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5 min read

7 Exercises to Strengthen Your Legs

Ballet workouts are all the rage right now, and why wouldn’t they be?! Ballet drills will strengthen your legs, build your core strength and improve your balance.

Toned and strong calves and hamstrings are essential for ballet. They allow you to jump and soar high up in the air, rotate with balance and control and execute the slowest of movements with grace and elegance.

So, if you’re looking to find the perfect ballet workout to strengthen and lengthen your legs, then Principal Dancer, Ana Sophia Scheller, wearing Zarely, presents to you best stretches for ballerinas to attain beautiful and strong legs!

1. The Coupe to Leg Stretch on a Balance Board

To begin, place yourself into coupe, with your supporting foot flat on the balance board and your working foot turned out, pointed and placed just above the ankle. Once you’re in position, stretch your leg out. Keep your arms in a strong, raised second position. Don’t worry too much about the incline of your leg, you can work on that later! The important part is to keep your leg as straight as possible. Stretch your leg out forwards, then out to the side, then out behind you in arabesque. Always return your foot back to coupe. Ensure you repeat on both sides.

This ballet stretching exercise not only will strengthen and lengthen your legs, but also, you’ll be working those all-important core muscles, too.

2. The Rotating Coupe to Leg Stretch on a Balance Board

Now, if you were able to balance with ease and have beautifully stretched legs, it’s time to take it up a notch. This exercise involves the same mechanics. Place your feet into coupe position and repeat the exercises. But, this time, each time you bend your foot back in to coupe, see if you can do a 45-degree turn. Hold your arms in your best second position. The best part about this exercise is how many muscles you’re working, at the same time.

Whilst working this ballet stretch, not only are you working towards your dream legs, but your core muscles are being strengthen and focused. Plus, the holding of second position is great not only for balance, but for building up those arm muscles, too.

3. The Arabesque Leg Lift 

For this exercise, you can introduce mini dumbbells. Principal Dancer, Ana Sophia Scheller, was using 2.5KG dumbbells. One in each hand.

The arabesque, or leg lifts, is perfect for toning the legs, strengthening the glutes and working the outer thigh.

In order to achieve this exercise, position yourself into your best arabesque on the balance board. Ensure your arms are in fourth position. Now, slowly pirouette around in a full circle maintaining your positioning.

Once you have completed a full rotation, it’s time to move the arms into first arabesque. This change of arm movement changes your point of balance and keeps your legs, core and arms working just as hard. Feel the burn!

Don’t forget to repeat the entire exercise on the other leg!

4. The Rotating Retiré

To get prepared, place your feet into retiré on the balance board and your arms in first position with a comfortable weight of dumbbells in your hands. Make sure you find your centre of balance and focus on staying completely still. If you’re struggling with this, pin point something that isn’t moving on the wall. Get yourself as still as possible.

Now, it’s time to start the rotation. Turn slowly showing off your best controlled and slow pirouette.

This exercise works your calves, quadriceps and hamstrings. These are key muscles that you need to strengthen and lengthen in order to attain your best ballet positions.

5. The Flexed Rotating Retiré

To complete this exercise, follow the same steps as the previous drill. Place your feet into retiré but this time you need to flex your feet.

Flexing your feet ensures you attain the muscle balance. How often do you point your toes in ballet? How often do we have beautiful turned out legs? Well, in order to strengthen your arches and your calves, you need to alternate into a flex.

Can you remember when you were younger and you would practice pointing and flexing your feet? Well, that shouldn’t change now you’re older.

Repeating this rotating exercise with a stretched foot will stretch and lengthen your legs, eliminate the frequency of foot cramps and stretch your hamstrings. You’ll even be feeling the benefits of this drill all the way up to your lower back!

6. The Coupé Leg Extensions 

This exercise will help you have a beautiful and controlled grand battement, lengthen and toned legs and the control that you need to achieve some of the most strenuous of ballet moves.

Begin with your foot in to a coupé with your supporting leg taking all of the weight. Your front leg should be light and free. Raise your leg out and hold at 90 degrees, aiming for the perfect right angle. Hold this position, maintaining balance and control. Lower slowly back in to coupé. This time, stretch your leg out to the side, keep your body upright, turn your legs out and aim for beautifully stretched legs and feet. Hold and slowly retire, but this time, take your foot to the back into a sur le cou de pied. Now, stretch and raise your leg slowly behind you into your best developpe attitude. Hold the stretch and feel yourself focused, balanced and tensed. Slowly, lower your leg and foot back into sur le cou de pied. Ensure you repeat on both legs.

You can take this exercise to the next stage by completing isolated leg movements. Once your leg is elevated, try and isolate the lower leg and stretch and hinge your lower leg. Keep your leg elevated and only bend at the knee, joining your feet back to retiré and out again to a stretch.

This drill will assist you in achieving those desired, enviable, perfect leg extensions by stretching your calves and hamstrings. Regular repetition of this exercise will aid flexibility in the legs and build up on your core strength.

7. Ballet Barre Exercises - The Barre Stretch

If you’re doing this ballet workout at home, you can always use a bannister or windowsill to support you.

The adductors and abductors are the muscles that help you rotate your legs in and out, so it’s essential to tap into these and strengthen them. This exercise will work those small, but vital, muscles.

Begin by elevating your leg and gently resting your foot on the barre. Ensure you have stretched your legs and are trying to hold majority of the weight yourself. Slowly, bend your supporting knee, whilst keeping your elevated leg as stretched and lengthened as you can. Raise and stretch onto demi-pointe, then control your leg back down to a bended knee.

Don’t forget to complete all ballet barre exercises on both legs.

If you’re following us on Instagram, you might have seen our Principal Dancer, Ana Sophia Scheller, demonstrating her wonderful workout routine whilst wearing her beautiful Zarely pieces. Ballet exercise in the comfiest of gear, such as the Melissa Neoprene Jacket as seen on Ana, and shop her workout style by heading to zarely.co now!

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