Grab one of those small exercise balls you see in Pilates and barre classes to strengthen, lengthen, and tone your body like a ballet dancer.
Long legs and lean limbs aren't reserved for bruised toes and headache-inducing hair buns; you can get the strength of a dancer with these small ball exercises from Sadie Lincoln, founder of barre3. Using both a Pilates ball and ballet barre (though, the back of a sturdy chair will work just fine), the small ball exercises gently sculpt the inner thighs, arms, and waist, and also improve flexibility and coordination. The ballet-pilates hybrid workout is all rooted in dance, so it uses some dancer lingo like 'Port de bras' (the soft-looking—but strong and stable—positioning of your arms, used in the Lateral Ball Slide and Dancer Slide) and 'Releve' (to lift the heels, used in the Narrow Bridge Lift, Cat-Cow, Dancer Slide, and Warrior III Core Hold) .
Do the small ball exercises on your own, or follow along with Lincoln in this exclusive video: Head-to-Toe Sculpting Workout from Barre3. Get more ballet into your workout with this Kickboxing-Ballet Fusion Workout.
How it works: Do each move for 1 minute. Go slowly for the first 30 seconds, taking 2 counts to complete each part of each movement. (In ballet this is an adagio tempo.) Then, pick up your pace for the last 30 seconds and take just 1 count to do each part of each movement (an allegro pace). Each full run-through of the 8 moves will take about 13 minutes. Aim to complete 2 or 3 sets.
Total Time: up to 45 minutes
1. Reach and Pull
Sit with knees bent and stacked in front of you, feet to your right, ball under left ribs, left forearm on floor. Inhale as you reach right arm forward, right leg back.
Exhale as you reach right arm back, right leg forward (knee bent). Repeat for 1 minute. Switch sides; repeat.
2. Narrow Bridge Lift
Life faceup with knees bent, feet flat, ball between thighs. Lift heels, squeeze ball, and extend arms overhead on floor to start.
Inhale. Exhale, as you squeeze heels together and lift hips so body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees; lift arms over chest. Inhale as you lower to starting position. Repeat for 1 minute.
3. Lateral Ball Slide
Sit with right knee bent in front of you, left knee bent at your side, and ball outside of right thigh. Press on ball with right palm and extend left arm to side at a low "V" position to start. Inhale. Exhale as you roll ball right, reaching left arm overhead, gazing up at palm.
Inhale, press into ball and pull back to starting position. Repeat for 1 minute. Switch sides; repeat.
4. Incline Core Passe
Lie faceup with ball under hips and arms on floor in a low "V" position, palms down. Draw abs in, slightly rounding lower back. Lift one leg and then the other so both legs extend up with feet over hips to start.
Inhale as you draw left foot toward right knee and reach leg right. Exhale back to starting position. Repeat on opposite side. Continue for 1 minute.
5. Cat-Cow Barre
Stand facing barre, about 3 feet from it. Straighten arms, lean forward slightly, and place hands on barre so body is in a straight line from shoulders to heels. Lift heels to start. Inhale. Exhale as you bend elbows to lower your chest to barre. Inhale, straighten arms, lift your chest, and arch your lower back.
Exhale, press hips back and lower heels so body is straight from hands to hips. Inhale, then exhale as you lift heels again and round your upper back. Return to starting position. Repeat for 1 minute.
6. Crescent Lunge Twist
Stand facing barre with left foot forward in a high lunge (knee bent, right leg back and straight, heel lifted). Extend arms overhead with palms facing in to start.
Inhale. Exhale as you bend right knee toward floor, then lower arms out to sides at shoulder height and rotate torso right until left hand touches barre. Inhale, and reverse move. Repeat for 1 minute. Switch sides; repeat.
7. Dancer Slide
Stand with left side next to barre with feet wider than hip-width apart and toes out. Place left hand on barre and right hand in front of hips to tsart. Inhale. Exhale as you squat with shoulders staying over hips. Inhale, press into left foot and slide right foot in close to left; keep toes out, lift right arm overhead, then lift heels.
Squeeze legs together from thighs to heels and lean torso over barre slightly. Reverse move to return to starting position. Repeat for 1 minute. Switch sides; repeat.
8. Warrior III Core Hold
Stand facing barre, about 3 feet from it. Bend forward, extend arms, and place hands on barre so body is in a straight line from hands to hips to start. Inhale, lift and extend right leg straight back at hip level. Keep hips square, engage core, and melt shoulders down back.
Exhale as you lift to standing plank, and pull right knee between arms, and lift left heel. Repeat for 1 minute. Switch sides; repeat.