exercises that you can do at home. You will strengthen your core, improve your posture and learn how to flex with the best.
Stretch & Lunge
Work all the muscles of the hips, glutes and thighs with a simple lunge. You also work your core with this move.
Holding the chair with both hands, take a large step backwards with one foot. Engage your abdomen, then lower your body until the front leg forms a right angle, thigh parallel to the floor. The back knee should not touch the floor. Ensure the front knee remains over the ankle and be sure to lower straight down rather than forward. To return to the starting position, keep the torso straight and abs in as you push through the front heel to lift your body.
Begin with one set of 10 lunges each side, working your way up to three.
Forward leg lift
A variation on the ballet move battement, the forward leg lift tones quadriceps (front of the upper leg) and adductors, which make up the inner thigh area.
Keep one hand on the chair and the other at the waist. With toes pointed, slowly lift the leg farthest to the chair to 45 degrees and extend it through a range of movement – for example, draw circles or V shapes in the air with your toes. Resume the initial position and repeat 20 times. Then flex the foot and perform another set of 20. Switch sides and repeat.
To vary the exercise, extend the leg backwards for a reverse leg raise, known in ballet as an arabesque.
Single leg deadlift
You’ll work one side of your body at a time with this move, focusing on the glutes. Ensure all five toes and the heel of your foot on your stabilising side provide a firm base. Lightly hold the chair with the arm on the same side. Raise your free arm and lower the torso as you extend the leg behind you on that side. Ensure your back is flat. Keep the moving side of your body in a straight line, but don’t let your chest drop lower than your hips. Return to standing position and repeat six to 10 times each side.
For an extra challenge, place a kettlebell outside your stabilising foot. As your torso is lowered, grip the kettlebell with your free hand and raise slightly to lift it off the floor.
Standing side crunch
This exercise targets the oblique abdominal muscles, building core strength and improving your balance.
To begin, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold the chair with one hand and bring your other hand up to your ear. Shift your weight to the leg which is closer to the chair. Bend to the side to rest your forearm on the back of the chair while lifting the other leg. Repeat in sets of 10 on each side.
For maximum effect on your oblique muscles, perform slow and controlled movements. Avoid bending your spine or head forward.
This exercise can also be used as part of a cardio workout – perform reps faster to raise your heart rate.
Four benefits of ballet barre exercises
Standing exercises place less strain on the neck and lower back than floor-based equivalents. Check with an expert if you have any injuries or health issues.
Being supported by a chair allows slow, controlled movements which are highly effective for working the targeted muscle groups.
Improved core strength means better posture. Simply holding a chair while exercising allows you to concentrate on maintaining the correct technique.
No equipment is required, making these exercises ideal for keeping in shape when away from home. You can use a kitchen bench instead of a chair.
SMART TIP: For this squat lower hips as far down as you can, squeezing your inner thighs together. With your heels raised, hold core muscles in to help you balance.