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Natalie Portman's Black Swan Workout


Natalie Portman took herself from actress to believable ballerina for her role in Black Swan, thanks to an intense training program under the guidance of former New York City Ballet dancer Mary Helen Bowers. Portman trained for up to 8 hours a day, six days a week. "Ballerinas have obvious physical qualities like long, lean muscles and beautiful posture," Bowers says. "We wanted [Natalie] to look the part, but we also wanted to make sure she was able to move and dance like a professional ballerina."

To help Portman build a strong, slim ballerina body, Bowers supplemented ballet classes with swimming, cross-training, and endurance exercises. "We usually started by swimming a mile a day, doing the front crawl and breast stroke," she says. "Then we'd do 2 hours of ballet exercises and resistance work."

You may not need to prepare for center stage like Natalie Portman, but you can still get a dancer's body. Here, Bowers reveals five moves from her Ballet Beautiful workout to help anyone get "strong and fit, but not bulky."

ballet bridge

Natalie Portman Ballet Workout: The Bridge
Ballet dancers are known for having incredibly strong, lean legs. This ballet exercise targets the inner thighs, back of the legs, core and butt to help anyone get a ballerina's lower body.

How to do it: Lie on your back with your stomach pulled in, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Straighten your right leg, toes pointed up toward the ceiling. Keep your stomach pulled in tight as you lift your hips off the floor, trying to keep your knees together. Lower your hips until you're not quite touching the floor and then lift again. Complete 30 reps with one leg and then repeat on the other side.

Make it harder: Rise up on your toes (demi-point, as they say in the ballet world) while you perform the entire set.

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ballet butt

Natalie Portman Ballet Workout: Butt-Buster
A tight, toned ballerina butt not only helps you look amazing in your jeans, but it can also help prevent injury.

How to do it: Start on all fours, making sure that you have plenty of cushion beneath your knees.  Bring one knee into your chest and then extend the leg straight back into arabesque, keeping the knee very straight.  Pull in through your stomach and lift your leg high toward the ceiling. Repeat 30 times, and then change legs.

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ballet abs

Natalie Portman Ballet Workout: Abs Exercise
For a ballerina, the center of balance is everything, Bowers says. That's why ballet abs exercises serve a dual purpose: They flatten your stomach while strengthening your abdominal muscles—the foundation of your balance.

How to do it: Lay on your back with the arms open wide in second position, knees slightly bent. Pull your stomach in as you lift your upper body, bringing your arms overhead to first position (creating a circular frame around your head). Focus on keeping the stomach pulled in as you lower and lift again. Repeat 30 times.

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ballet arms

Natalie Portman Ballet Workout: Arm Toner
Perfect posture and graceful, toned arms are classic qualities of a ballerina's upper body, Bowers says.

How to do it: Sit on the mat with your legs extended straight out in front of you and hands just behind your hips, fingers facing out. Lift your hips up off the mat as you stretch the elbows, keeping the chest open and the neck long.  Pull the stomach in tight and bend the elbows slightly.  Lower and lift your hips by bending and stretching the elbows, keeping the stomach strong and hips elevated the entire time. Repeat 30 times.

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ballet stretch

Natalie Portman Ballet Workout: Essential Stretch
Stretching keeps the muscles long and lean, so it's an important part of building a ballet dancer's thin body shape, Bowers says.

How to do it: Lay on your back and lift one leg straight up. Use your hands to pull the ankle gently toward your head. Work toward stretching your knee all the way straight over time. Repeat on the other leg.

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