Ballerinas have the world’s greatest legs—long, lean and miles long. Well here’s a little secret: their legs may not really be that long.
Years of diligent training, sometimes topping 12 hourse per day, elongatate each leg muscle, lifting the butt and improving posture in such a way that ballerinas often look longer and taller than they really are.
Now, the legs of ballerina Mary Helen Bowers (above), whom I’ve been working out with with for the past six weeks, really are that long—she’s tall. Mine, however, are not. But after devoting myself to this program four times per week, they look much longer than they used too. Bowers created her company, Ballet Beautiful, to help give non-ballerinas the bodies of the real thing. This week’s move, the Lunge Lift, is key to getting their legs.
WHAT IT DOES: Strengthens and tones the front and back of your upper legs, leading to longer, leaner thighs and better balance. It also works your core and your arms, but the focus is on your legs.
HOW TO DO IT: (watch the moving image to see Mary Helen Bowers performing this move.)
- Begin by standing on your right leg in a ballet lunge, with your right knee slightly bent into a dem-plie and your left leg stretched out behind you in tendu (toes touching the floor).
- Stretch your standing knee straight and lift your back leg off the floor into an arabesque en l’air. Don’t worry about how high your back leg is here—you can start with your foot just off the floor and lift higher in time as you gain strength and stability.
- As you lift your back leg high, pull in through your stomach, engaging your stomach and center.
- Lift your arms up into a wide “v” position and stretch both knees.
- Lower your back toes down to the floor, returning to your starting postion, a ballet lunge. Bring your arms down at the same time without collapsing your back and uper body. Do four sets of eight.