While you may never dance the pas-de-deux with Carlos Acosta no matter how many leg exercises you do, you can get stronger, leaner, more graceful legs with this ballet-inspired routine from Laurie Alfano, director of education for Xtend Barre. Just grab a chair with a high back to use as your ‘barre,” then go through these leg exercises three times a week. Bravo!
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Plie Tendu (warms up hamstrings, thighs, butt)
Stand with feet in second position (wide, with toes turned out) and open your arms out to the sides; hold onto the back of a chair with your left hand for support. Bend your knees to lower into a plie (A). Keeping your chest lifted and ab muscles pulled in, transfer your weight to your left right foot as you rise up and extend your right leg out to the side, pointing toes to the floor; at the same time, reach your right arm gracefully overhead (B). You should feel this move in your left butt and right thigh muscles. Do 16 reps, then switch sides and repeat these leg exercises on the other side.
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First Position Plies (tones thighs)
Stand with feet in first position (heels together, toes turned slightly out), one hand on the back of a chair for balance, the other hand curved gracefully in front of you. Bend your knees to lower halfway down into a demi plie, keeping heels together (A). Use your inner thigh muscles to return you to previous position. Do 8 to 16 reps, pressing through your heels and keeping your ab muscles engaged. Next, sink back down into a demi plie and lift your heels (they should still be together) to come into a mini releve plie, raising your free hand toward the ceiling. Bend knees a little more to lower further down (B); pulse up and down for 8 to 16 reps, then return to standing.
Parallel Plies (tones thighs)
Stand tall with hands on the back of a chair for balance, feet parallel, and heels, knees and inner thighs together. Keeping legs and heels glued together, lift your heels high and bend your knees to plie with knees over your toes and hips over your heels (as shown). Pulse up and down for 16 reps, then return to standing.
Attitude Leg Circles (tones hamstrings, thighs, butt, abs)
Stand with feet in second position (wide, with toes turned out), holding onto the back of a chair with your left hand for support. Bend your knees to lower into a deep plie. Draw your right arm overhead and gracefully lift your bent right leg forward (toes pointed) into front attitude position as you straighten your left leg (A). Circle your right leg out and around (B), returning to wide second position with both feet on the floor. Continue to plie and circle gracefully. Do 16 reps, then switch sides and repeat these leg exercises.
Second Position to Arabesque (tones butt, shoulders)
Stand with feet in second position (wide, with toes turned out), left arm extended diagonally to hold onto the back of a chair for support. Bend your knees to lower into a deep plie, raising your right arm out to the side. Keeping your chest lifted and abs pulled in, press off your right leg and lift your right leg back into arabesque, balancing on your left leg, as you reach your right arm forward at high diagonal (as shown). Do 8 to 16 reps. Next, return to arabesque and lift both arms (if you feel steady) and do 8 to 16 small, controlled movements up and down, then hold for 8 counts. Repeat on the opposite side.
Learn more about Xtend Barre or purchase an Xtend Barre workout DVD at xtendbarreworkout.com.