Ballet-based exercises are wonderful for toning and strengthening your legs. In addition to sculpting your muscles, these types of movements also strengthen your core and improve your posture. You can perform ballet exercises anywhere in your house where you can hold on to something that can act as a makeshift ballet barre. A stair banister is probably the best substitute for a ballet barre, but a kitchen countertop or bar stool chair will also work.
Pliés are a ballet dancer's version of squats and may be performed from several different foot positions. Ballet position one is heels touching toes turned out (think Charlie Chaplin). For your first set of pliés, stand in ballet position one with your right hand out to your side holding on to your "barre." Keep your spine tall, your tummy tight and your buttocks tucked under. Slowly bend your knees in the direction over your toes, lowering your hips towards the floor. When you are as low as you can go, squeeze your glutes and return to start. Try for 15 to 20 ballet position one pliés. For ballet position two, keep your feet turned out, but slide your feet apart until your legs are a little wider than your hips. As in position one, keep your spine tall, butt tucked and knees turned out over toes. Lower and lift for 15 to 20 repetitions. In second position, try to lower your hips until your thighs are parallel with the floor as in a grande plié, or in a perfect 90-degree angle to your shins. In a grande plié, your heels will leave the floor.
Relevés are one of the reasons classical ballerinas have such amazing calf muscles. In the fitness world, relevés are called calf raises. The ballet term "relevé" simply means a raising onto the toes or tip of the toe. To perform relevé exercises, turn to face your barre. Hold on with both hands, stack your spine, tuck your buttocks and lock your knees. Start in ballet position one, heels together and feet turned out. Rise up onto your toes as high as you can go. Slowly lower until your heels touch the floor. Perform 15 to 20 repetitions from position one. Reposition feet into ballet position two and repeat 15 to 20 relevés.
Rond De Jambe With an Attitude
Rond de jambe in French means "circle of the leg." In ballet, it has many different variations. For your home ballet exercises, you will be working on a rond de jambe attitude (think standing leg lifts, front, side and back). Once again, begin in ballet position one. Turn your body back to where your right hip is parallel with the barre. Place your right hand on the barre for support and balance. Extend your left leg straight out in front of you with your toe pointed and your knee straight. Slowly move your leg out to the side level with your hip and continue the motion until the leg is straight behind you. Lower your foot back to starting position. Perform 10 ronde de jambe attitudes with your left leg. Turn around and repeat the sequence with your right leg. Try to keep your pelvis in neutral position throughout the exercise without allowing your back to arch.