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The Legs and Butt Workout a Professional Ballerina Swears By

Ballerina's bodies aren't for show, they're for function—they need to be strong enough to support those beautiful leaps and jumps. And all those hours of work dancers put in behind the scenes guarantee ridiculously-toned ballerina legs. That's why we tapped Lauren Fadeley, a principal dancer for the Pennsylvania Ballet with a minor in kinesiology from Indiana University, to share some of her favorite moves for a strong butt and ballerina legs.

"These moves are less weight-bearing than squats or lunges and target specific spots of the butt without blowing out your thighs and knees," says Fadeley. Plus, the combination of large and small movements works your glutes and ballerina legs from every angle and keeps the muscles in balance. Get ready to show off—no tutu necessary! (Bonus: 11 Exercises for Amazing Hips and Thighs)

For dance newbies, here's a breakdown of some basic ballet positions. They lay the foundation for a few of the ballerina leg exercises ahead (and your barre workouts to come).

  • First position: Stand with legs touching, toes pointed out to the sides and arms slightly bent in front of you.
  • Second position: Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out to the sides and arms lifted in line with shoulders.
  • Third position: Stand with one leg slightly in front of the other, toes pointed out to the sides. One arm should be lifted in line with your shoulder and the other bent slightly in front of you.
  • Fourth position: Stand with one leg in front of the other, toes pointed out to the sides. (The front foot should completely hide the other.) Lift one arm high above your head and bend the other slightly in front of you.
  • Fifth position: Stand with one leg in front of the other, toes pointed out to the sides. (Again, the front foot should completely hide the other.) Lift both arms high above your head.
  • Retiré: Stand on one leg and bend the other so your pointed toe is touching your knee. Bend arms slightly in front of you.

How it works: Do these moves daily to warm up for your workout, like Fadeley does. Always start with plies, recommends Fadeley. "They're the first things ballet dancers do every day, as they warm everything up and help find your foundation."

Total Time: up to 15 minutes

You will need: Mat

1. Pliés In 1st and 2nd Position

A.

Start in 1st position, heels together, toes apart, legs straight.

B.

Slowly bend knees as far as possible while keeping heels on the floor and tracking knees over toes. Straighten back by spiraling inner thigh muscles forward and engaging the glutes.

C.

Move to 2nd position, hips slightly wider than hip-width, toes pointing out, legs straight.

D.

Slowly bend knees as far as possible while keeping heels on the floor and tracking knees over toes. Return to start.

Sets:

4

Reps:

4 in each position

2. Bridge Ups

A.

Lay with back on floor and knees bent, with hands at sides. Draw ribs inward.

B.

Lift pelvis up toward the sky, creating a diagonal with body, then lower back down. Keep glutes engaged. (Related: Even if I Earn Ballerina Legs, I’ll Never Fully Master Ballet. That’s Exactly Why I Do It.)

Sets:

2

Reps:

10

3. Kneeling Donkey Kicks

A.

Start a table top pose with elbows on the floor and hands grasped together.

B.

Lift bent right leg up to make a 90-degree angle with your thigh, keeping the leg rotated inward. Lower back to kneeling position. To increase difficulty, dip the knee to cross over the opposite leg before lowering.

Sets:

2

Reps:

10 on each side

4. Doggie Fire Hydrant

A.

Start on hands and knees, flat back, hips at 90-degree angle to the floor.

B.

Lift bent right leg out to the side at hip level then return to original position.

Sets:

2

Reps:

10 on each side

5. Pilates Leg Circles

A.

Lay on left side of body; hand out extended in front of you on the ground and legs stacked on top of one another and slightly in front of hips.

B.

Lift top leg up about 5 inches and make 5 small circles forward, then reverse. Keep your ballerina leg turned in to help stabilize through the core and use butt muscles instead of hips. (Psst...could piriformis syndrome be the cause of your pain in the butt?)

Sets:

5 on each side

Reps:

5

6. Passé Turn-Ins

A.

Lay on left side of body; hand out in front of you on the ground; legs stacked on top of one another and slightly in front of hips.

B.

Draw the top leg up to a turned-out passé, right foot pointed to left knee, right knee to the sky.

C.

Drop the knee down to be parallel with the floor, then rotate back to passé before lowering back to starting position. (Pair this ballerina legs workout with our uber-effective barre studio abs routine.)

Sets:

2 on each side

Reps:

5

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