Barre Leg Workout: The Ballet Jump vs. Fitness Jump

Students often ask how to get dancer legs: those long, lean defined muscles that allow for power, speed and grace.

The key is to learn how a dancer’s leg workout differs from your typical gym leg workout. I am passionate about educating people that a dancer’s workout  provides an alternative to regular HIIT.

The fitness industry convinces people that the only way to get a “good workout” is to lift weights and do bootcamp classes with such equipment as kettle bells. They are based on a military style so build the body in that way.

For women who want a more feminine body or men who need to cross-train and balance leg muscles, they need barre. I created barre classes that give you a killer workout without bulking muscles.

Here are barre tips to use in your normal fitness regime. It is used by our members who are weight lifters, do CrossFit, runners, cyclists, hot yogis and dancers as well.

Tip 1: Plié rather than Squat – Protect and strengthen lower back while working gluts and inner thighs

A typical gym squat is done in parallel position and the bum sticks out to the back. In a plié, the body is kept upright, with the core engaged. You work all back muscles to elongate the spine. The legs are turned out which means instead of primarily working the quads, you work the adductors and external rotators under your bum as well as open hips. A plié is a whole body sculpting exercise – legs, back, core – for lengthening muscles rather than bulking.

Tip 2: Straighten Your Legs in Jumps – Prevents bulky legs

Think of your typical gym box jump or Cross-Fit type jumps where knees are kept bent. Or a jumping jack with knees bent. The legs never have to straighten which means the muscles are not elongated.

In ballet and our barre classes, we demand strength in the legs through muscle elongation. This means that students power through the legs to achieve a moment when both legs are straight in the air. This constant repetition of power from plie into straight leg jumps in the air shapes leg muscles like in the video.

 The key is to learn how a dancer's leg workout differs from your typical gym leg workout. I am passionate about educating people that a dancer's workout  provides an alternative to regular HIIT.

Jennifer, SOMA Founder & Coach

Tip 3: Roll through the Feet in Jumps – Protects joints and tones legs

Fitness jumps are done with trainers on and people land on the whole foot. You’re doing this if you hear yourself land. In ballet, no shoes are worn and students must learn to roll through the feet. When you push off the floor for a jump, use the ball of the foot against the floor to power your body in the air.

When you land, think “toe, ball, heel” catching yourself like a car spring. This is like a BMW spring rather than a Ford Escort shock absorber for your joints.

Notice on the video, the soft landing each time.

Tip 4: Point the toes – Works the whole body and strengthens ankles for athletes

In a ballet jump, point the toes in the air. It looks it’s only the foot, but it involves the entire leg and body. To properly point the foot, the dancer extends the whole body towards the ceiling and points the foot in the opposite direction so the body is like a stretched rubber band.

You then work the back, the core and legs. Don’t simply curl the toes under.

In summary, 1) plié with bum underneath you engaging core muscles and lengthening spine, 2) jump in the air and make sure the legs are straight and feet pointed, 3) land softly “toe, ball, heel” to protect the joints.