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.”