2014 has seen the rise of ballet as the latest fad in fitness. Ballet really is a superior form of exercise. It requires co-ordination and grace and if done correctly, it trains you in all 8 biomotor abilities that make up fitness - speed, strength, power, flexibility, co-ordination, balance, endurance and blah blah without lifting anything beyond your own body weight. So how do dancers get these incredible bodies that we are all so envious of? Does this new rise of ballet barre in fitness really work? As an professional ex-dancer I feel well placed to talk about how you can best use Ballet to improve your fitness and change your body. Read on to find out more...
Ok so here is the crux of my take on things - if you are going to do it - do it properly. Just standing at the barre doing a few knee bends is really not going to transform you into a svelte ballerina is it? Ballet is one of the most physically demanding and complex sports/movement activities you can do. If it is done properly it can totally transform your body - making you stable, strong, flexible and lift and tuck in all the right places. Ballet is a lot more complex than a few leg lifts or heel raises to the latest hits.
Brain, Body, Ballet
The best thing about learning something as complex as Ballet is that it really requires brain power. You cannot just follow what your instructor is doing. When I teach clients ballet they have to learn real sequences that dancers do in class. This helps create new neural connections - it helps make you smarter! No one ever talks about the connection between the muscles and the brain, the nuromuscular system but that is what helps you remember new movements. I ask my clients to repeat these sequences over and over again so they can apply the real ballet technique I teach them - the technique that changes your body! Ballerinas do ballet barre every day. They repeat these complex sequences every day with correct technique and that is what makes their bodies so slender and toned, it makes them strong and it makes them masters of movement.
Rotation of the legs from the hips is essential to ballet technique. Many ballet barre classes do not advocate using a lot of 'turn out' or external rotation because if it is not monitored properly it can cause problems in your knees and ankles. However, if you learn how to externally rotate properly then it will give you the most amazingly peach shaped tushy and a beautiful sculpted upper leg. For each person this will be different and getting through a class of 20 or 30 would take all day! The other important factor of tushy training is the position of the torso in relation to the legs. It is common to lean the torso forwards or tip the pelvis forwards which will give you a different training response. In ballet the torso must remain upright in relation to the pelvis and this helps the muscles to stabilise effectively and you get a great shape response as well.
The Tummy Tuck
It is common to talk about drawing the abdominals in to the spine in ballet barre classes. It is true that there is an element of drawing in but if you draw in without stabilising the spine and pelvis which means the spine and pelvis move when you draw the abs in you will create an imbalance through the body which will produce firstly undesirable aesthetics and secondly could lead to injury. There are a few key points to abdominal control for ballet - it is not just about drawing in. Lengthen through the torso, spine and even the abdominal wall are crucial for the desired results. Again, the position of the pelvis is imperative to abdominal development. You will not achieve a flat abdominal wall if the position of your pelvis is not correct.
No one ever talk about arms in ballet barre training! Port de bras (carriage of the arms) is essential for good back, shoulder and arm tone, stability and strength development. It is also the hardest thing to achieve in ballet training. Because Ballet training is so core and leg focussed there is a tendency to overlook the back and upper arms. I always give my ballet training clients upper body remedial work that I learned when I was dancing. It helps to strengthen and tone the arms in proportion to the core and legs so the whole body gets worked.
The Long Lean Look
The most important thing about ballet is length. Understanding length leads to the development of long lean limbs, the understanding of balance and really really strong stable joints. When you ask most people to lift up they lift their chin, they stick their chest out and effectively lengthen the front of their body. This is not real length. Length comes from within the body - it means lengthening the front, sides and back of your body equally and it involves the correct activation of the feet, legs, abdominals and back. The combination of all these elements create real length - the length that makes ballerinas look graceful, long, lean, and ethereal. If this is not understood and taught properly the long lean look that you desire will never be achieved.
So if you really want to look like a ballerina then learn REAL ballet not some fitness fad version. Like I said before, if you are going to do something - do it properly and get a super amazing ballet body for REAL! We do real classical ballet training at Precision Movement. For more information about ourClassique training visit our website. To book your sessions contact KT at KT@precisionmovement.co.uk.