4 Ballet-Inspired Moves to Improve Posture

If you have a desk job, you know how hard it is to sit up straight all day long. During those 8+ hours, you’re bound to slouch at some point. And although you may not notice it immediately, over time your back muscles will become weaker and cause back pain — which in turn will make your posture even worse.

By regularly working your upper back muscles, you can undo that damage and actually start sitting and standing up taller. Posture isn’t really about your shoulders, but more the upper back and the muscles underneath your shoulder blades. And when you strengthen the upper back, your shoulders will follow.

So we thought: Who better to ask for moves that improve posture than a ballerina? Mary Helen Bowers, professional ballerina, founder of fitness method Ballet Beautiful and trainer to big-time models like Miranda Kerr and Lily Aldridge, shares four easy moves that can make a huge difference in giving you sexy, confidence-radiating posture. “The key to elegant posture,” she explained, “is keeping your neck long and your shoulders down.” As you go through each exercise, think about opening your chest, keeping your neck graceful and swan-like, and gently pulling shoulder blades down.

1Second Postion Port de Bras

Start with legs in first position, heels together and toes pointed out. Plié. Then, stand back up straight, stretching tall. At the same time, your arms should start out in front of you in first position: forming a circle at belly button height. When you stand up out of the plié, open them out to the side without lifting your shoulders.

It looks easy, but if you’re doing it correctly, you’ll feel the workout when opening our your arms and holding them out. Focus on keeping your shoulders down and think of just moving your hands out and in, keeping everything else stationary. You should feel it in your back.

Bonus: You’ll also be getting a knee workout with the bending and stretching movements.

Do 4 sets of 8.

2Swan Arms With Tendu

The Swan Arms Series is a key component of the Ballet Beautiful workout. Start standing with your neck and shoulders as relaxed as possible, legs in fourth position plié: one leg in front of the other, about a foot or two apart, each leg turned out. Shift your weight to the back leg. Start with hands down by your side but held out a few inches from your body, palms facing down.

Then, raise your arms up above your shoulders, chest open, neck long. At the same time, stand up out of the plié position and point your front foot out, keeping all the weight on your back leg. Repeat the wing-like movement, moving your legs as you go for a bonus leg and knee workout.

Do 4 sets of 8.

3High Swan Arms

Stand with feet together, parallel. Keep core tight. Plié slightly to add a little knee work into it. Arms should start in modified fifth position: overhead in circular shape, with hands touching, palms facing outward. Make sure to keep shoulders down and back when arms are lifted — it’s harder than it seems.

Next, straighten arms, pushing them out like there’s resistance in the air in a controlled, gentle movement. As they straighten, use your back muscles and shoulder blades to pull shoulders down even farther. Think about lifting your collarbone out and truly stretching your arms as far out to the sides as you can. It should look lightweight and elegant, but you’ll feel the subtle movements.

Do 4 sets of 8.

4Arm Twists

Stand in a curtsy position. Hold arms down to your side, bend elbows up so your forearms are parallel to the floor, palms facing up. Engage your shoulder blades, stand up straight out of your curtsy, and push arm out straight while twisting them so that palms are now facing down. Pull and twist back to starting position, squeezing shoulder blades to really work them. This simple movement, if done without moving your shoulders, will engage the back muscles and help improve posture.

Do 4 sets of 8.