Looking for a killer leg workout that’ll target muscles you didn’t even know you had? These 9 ballet exercises are perfect for any fitness level – whether you’re working out at home or while traveling!
Have you ever gone to a ballet performance like The Nutcracker? Ever spent time admiring ballet dancers like Misty Copeland for their stunning muscular yet slender arms and legs? Ballet dancers are known for their toned legs and excellent control over their balance and stability. It takes a lot of training to be able to perform difficult and complex moves, as well as flexibility training.
If you’re looking for a simply yet challenging workout that’s sure to target all your leg muscles, then you’ve come to the right place!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about these links in my disclosure policy.
What is a Barre Workout?
Barre workouts are based on the exercises and routines ballerinas do to warm up and strengthen their muscles.
Ballet barre workouts combine Pilates, dance, yoga, and muscle training based off of functionality, flexibility, and explosive yet controlled movements. They focus on strengthening muscles using isometric movements. You don’t need to have any dance experience, nor do you need to be a dancer.
The ballet exercises will focus on mostly the lower body, but also your lower back muscles as well as your shoulders.
Benefits of Doing a Ballet Barre Workout
Although regular weight training and cardio provide an excellent workout, ballet exercises focus on strength, flexibility, balance, control, and stability. It’s important to have the strength to perform the move, but also have the flexibility to have the large range of motion required, as well as the balance, stability, and control needed to have perfect form.
I personally found barre workouts to be fun and an interesting change from traditional weight and cardio-based workouts. It’s also just a fun way to strengthen and tone your muscles – especially when my mini ballerina (and my oldest who is a former dancer) joins me!
Ballet Exercise Do’s and Don’ts
- DO practice correct form. Try your best not to just throw your limbs around! Keep your movements controlled, core tight, and body powerful.
- DON’T forget to bring water. Forgetting to stay hydrated is never a good idea.
- DO warm up and stretch before working out. Ballet exercises do require you to stretch your body – although you don’t necessarily have to be flexible, you do need your body to be ready to perform the moves.
- DON’T forget to eat beforehand. You’ll need the energy that healthy food provides!
What to wear to a barre workout
While you can wear a leotard, leggings, and tutu if you want to feel fancy like a ballerina, that obviously isn’t necessary.
My only advice: don’t wear loose clothing or anything that’s restrictive! A shirt that allows you to move without restriction, like a tank top or t-shirt, is best. Leggings or stretchy shorts are preferred, but any bottoms you have that are made of stretchy material and aren’t baggy or loose work well too.
Shoes are optional! It’s probably easier to point your toes without tennis shoes on, but shoes are fine if you prefer to wear them. Sometimes I like pilates socks for a little extra grip and to make sure I don’t slip.
9 Best Ballet Exercises for all Fitness Levels
These moves aren’t necessarily easy, but they aren’t too advanced either. If you’d like to increase the difficulty for some, go deeper into the move, grab a pair of dumbbells, or simply up the number of repetitions you do.
I recommend you start with 1 minute for each exercise – that’s one minute on the right and one minute on the left, for those exercises that work one side of the body at a time.
As you increase your strength and endurance, you can increase the reps by going through the workout 2 or 3 times!
You can see a quick video demonstration of the moves here in my web stories!
1. Plié Relevé
First, start with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower until your knees make 90 degree angles (similar to a sumo squat), then stand up onto your toes. You may want a chair to help balance!
This move is one of the more simple ones, but you can make it a little more difficult by adding dumbbells if you choose.
2. Arabesque Attitude
Start by standing in first position (heels together, toes point out at a 45 degree angle). Proceed to kick your leg back, holding it at a 90 degree angle with your standing leg – if you can’t get it that high, that’s ok! Get it as high as you can and hold. Then, bend the leg you’re holding up at a 90 degree angle, and extend. Continue to do this while holding it up – alternatively, bend and then extend before lowering and repeating.
3. Reaching Rond de Jambe
Start in first position. Tendu forward – as in, extend on leg forward until only your pointed toe touches the floor – and raise your arm above your head. Then, begin to Rond de Jambe, which is to make a semi-circular motion with your foot. Extend that foot to the side, and extend the arm to the side. Complete the circle behind you, with your arm reaching in front of you.
To make this a little more difficult, bend your standing knee as you reach forward. Finish by returning to first position, laying your arm at your side.
Stand as tall as possible the entire time, ensuring your core remains tight for perfect form!
4. Rear Fly to Arabesque Lift
Start with one leg pointed behind you, chest tilted at an angle toward the floor. Start out with a light dumbbell and increase weight if you need to – however, you don’t necessarily need a dumbbell to feel this move burn.
Lift the leg behind you as high as you can while lifting the arm holding the dumbbell into a fly. Slowly lower the leg until your toe touches the floor, your arm lowering back to your side at the same time.
Be careful not to let your body jerk when you do this! Make sure to keep your core tight so you don’t wobble when kicking your leg back and lifting your arm.
5. Plié Port de Bras
First, start with your legs shoulder-width apart. Lower into a squat. Hold as you raise your arms above your head, to the side, to the front, and then above your head again. Repeat for each set while holding the squat.
6. Grand Battement
For this one, you may be tempted to throw your leg up like a noodle. Do NOT do this! Control the movement!
Stand in first position. Kick one leg in front of you, but keep your core engaged so the rest of your body doesn’t shift with the movement. Repeat to the side and then behind you. Try not to bend your standing knee!
7. Leg Lift with Hip Raise
Lie down on a yoga mat or the floor. Lift your legs up above you and slowly, with control, lower them back to the ground. Do as many as you can without letting your legs flop to the ground!
Start on your knees, keep one leg down with your foot facing back, and bring your other leg forward with your floor firmly planted so you are creating a 90 degree angle at the knee.
Complete the chest press exercise just like the others, just be sure your knee doesn’t extend past your foot. Keep the weight evenly dispersed through the soles of your feet.
8. Lying Side Circles
Lie on your side with your legs straight. Lift your top leg just slightly and make circles with your foot in the air. Reverse halfway through. Don’t forget to switch sides as well!
9. Rear Arm Pulses
Lie down on your stomach. Lift your arms behind you, to the side, and above your head. Think of it as making I’s, T’s, and Y’s if that helps! Make sure you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
With ballet exercises like these, you’ll be strong and sculpted in no time!
Get more home workouts and fitness tips here!
Amanda is a mom of 4 living a mostly crunchy lifestyle outside of Atlanta, GA with her husband, 2 dogs, and a cat. As a former special education teacher who also has her personal training certification — Amanda really enjoys teaching others how to do things!
When she’s not working, Amanda enjoys DIY projects, exercising, photography, hiking, and long walks through Target.