17 August, 2011
5 Ballet Exercises That Shape the Body
Ballet dancers are known for having lean muscle mass, strong, sinewy arms and legs, well-defined backs and abdominal muscles, and excellent postures. Performing ballet exercises targets the smaller muscles that are not often used, as well as the larger core strength muscles to engage more of your body with each move. For these reasons ballet moves are popularly exported to other types of exercise such as Pilates. Even if you've never taken a ballet lesson, you can gain the health and body-shaping benefits of this art-form.
Leg and Thigh Lift
Typically, a ballet dancer also has a tight buttocks, as well as a strong and firm lower body. To strengthen and shape the buttocks, thighs and legs begin on your hands and knees on a thick mat for comfort. Slowly bring one knee forward into your chest and then extend and lift the leg back. Stretch your leg and knee muscles as much as possible so that the pull is felt in your abdominal muscles. Hold this position for just a second or two and repeat 30 times with each leg.
For additional thigh toning, stand up straight and hold the back of a chair for support with both hands. Lift one leg into the air behind you as far as possible, while bending as low as possible with the other leg. Hold this barre bend position for a few seconds, stand up and repeat with the other leg. Continue with both your right and left legs 30 times or more.
Tone the Arms
Ballet dancers must also have strong but graceful upper bodies. To tone your arms, sit on the mat with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Place your hands palm down behind you, parallel to your hips with your fingers facing away from you. Shifting your upper body weight to your arms and hands, slowly lift your hips off the mat as high as possible. Hold for a few seconds, return to a sitting position and repeat the exercise 30 times or as many times as desired.
Tone the Abdomen
The abdominal muscles are needed to create a strong center of balance in ballet. To tone these muscles lie on your back on a mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat. Hold your arms out and lift your upper body up approximately 4 to 5 inches off the mat, using your abdominal muscles. Hold this position for two or more seconds, lay back down and repeat 30 times or as desired.
Stretching exercises help keep the muscles supple and elongate the lines of the limbs and back of the ballet dancer. Begin by laying flat on your back on the exercise mat. Use both hands to bring one knee towards your chest. Extend the leg up and towards your head, keeping it as straight as possible. Keep the other leg flat on the mat. Hold this position for a few seconds, before returning to the beginning position. Repeat with the other leg and try to do 30 with each leg.
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