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
In the 1990s, actress Suzanne Somers turned the funky-looking ThighMaster into a fitness hit. And we get it! It’s crucial, especially for dancers, to tone those inner thighs. “The inner thigh, like any upper leg area, helps stabilize the knee joint,” says dancer, personal trainer and group fitness instructor Deborah Horton. “It’s important to work your turnout from your hip, which is a problem for many dancers—they try to work it from their knees. Having strong inner thighs will help with that rotation.”
But you don’t need a bulky piece of equipment (sorry, Suzanne) to get your legs whipped into shape. Try these no-fuss exercises, created by Horton exclusively for you!
Standing Plié Squat
Start in a wide second-position plié, turned out, with your arms in second position and your palms facing up.
Squeeze your thighs and glutes as you straighten your legs and raise your arms overhead.
Return to the starting position. Do three sets of 10 reps at a quick pace.
Make it harder! At the end of each set, hold the plié position and do 20 small pulses up and down.
Really feel the burn: After the plié pulses, stay low and pulse your knees forward 20 times.
Only for the advanced: At the end of the series, lift your heels and squeeze your inner thighs up into relevé, raising your arms straight above your head. Hold for 10 counts.
Horton says: “Make sure your lower core is engaged throughout the series and your hips stay directly beneath your shoulders.”
Stand in first position relevé with your hands on your hips.
Do small plié pulses, remaining in relevé, for 20 counts, and then hold in plié for 20 counts.
Finish by straightening your knees and lifting your arms overhead. Hold for 20 counts. Do three sets.
Horton says: “Focus on your lower core and keeping your hips and shoulders open.”
Leg Lifts in First Position
Begin in first position with your hands on your hips. Extend your flexed left foot forward, shifting your balance onto your right leg.
Bring your left leg back to the starting position without letting it come all the way to the floor. Repeat 20 times. Then switch sides. Do two sets on each side.
Make it harder! At the end of the set, keep your left leg lifted and do 20 pulses upward.
The Straddle Squeeze
Lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides. Lift your legs straight up to form
a 90-degree angle with your torso, flexing your feet in first position. Beat your right foot forward into fifth position.
Beat your left foot forward into fifth position.
Point your toes and open your legs into a wide second.
Squeeze your inner thighs and lift your legs back to the starting position. Do three sets of 20.
Horton says: “Contract your core and push your lower back into the floor. Having your palms by your sides will help stabilize your hips.”
Lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides. Lift your legs straight up, with your feet flexed in first position.
Plié your legs, keeping them turned out with your heels together. Your hips and shoulder blades should stay flat on the ground.
Push your heels back toward the ceiling slowly, like you’re pushing resistance away from you. Repeat the series 20 times. Do three sets.
Lean on your right elbow with your left knee bent and foot on the ground. Lift your right leg off the ground slightly, flexing your foot to activate your leg muscles.
Lift your right leg a few inches higher. Lower your right leg to the starting position. Don’t let it touch the floor. Repeat 20 times and then switch sides. Do at least two sets per side.
Horton says: “Stabilize your core and push down into your right shoulder. For extra difficulty, you can hold a book or something weighted on your working leg.”
Make it harder! Instead of resting on your elbow, do the exercise in a lifted side plank, either on your forearm or the palm of your right hand.
Photography by Erin Baiano. Hair and makeup by Ananda Khan. Modeled by Deborah Horton. Deborah Horton is a dancer, personal trainer and AFAA-certified group fitness instructor in NYC. Most recently, she created a customized workout for the new “Blood Type Workout” series.