How Dancing Works Out the Butt

Male ballet dancer in mid air pose, arms extended, rear view

You’ve probably heard of fitness trends that aim to create a dancer’s body, especially the slender and toned leg muscles of a ballet dancer. But dancers are also known for the “ballerina butt,” known more daintily in the dance world as the high and tight derriere. But you won’t see dancers -- from ballet to ballroom -- pumping iron to work out their seat muscles. Instead, dance movements incorporate a series of tightening and strengthening exercises that target the gluteal muscles around the seat and pelvis area. The result: Tight and round butt muscles that sit high on the thigh without sagging.


Almost all dance exercises actually utilize your own body weight to work your muscles. Rather than using heavy weight training, dancing and ballet-inspired fitness routines use small and targeted isometric movements to tone the muscles. Exercises that isolate the seat muscles aim for a strong and lifted seat. This type of exercise is all about getting the butt muscles to contract with tiny movements that may only be barely visible to the eye. Muscles are always stretched after the exercises to achieve slender, toned muscles.

Dance-Inspired Exercises

Moves like pliés, relevés, attitudes and arabesques are a few core dance exercises found in all types of dance styles that work out the butt muscles. Typically performed with legs in a turned-out position, the exercises force you to tighten the muscles in your seat, work the muscles in the backs of your thighs and tuck your butt under. In pliés featuring bent and turned-out legs, and relevés where your heels are raised high off the ground, for example, you must tighten your seat muscles to maintain your turned-out position. In arabesque and attitude positions, where you stand on one leg with the other in the air either straight or bent, you must squeeze your seat muscles to hold the leg in the air. Attitude exercises, in particular, target the deep muscles of the pelvis and are often used to work the “muffin top” area of the upper seat.

Perform an exercise standing on one turned-out straight leg with the other leg raised directly behind you. Bend your raised leg and keep it turned out with foot pointed. You can feel the isometric movements working your butt muscles if you squeeze your seat to move your leg upward. You can also move the raised leg slightly inward toward the opposite shoulder for more of an exercise.

Muscle Fatigue

Perhaps the best way to describe the immediate feeling of how dance works out the butt is to, well, feel the burn. “We train our students to work each muscle group to fatigue. This forces the muscle fibers to rebuild and restrengthen, resulting in increased lean muscle mass,” Pure Barre studio owner Sami Dinsmore Sweeney told “DList Magazine.” Barre fitness routines feature exercises inspired by dance moves. In dancing exercises performed with one leg lifted in the air, you lift your leg until you feel “a catch” in the muscles in your seat. This is different for every dancer or fitness student depending on her flexibility and strength. From your own ideal working point, small movements will work the gluteal muscles to exhaustion. Shaking muscles are normal.


Dancing exercises all rely on maintaining good posture and correct form for maximum workout benefits. Everyone’s turnout is different, and you may not be able to stand with your feet in a flat 180-degree turned-out position. In fact, that’s not natural for most people. Instead, think of turning out from your hips and place your feet in a narrow “V” shape to begin seat exercises. To effectively work the seat muscles, dancers also stand very tall with shoulders pushed down, abdominal muscles held in and derriere tucked slightly under with no arch in the lower back.