We’ve all seen her: that dancer whose jumps just seem to defy gravity. From suspended sautés to soaring grands jetés, she takes the audience’s breath away every time her feet leave the ground. What’s her secret? She’s got backup—of the gluteus maximus variety.
Strong glutes can take your jumps to the next level, giving you the lift you need to squeeze in a switch leap or an extra tour en l’air. We turned to Giulia Pline, a yoga- and barre-certified instructor in NYC, for four exercises that will give your booty a boost.
(Photos by Lucas Chilczuk)
Bridge-Pose Leg Raise
1. Lie on your back with your feet planted beneath your hips and your fingertips reaching toward your heels. Raise your hips so they form a straight line with your torso and thighs, balancing on your shoulders.
2. Lift your right leg to the ceiling, pointing your foot and extending the back of your knee.
3. Inhale as you raise your hips even higher, then exhale as you lower your right leg so it’s parallel with your left thigh. Do 10 of these leg raises. Repeat with the left leg raised, then repeat the whole sequence again, coming down between each side to give your legs a rest.
Pline Says: “Engage your glutes to keep your pelvis lifted and your hips square throughout the exercise.”
(Photo by Lucas Chilczuk)
For an extra challenge, lift the ball of your supporting foot off the floor so you’re balancing on your heel.
Pline Says: “Balancing on your heel helps activate the hamstring and glute of your supporting side.”
(Photos by Lucas Chilczuk)
1. Get on all fours, with your shoulders over your wrists and your knees under your hips
2. Lift your right leg in line with your torso, bending your knee to form a right angle. Flex your right foot.
3. Inhale as you push through your flexed foot, raising it toward the ceiling.
Pline Says: “Keep your spine lengthened and your abs engaged throughout this exercise. Don’t allow the pulsing of your leg to arch your back.”
4. Exhale as you lower your right leg, bringing your thigh back in line with your torso. Do 50 pulses. Repeat with the left leg raised, then repeat the whole sequence again.
(Photos by Lucas Chilczuk)
You’ll need: a tennis ball
1. Begin in the same starting position as the tabletop pulse.
2. Place a tennis ball behind your right knee, squeezing your hamstring and calf together to keep the ball in place.
3. Lift your right leg so your thigh is in line with your torso, flexing your foot.
Pline Says: “Really concentrate on squeezing the ball throughout this exercise. The added effort will activate the hamstring and glutes of your working leg.
4. Inhale and pulse your leg up, then exhale and bring it down and across your standing knee.
5. Lift your right leg so that your thigh is back in line with your torso. Do 15 lift-crosses. Repeat with the left leg raised, then repeat the whole sequence again.
(Photos by Lucas Chilczuk)
Grand Plié Wrap
1. Begin in a wide second position with your hands on your hips.
2. Do a grand plié, tracking your knees over your second toes. At the bottom of the plié, pulse your knees outward, so that they now track over your pinky toes. Pulse 20 times, then come up and repeat.
Pline Says: “Think of the wrap coming from the backs of your legs. This will help you initiate your gluteus muscles.”
(Photo by Lucas Chilczuk)
For an added challenge, lift your heels at the base of your grand plié, holding strong through your ankles as you wrap your knees outward. Pulse 20 times, then repeat.
It’s a frustrating conundrum: Even the bendiest dancer will have low développés if she doesn’t know how to engage the correct muscles. All too often, the bulky quadriceps try to take over during extensions to the side or front. While these muscles can be very strong, they don’t let you access your turnout—and this means your hip gets stuck once your leg reaches 90 degrees.
Your inner-thigh—or adductor—muscles, on the other hand, are the perfect tools for the job. When properly strengthened and engaged, they’ll help you access your full turnout and extension. DS looked to Abigail Bales, a personal trainer who has worked with dancers on Broadway, for three exercises that target these elusive yet essential muscles.
You’ll need: A Thera-Band resistance tube and a small towel
1. Attach each foot to a handle of the Thera-Band resistance tube. Stand with your feet in parallel first position and your arms by your sides. Extend your left leg to the side in a parallel tendu, with the foot pointed.
2. Keeping your foot pointed and just slightly off the floor, rond-de-jambe your left leg to the front, simultaneously rotating your leg so that it’s turned out by the time you reach the front.
3. Rond-de-jambe your left leg back to the parallel side tendu position. Your left toes can touch the ground to help you stabilize.
4. Continue the rond de jambe en dehors, rotating your left leg outward as you carry it to the back.
5. Reverse the rond de jambe, returning your left leg to the parallel side tendu position. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions on either side.
Bales Says: “Really rotate your working leg as you bring it from the side to the front and the side to the back. Imagine your inner thigh pushing against the resistance generated by the Thera-Band.”
(Photo by Jayme Thornton)
1. Stand with your legs in parallel first position and your arms by your sides.
2. Bring your right leg behind you on a crossed diagonal, keeping your hips and shoulders square to the front, and lunging so that your legs form two right angles. Bring your fists in front of your face to help you stabilize. Cross your leg as far as you can without altering the alignment of your hips and shoulders.
3. Return to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
Bales Says: “To keep your front leg parallel and your inner thighs zipped and engaged, think of directing your weight to the inside of your front foot. Your front knee should stay
in line with your front toes.”
Sliding Rear Lunge
(Photo by Jayme Thornton)
1. Stand with your feet parallel and hips-width apart, and place a small towel underneath the toes of your left foot. With your arms by your sides, transfer your weight to your right foot and extend your left leg back into a parallel tendu, keeping your toes in demi-pointe to maintain contact between the ball of your foot and the towel.
2. Keeping your shoulders and hips square, slide your left foot back into a low lunge, bending both legs so they form two right angles. Bring your fists in front of your
face to help you balance.
3. Return to the tendu position, pushing through the heel of your right foot to help engage the inner thigh muscles of your right leg. Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each side.
Bales Says: “As you lunge back, shift your weight into your back foot. This will protect your front knee by making sure it doesn’t go past your front toes.”
Whether you’re rocking pink tights or booty shorts, a pair of toned hamstrings can be your best accessory onstage. Strong hamstrings give you a long, lean look by evening out your thighs and keeping your quads from getting bulky. Even better? They power développés that reach toward the sky, not the horizon. “Once your leg passes 90 degrees, it’s the hamstrings—not the quads—that hold it there,” says Jessica Sander, a personal trainer and freelance dancer in NYC. “They’re the keys to high extensions.”
Build these exercises into your routine three to four times a week, and you’ll start to see—and feel—results in about a month. Just make sure you don’t simply go through the motions. “The hamstrings don’t always fire on their own—other parts of the body like to take the work,” warns Sander. “So for all of these, pay close attention to your form.”
1. a stability ball
2. a set of 10-lb. weights
Do each move 15–20 times. Rest, then repeat.
Stand in parallel with your feet directly under your hips. Hold a 10-lb. weight in each hand, with your palms facing your thighs.
Hinge from your hips with a flat back and lower the weights to just above your feet, keeping your hands close to your shins and your head in line with your spine. Initiate from your hamstrings to slowly return to the standing position.
Sander says: “In the flat back position, let your legs be relaxed, but pull your abs in.”
Lie on your back with one leg reaching straight up to the ceiling, and the opposite foot flat on the floor with the knee bent.
Slowly raise your hips until your knees, hips and shoulders come into a straight diagonal line, then return to the floor. Switch legs after a set of 15–20 reps. You should feel the burn in your supporting leg.
Quadraped Hamstring Curl
Start on your hands and knees, making sure your hips are over your knees and your shoulders are over your wrists. Reach one leg straight back, lifting it off the floor so it’s parallel to the ground and in line with your hip.Without letting your quad drop or your hips move, engage your glutes and bend your working knee until your shin is perpendicular to the floor, then straighten. Switch legs after a set of 15–20 reps.Sander says: “Keep your abs pulling up the whole time so your back doesn’t arch.”
Start by lying on your back, with your knees bent in tight and a stability ball under your heels, as close to you as possible.
As you exhale, press your feet into the ball to lift your hips. Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed—there should be space between your chest and chin.
Keeping your core engaged, straighten your legs to roll the ball away from you, and then draw it back. Repeat 15–20 times. The goal is to keep your hips up in the air the entire time, but if you need to modify the exercise, you can come down between repetitions.
Watch it! Click here to see Jessica Sander walk our fabulously fit model, Elizabeth Yilmaz, through these moves.
Jessica Sander, a personal trainer certified by ACE, AFFA and Stott Pilates, holds a BFA in dance from Towson University. Elizabeth Yilmaz is a freelance dancer based in NYC.
Photography by Erin Baiano. Hair and makeup by Chuck Jensen for Mark Edward Inc. Modeled by Elizabeth Yilmaz. Clothing provided by Jo+Jax.
Surely you’ve heard of Physique 57 by now. The barre-based classes—held at six studios, including locations in NYC, the Hamptons and Beverly Hills—are frequented by celebrities such as Kelly Ripa, Zooey Deschanel and Emmy Rossum. And the stars are heading to Physique for a reason: The 57-minute classes hit every muscle in your body, and they do so without the use of any crazy-heavy weights, which is a plus for young dancers. “It can be dangerous to lift heavy weights during adolescence,” says dancer, personal trainer and NYC-based Physique 57 instructor Jessica Rochwarger. “The pressure can fuse your growth plates, which can ultimately stunt your growth.”
These four exercises—all Physique 57 staples—focus on the muscle groups you may be neglecting during your dance classes. “They work your opposing muscles and complement the body parts you’re already working,” Jessica says. “They’ll help your body become more balanced, which will make you a stronger, better dancer.”
What You'll Need: A yoga mat, a playground ball and a chair.
What you're working: your seat, hips and waistline.
Begin seated with your left leg at a 90-degree angle in front of you and your right leg at a 90-degree angle behind you, keeping your right thigh as far behind you as possible. Your hands can be on the floor in front of you for stability—or, to make the exercise harder, bring them into prayer position in front of your chest.
Keeping your abs engaged, raise your right leg slightly off the floor and pulse it up and down 20 to 30 times.
Jessica says: "The key is to keep pressing your front hip down."
What you're working: your thighs, core, back and balance.
Jessica says: “You’re working your turnout muscles. And the lower you go, the more you’re working your thighs.”
What you're working: your abs.
In a seated position, place a cushion (like a rolled-up yoga mat) behind your lower back and lower your torso onto it, keeping your head, neck and shoulders lifted. Point your feet and place them on a ball in front of you with your knees bent and your arms lifted by your sides.
the ball away from your body.
Keeping your navel pulled down, exhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat 30 to 60 times.
Jessica says: “When you return to starting position, don’t sit all the way up. If you come all the way up, you’re using momentum, not muscle. Keep your abs hugged in tight.”
The Deli Slicer
What you're working: your seat, hamstrings, and obliques.
Lie down on your right side with your right arm extended under your head and your left palm on the floor in front of your chest for support. Bend your knees in toward your chest at a 90-degree angle to your upper body. Lift your feet off the floor, keeping your knees on the ground, your feet together and your shoulders and hips in line with each other. Press your left palm into the floor to engage your oblique muscles.
Straighten your left leg, pressing it up and out behind you on a diagonal as far back as possible while keeping your hips stacked and abdominals engaged. Then bring your leg back in. Think of your top knee sliding along the inside of your bottom leg like a deli slicer as you bend and straighten the top leg. Repeat 15 times slowly and 20 times quickly, then switch sides.
Jessica Rochwarger is an instructor at Physique 57 in NYC. She holds a degree in dance from Barnard College and is a NASM-certified personal trainer and AFAA-certified group trainer.
Photography by Nathan Sayers
Have you ever wondered how contemporary ballet queen Drew Jacoby got her lithe legs or commercial diva Comfort Fedoke chiseled her arms? DS asked a few pros with particularly toned physiques for their fitness secrets and go-to moves. Read on—and then get moving!
Dancer: Comfort Fedoke
Where You’ve Seen Her: Comfort was a finalist on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 4 and an All-Star on Season 7. She also has featured roles in the upcoming films Footloose and Honey 2.
Secret to Her Success: “I go to the gym almost every morning and I focus on my arms,” Comfort says. “I do arm curls with free weights and I spend lots of time practicing my popping and locking because it forces me to flex and release my muscles. I also do 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups every night.”
Go-To Move: “The Fresno, a popping move, tones my entire arm at once,” she says. “Extend your arms to the front or the sides, flex all your muscles at the same time and then release them at the same time. It should feel like it does when you ball your fist up and release it.”
Dancer: Rachele Brooke Smith
Where You’ve Seen Her: Rachele played the lead role in Center Stage: Turn It Up and she will star in the upcoming film The Beach Bar. She recently danced in Burlesque and on “Glee,” and she’s a guest teacher with L.A. DanceMagic.
Secrets to Her Success: “I love Cardio Barre, hot yoga, riding my bike and walking,” Rachele says. “I only spend 10 minutes a day doing ab-specific moves. But I focus on keeping my abs contracted during every type of workout, even when I’m dancing or walking around. Exhale each time you contract your stomach muscles and hold ab moves longer than you normally would.”
Go-To Moves: “Hold a plank position for at least 30 seconds and then do five push-ups. Then, flip onto your back and lift your upper body and legs into a V-sit-up position and hold that for at least 30 seconds. Then do a few crunches before you roll over and start again.”
Supple and Strong Legs
Dancer: Drew Jacoby
Where You’ve Seen Her: Drew is one half of Jacoby & Pronk. She has also performed with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet and more. This spring, she’ll perform at Youth America Grand Prix galas in several cities.
Secret to her success: “It’s important to exercise the weak areas of your body so you don’t overuse the strong areas,” Drew says. “I run, swim, bike and do Pilates so I can work on the areas that don’t get as much attention when I’m dancing.”
Go-To Move: Drew has naturally muscular outer thighs, so she uses bridges to strengthen the rest of her thighs. To try a bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms by your sides, palms down. Push your hips toward the ceiling, leaving your arms, feet and shoulders on the floor. Hold that pose for one breath, then lower your hips to the floor.
Dancer: Erica Jimbo
Where You’ve Seen Her: dancing with Pilobolus since 2009
Secrets to Her Success: “I do Wushu—a type of kung fu—at least three times a week. It helps me strengthen all over. I also do yoga, Pilates, and various core and back workouts.”
Go-To Move: One of Erica’s favorite exercises simultaneously tones her arms, shoulders, abs, back and more. To try it, place your hands on the sides of an exercise ball and extend your legs so you’re in a push-up position. Make sure your shoulders are over your hands, your legs are straight and your feet are together. Inhale, bracing your abs and back. As you exhale, slowly extend your arms and push the ball forward as far as you can while maintaining your form. Hold for one breath. Inhale and slowly roll the ball back to the starting position. Keep your shoulders in place throughout the movment. Work up to 8 to 10 reps.
Model: Daphne Fernberger
Consultant: Hilary Cartwright
Bio: Following her career as a soloist with The Royal Ballet, England, Hilary Cartwright became a director, teacher, coach and stager. She’s been teaching Yoga for Dancers for the past 20 years, after opening White Cloud Studio in NYC. Daphne Fernberger is a Level 7 student at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. For more information about Daphne, go to www.hilarycartwright.com
Dancers of all genres (and women in general) yearn for long, lean legs, and even more so, injury-free bodies. One important element to achieving both of these things is stretching—correctly, that is. With the help of Hilary Cartwright, DS brings you three exercises that will stretch every angle of your hamstrings, resulting in beautifully toned, strong legs.
BEFORE FIRST STRETCH
Before stretching, warm up the body with aerobic exercise (like light jogging) for five to 10 minutes. Then allow 10 seconds for each stretch on a continuous exhale, recover and relax. Repeat all five to six times on both legs.
Hamstring stretch #1
Begin in first position with right hand on the barre. Bring right leg into passé at the front of the knee, then extend into front attitude while the left leg pliés. Grab the foot from underneath the heel with the left hand and extend the right leg, while simultaneously straightening the left leg. Continue to grow while leaning back slightly toward the barre.
1. Relax neck.
2. Keep eyes focused above toes.
3. Engage abs.
Hamstring Stretch #2
Start in first position with the left hand on the barre. Bring the right leg into retire at the front of the knee, then extend into front attitude while the left leg pliés. Using the right hand, grab the foot from underneath the heel and slowly straighten the right leg, while keeping the left bent. Continue to slowly open the right leg to second.
1. Keep right hip back.
2. Keep back straight.
Hamstring Stretch #3
Start on all fours. Push the heels back and straighten the legs and arms (like downward dog position) with feet slightly turned out. Keep focus between hands and push shoulders and ribs toward the pelvis. Bend right leg, then straighten it toward the back wall in a scooping motion. Slowly raise it into penchée position, keeping the hips parallel to the floor. Lift up and back over the standing leg to feel stretch.
1. Push back from arms.
2. Drop active hip.
3. Keep focus between hands.
Go to dancespirit.com/ to see Daphne demonstrate these stretches. Just click on “Videos.”
Photography by Matt Karas. Hair and makeup by Angela Huff for Mark Edward, Inc.