7 Toning Ballet Moves You Can (and Should) Try at Home

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@naturallysassy

As a kid, I spent one or two afternoons a week after school attending dance classes. Between tap, pointe, and, yes, even musical theaterthanks, Mom—I got more than my fair share of exercise as a child from those classes alone. Back then, it didn't even hit me that I was actually working out. To me, it was all about giggling with my friends during stretches and wearing glitzy costumes at the end-of-year recital.

Fast-forward 15 or so years later, and I rediscovered ballet after scrolling through my ClassPass feed and finding a local studio that offered fitness classes based on the practice. Maybe I was simply feeling a bit nostalgic that night, but soon enough I was slipping on a pair of ballet slippers and heading to my spot at the barre. After just one class (aka an hour of feeling my calves burn and stretching my tight muscles), I was completely hooked on an old childhood pastime.

That class reminded me of just how powerful a workout ballet (and any form of dance, really) can be. I wanted to hear an expert's advice on how to continue to feel the ballet burn even outside of class, so I reached out to ballerina veteran and founder of workout streaming service Ballet Blast by Sassy, Sassy Gregson-Williams. According to her expert opinion, these are the best toning ballet moves you can do at home.

Plié

Video:

Sassy Gregson-Williams

One of the first moves you learn in ballet, the plié works your glutes, quads, and core muscles. Sassy suggests adding a swan arm to this exercise to help test your balance and make this combination a full-body exercise. 

To perform this exercise, you should:
 
Make sure your hands are in front of the head and not above or behind you.

Flex your palms as much as possible.

Think about lifting your chest as your hands lower.

Squeeze your glutes and engage your core.

Track your knees over your toes and keep your big toe anchored to the ground.

Drop your pelvis between your legs.

Inhale through your nose and exhale through pursed lips.

Tendu Transfer

Video:

Sassy Gregson-Williams

Tendu is taught as the action of stretching your leg and foot out from one position to another while keeping it on the floor. This movement will improve your coordination and balance while working the glutes, quads, and calves.

To perform this exercise, you should:

Keep most of your weight on your supporting leg.

Use the tendu to gain length in that working leg without hitching the hip.

Place your heel down from the tendu into a grande plié.

Transfer your weight to the other leg and back to your starting position.

Curtsey

Video:

Sassy Gregson-Williams

This exercise works your turnout as you transfer your weight between two different positions. Sassy warns that it’s easy to lose the turnout as your glutes get tired, so remember to keep your knees over your toes at all times.

 To perform this exercise, you should:

Place your legs in second position and arms overhead.

Transfer your weight onto the front leg by bringing the other leg behind into a curtsey.

Keep your knees aligned with your ankles.

Push back to the second position and repeat on the other side.

Rise

Video:

Sassy Gregson-Williams

This move mainly works the calves and is a great exercise to focus on ankle stability. 

To perform this exercise, you should:

Start in first position, with your heels touching and your toes apart in a comfortable turnout.

Lift your heels off the floor and raise your arms up.

Keep your knees tracking over your toes with your ankles locked.

Tendu to Arabesque Lift

Video:

Sassy Gregson-Williams

The tendu to arabesque lift is a move that tones your whole body, with a focus on the core, upper body. and glutes.

To perform this exercise, you should:

Draw your core into your spine to keep your back from overextending.

Keep your shoulders drawn back and down.

Start in a tendu back, squeezing the glutes and holding the upper body in position. 

Lift the back leg off the floor, hold, and then tap back down.

As you lift the leg to arabesque, squeeze the glutes and focus on the turnout of the supporting leg.

Second Position Jump

Video:

Sassy Gregson-Williams

According to Sassy, this jump is a fantastic challenge in control, strength, and stamina. 

To perform this exercise, you should: 

Start in second position and take a plié before pointing your feet and jumping, as if you are bringing your hips up into the air.

Keep your chest lifted as you jump up.

Land on a plié then straighten the legs.

Be mindful of your knees when you land, making sure they are over the toes and squeezing back.

Don’t let your elbows and arms relax down; keep tension in the upper body.

Next up: The three Pilates moves that have actually made a difference in one editor's abs.