Health & Body
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Knee pain is, unfortunately, just one of those things that happens when you're a dancer. But how can you be sure that an annoying pinch here or a crunch there isn't something more serious? Dance Spirit turned to Marijeanne Liederbach, PhD, PT, ATC, CSCS—who is also director of the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone, research assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine, and owner of PT Plus in NYC—for a crash course on knee problems.

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Health & Body

Healthy, injury-free ankles require three things: mobility, stability and strength. But achieving this trifecta is easier said than done. That's why Dance Spirit turned to Abigail Bales, DPT, CSCS, for a series of exercises that'll strengthen, support and stabilize your ankles—and your dancing, overall.

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Health & Body
Erin Baiano

We all know that girl who basically lives in crop tops and sports bras to show off her insanely chiseled abs. But strong stomach muscles aren't just amazing fashion accessories—they're also the key to everything from powerful jumps to proper technique. Dance Spirit spoke with Jessica Sander, a personal trainer in NYC, about the most effective exercises to help you score your dream core.

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Health & Body

Christina Pazcoguin, a teacher at Pure Barre in NYC and a former ballet dancers, walks us through three stretching and strengthening exercises to help you achieve your best possible turnout. (Click the image to zoom!)

Want to see these exercises (and a bonus!) in real time? Check out the tutorial video here.

Health & Body
Modeled by Ashlyn Mae (Nathan Sayers)

Ah, feet—we point, stomp and crack them (and everything in between). And though dancing all day makes them strong, they need special attention to help prevent injury. DS spoke with former professional ballerina and conditioning expert Rachel Hamrick, who recommends these four exercises to keep your feet in tip-top shape—and improve their overall look, from arches to insteps.

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Health & Body
(Photo by Erin Baiano)

Ear-grazing développés, 180-degree turnout and a back that folds in half are items on every ballerina's wish list. But hyper-mobile dancers know extreme flexibility comes at a cost: It takes an incredible amount of strength to keep their joints within a safe range of motion. “You see a lot more hyper-mobile dancers at the student level than at the professional level," says Brynn Jinnett, founder of NYC boutique fitness studio Refine Method. “So many of them get career-ending injuries at a young age."

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Health & Body

As dancers, we talk a lot about “finding our centers”—but what does that actually mean? It refers to the invisible pole of support in your core that makes you feel like you could

balance for days. Once you experience the freedom that sense of stability can provide, you’ll want to find a way to access it every time you dance. Professional dancer and Figure 4 Barre instructor Lindsey L. Miller shares three stabilizing exercises to help you conquer even the toughest balance challenges.

The Toe-Heel Rock

Purpose: This exercise strengthens the muscles in your ankle to promote stability in relevé.

(Photos by Lucas Chilczuck)

Stand sideways about one foot away from a wall. Lightly touch the wall with your right hand and lift your left leg to a parallel coupé. Place your left hand on your left hip.

Rock forward onto the toes of your right foot, lifting your right heel as high as you can.

Miller Says: “When balancing on your heel, it’s natural to want to stick out your butt. To keep your weight centered over your foot, think of almost tucking your pelvis.”

Rock backward to the starting position, then lift the ball of your right foot off the floor as high as you can, keeping your body upright and your hips centered over your foot.

Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.

Incorrect

Because dancers’ big toes tend to be stronger than their pinky toes, rocking back to the heel often looks like this, with the pinky-toe side of the foot tilted toward the floor.

Correct

Focus on lifting up the pinky-toe side so your metatarsal stays even.

The Roll-Down

Purpose: This exercise helps you access your deep transverse abdominal muscles, which are essential to balance.

(Photos by Lucas Chilczuck)

Stand with your back against a wall, your feet parallel and hips-width apart and your arms by your sides.

Curve your head forward and begin to roll down through your spine. Keep your hips and heels connected to the wall.

Miller Says: “It’s difficult not to fall forward during this exercise. To find your balance, focus on contracting your lower abs and pressing your hips and heels into the wall behind you.”

Once you reach the bottom of the roll-down, grab on to opposite elbows to keep from relying on the floor for balance.

Beginning at the base of your spine, roll your body back up to the starting position.

Repeat two more times.

The Horizontal Tilt

Purpose: This exercise promotes balance in turnout by strengthening your oblique muscles and the external rotators in your hip.

Begin in a “T” position, standing on a straight, parallel right leg with your left leg reaching behind you (foot flexed and parallel). Tilt your torso forward, so your body—from the crown of your head to your heel—forms a straight line parallel to the floor. Reach your arms toward the floor with your palms facing each other.

Bend your right leg, making sure your knee tracks over the center of your right foot and your left leg stays in line with your torso. Hold the rest of your body still.

(Photos by Lucas Chilczuck)

Miller Says: “To give yourself an even greater balance challenge, try looking up at your top hand when you unfold into the turned-out position.”

Stretch your right leg to return to the starting position.

(Lucas Chilczuck)

Open and unfold your body by turning out your left leg and reaching your left arm to the ceiling, so your body faces out instead of down. Gaze down at your right arm as you continue to reach it toward the floor, and squeeze your abdominals. Hold for a count of three.

Return to the starting position.

Repeat five times, then switch legs.

Health & Body

We’ve all heard it: the chorus of cracking joints that comes with the first plié of class. A lot of dancers treat barre as their daily warm-up, but a ballerina jumping into class cold is kind of like the Tin Man trying to move without his oil can. Conditioning expert and former professional ballet dancer Rachel Hamrick has four pre-barre exercises that will get your body ready for that aggressive dégagé combo.

You’ll need: an FLX ball or a medicine ball

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Vinyasa Flow

Purpose: Yoga is a great way to prep your body for ballet class. The repetitive nature of vinyasa flow gets your blood pumping and your body temperature rising, helping to gradually increase your range of motion.

1. Begin in a full plank position with the FLX ball between your ankles. Your body should form a straight line, starting at your heels and continuing through your neck. Think of pulling your belly button towards your spine and rolling your shoulders back and down. Hold this plank position for 10 slow counts.

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Hamrick says: “Throughout the vinyasa flow, squeeze your inner thigh muscles together to hold the ball in place. This will generate extra heat and keep you from hyper-extending your knees.”

2. Untuck your toes and lift your chest so that your back arches. Squeeze your quads so that only the tops of your feet touch the floor, and think of lifting your chest up and forward to avoid crunching into your lower back. Hold this upward dog position for 10 slow counts.

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

3. Lift your hips toward the ceiling so that your body forms an upside-down “V” shape. Reach your heels toward the floor while keeping your spine lengthened and your shoulders away from your ears. Hold this downward dog position for 10 counts. Repeat the entire sequence 3 times.

 

Lizard

Purpose: This position stretches your hips’ external rotators so you can maximize your turnout throughout class.

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Get into a low lunge, with your right leg forward at a 90-degree angle and your left leg stretched behind you. Place both forearms on the inside of your right thigh so that they’re parallel with your right foot. Think of trying to get your chest as flat and long as possible. Hold for 30 counts and repeat on the other side.

Hamrick says: “To increase the stretch, think of hugging your right knee into your midline, rather then letting it open to the side.”

 

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Single-Leg-Switch Abdominals

Purpose: Working your core before class will prepare you to engage those same key muscles during balances and pirouettes.

1. Lie on your back with the FLX ball between your shoulder blades. Bring your right knee in toward your chest and curl your upper body so your knee is in line with your forehead. Place your hands on the top of your right shin, keeping your elbows wide and your shoulders down. Extend your left leg on a high diagonal and pull your belly button in.

2. Switch your legs so that the left knee pulls in toward your chest and your right leg extends on a high diagonal. Do 20 repetitions.

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Hamrick says: “Think of pushing your knee into your hands to help you engage your core.”

Modification: Scissor Abdominals

For a more advanced abdominal warm-up, straighten both legs and hold your top leg from behind your calf or thigh. Keep both legs straight as you switch legs. Do 20 repetitions.

 

 

Toe Roll

Purpose: This exercise strengthens the intrinsic muscles on the bottom of your feet, prepping them for everything from relevés to grands jetés.

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

1. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend your left knee slightly so you can place the FLX ball beneath your left toes with your heel resting on the ground.

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

2. Straighten your left knee so that your left arch shapes around the ball as it rolls away from you. Push down on the ball with your toes and arch as you hold the extended position for 10 counts. Repeat 15 times with each foot.

Hamrick says: “Keep your toes straight throughout this exercise to train your foot not to knuckle when it points.”

 

Health & Body

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)

Modification

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)

Tabletop Pulse

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)

Tabletop Cross

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)

Modification

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.

 

Health & Body

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

Half-Moon

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.”

Curtsy Lunge

(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.”

Health & Body

Have you ever seen a ballerina’s arabesque and thought, Wow, her back is so flexible—does she even have a spine? Believe it or not, a bendy back isn’t the only key to a killer arabesque. “Dancers who focus exclusively on stretching often fall into improper alignment, crunching the lumbar spine and splaying the ribs to maximize arabesque height,” says Rachel Hamrick, a conditioning expert and former professional ballet dancer. “To achieve the desired aesthetic, you need strength in the hamstrings, inner thighs, abdominals and back, as well as flexibility in the hip flexors.” (All photos by Nathan Sayers.)

Practice the following four exercises, which focus on stretching and strengthening these supporting muscle groups, and you’ll be passing 90 degrees in no time!

You'll need: an FLX Ball or a medicine ball and a Thera-Band

Hip Flexor Lunge

Plant your left knee in the corner where the wall meets the floor, with the top of your foot pressed against the wall. Step your right leg forward and bend it at a right angle, so your knee is directly above your ankle. Place your hands on either side of your right foot. Keeping both legs parallel, push your hips forward and down. Hold for 10–15 slow breaths. Repeat the stretch twice on each side.

Hamrick says: “If you’re performing this exercise on a hard floor, place a towel or mat under your knee to cushion it.”

Modifications

Modification 1:

For extra stretch, keep your legs in the same position, but place your hands on top of your right thigh. Push your hands away from your body to lift your chest, keeping your shoulders relaxed as you sink your hips forward.

Hamrick says: “Lengthen through the left hip flexor so that your pelvis is vertical.”

 

Modification 2: For an even more intense stretch, bring your arms up to fifth position. Engage your abs and lift your chest to avoid splaying your ribs.

Hamrick says: “Imagine stitching your inner thighs together to keep your right knee in line with the midline of your body.”

 

 

 

Hamstring Curl

1. Lie on your left side, resting your head in your left hand. Place your knees in front of your hips and your ankles directly below your knees, forming two right angles. Lift your right leg slightly so that your legs are hips-width apart, and use your right hand to place the ball behind your right knee.

2. Flex your right foot and squeeze the ball behind your knee, feeling the activation of your hamstring and the connection between your right heel and sitz bone. Place your right hand on the floor in front of your belly button to stabilize yourself.

3. Initiating from your hamstring, move your right leg back without changing the alignment of your pelvis or spine. Pulse your heel backward five times, keeping your leg parallel.

4. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Hamrick says: “Engage your abs to keep your torso from arching and activate the inner thigh muscles to keep your legs parallel and hips-width apart.”

 

Spinal Extension

1. Lie on your stomach with your legs turned out and your feet pointed, hips-width apart. Place the ball under your chest. Stack your hands on top of each other and rest your forehead on them, keeping your elbows out to the sides and your neck in line with the rest of your spine.

 

2. Inhale and lift your torso, keeping your gaze straight in front of you.

3. Lower with control to your starting position. Do three sets of 10 reps.

 

Hamrick says: “Don’t crunch in your lower spine to lift your torso. Imagine your spine lengthening as you rise.”

Modification

1B. Start in the same position, but hold your arms out in fifth.

2B. Inhale and lift your torso, keeping your shoulders drawn down your back and your neck long.

 

3B. Lower with control to your starting position. Do three sets of 10 reps.

Hamrick says: “Don’t puff out your lower abs to push yourself up. Imagine hollowing them out so they don’t touch the floor throughout the exercise.”

 

 

Single Leg Lift

1. Lie on your stomach with your legs hips width apart and turned out, and your feet pointed. Fold the Thera-Band in half lengthwise and hold one end in each hand. Prop yourself up on your elbows, placing them by your sides, underneath your shoulders. Place your forearms at a slight outward angle to create resistance in the Thera-Band. Press down through your arms and feel your chest pulling forward.

2. Maintaining your external rotation, lift your left leg about one foot off the floor.

3. Lengthen your leg as you lower to the starting position. Do two to four sets of 10 reps on each leg.

Hamrick says: “Keep your spine long throughout this exercise. Don’t allow the lifting of your leg to cause you to crunch in your lower back. Hold your abs, and imagine lengthening to bring your leg up, rather than lifting.”

Health & Body

“Stop slouching!” We’ve all heard it before, whether from our moms, our ballet teachers or both. And it’s pretty solid advice: Good posture protects your back by decreasing stress on the joints, muscles and ligaments that support your spine. Plus, it helps you look and feel more confident and energized.

But like all good things, picture-perfect posture doesn’t happen overnight—it takes a bit of effort. DS turned to Rachel Piskin, co-founder of ChaiseFitness, for four exercises that will have you standing taller in no time.

You'll need: a Thera-Band

(Photo by Erin Baiano)

Ribcage Wrap

1. Stand in a shallow first position. Wrap the Thera-Band around the back

of your rib cage and cross it in front of your body. Holding one end of the band in each hand, extend your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height, with your palms flat and facing down.

2 Open your arms to the side, keeping them at shoulder height. Piskin says: “As you open your arms, imagine your chest expanding without allowing your rib cage to pop forward.”

3. Slowly return your arms to the starting position, with control. Repeat 8–10 times.

(Photo by Erin Baiano)

Bow and Arrow Stretch

1. Fold your Thera-Band in half lengthwise, holding one end in each hand. Standing

in a shallow first position, extend your left arm straight out to the side with the palm facing down. Bring your right fist into the center of your rib cage with your right elbow pointing straight out to the side, like you’re preparing to shoot a bow and arrow.

2. Pull the right end of the Thera-Band across your chest so that it reaches your right armpit, turning your head toward your left arm at the same time. Piskin says: “Don’t lift your shoulders. Keep them pressed down as you pull the band across your body.”

3. Return to the starting position, with control. Repeat 8–10 times on each side.

(Photo by Erin Baiano)

Plié and Relevé

1. Fold your Thera-Band in half lengthwise, holding one end in each hand. Standing in a shallow first position, bring your arms overhead, holding them shoulders-width apart with your palms facing forward. Feel your spine extend both up and down as you demi-plié.

2. Push through the floor to straighten your legs and lift into a relevé, keeping your arms stretched overhead. Repeat 20 times. Piskin says: “Don’t allow the band to slacken. Create tension by pulling it slightly outward throughout this exercise.”

(Photo by Erin Baiano)

Arabesque Lift

1. Fold your Thera-Band in half lengthwise, holding one end in each hand. Extend your right leg behind you in a shallow lunge, with your feet slightly turned out and your left leg slightly bent. Extend your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height, with your palms facing down.

2. Pushing off the floor, straighten your left leg and extend your right leg in a low arabesque, while lifting your arms overhead.

3. Lower your arms and legs to the starting position. Repeat 8–10 times on each leg. Piskin says: “Really engage your core as you push off the floor, so that you don’t lose your alignment in the transition.”

Click here to watch Rachel walk through these exercises.

 

 

 

 

 

Health & Body

“There’s nothing worse than trying to partner a dancer who has a loose upper body,” says Mary Leonard, owner of the U.S. Athletic Training Center in NYC. Don’t be that girl! Solve this common problem by giving your pectorals a boost. These muscles, which sit directly underneath your chest, need to be toned like any other muscle in your body, and doing so will improve your partnering skills. Plus, Leonard says, “toned pecs help you look stronger without adding bulk.” All photos by Erin Baiano.

1) Push-Ups

Begin in a plank position, with your hands planted in a triangle (index fingers and thumbs touching). Create a long, straight line from your head to your heels.

Bend your elbows, lowering your body as far as you can without losing your alignment. Then, initiating from your pecs, push back up.

Leonard says: “Hold your abs and glutes tight to keep your body in one line.”

If this feels too intense, drop your knees to the floor. Whichever position you choose, aim for 20 push-ups.

2) Thera-Band Fly: You’ll need one light-resistance Thera-Band

Plant your feet in a sturdy parallel stance. Wrap the Thera-Band around the back of your waist, holding the ends firmly in each hand. Start with your arms in second position. Bring your hands together as though you’re moving around the edge of a large circle from second to first position. When your hands meet, twist them so that the palms face up. Hold for 2 seconds, and then return to starting position. Aim for 20–25 reps.

3) Dumbbell Wide Fly: You’ll need two 3- to 8-lb. weights (choose what’s comfortable for you).

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground, hips-width apart. Hold a weight in each hand with your arms in second position floating just above the floor, palms facing up.

Contract your pecs to bring your hands above your head. When they meet, twist your wrists so your palms face the ground. Hold for 2 seconds, then return to the starting position.

Leonard says: “Make sure you move slowly, as though the air were really thick.”

4) Overhead Pulls

Lie flat on your back as in the last exercise. Crisscross the weights over each other and hold them behind your head, just above the floor, with a slight bend in the elbows. Keep your core tight so you don’t arch your back.

On an exhale, press the weights up to the ceiling until they’re directly above your face. Slowly return to the starting position.

Leonard says: “Your shoulders should be down, and your wrists should stay straight and strong.”

Click here to see Mary Leonard walk Karla through these exercises.

 

Health & Body

Between academic classes, dance classes, homework and trying to hang on to a social life, you’re busy every day. With a schedule like that, who has time to hit the gym? But just because you can’t log a sweat session on the treadmill or hit the free weights doesn’t mean you can’t tone up a few times a week. DS sought out Rachel Piskin, co-founder of ChaiseFitness, to find out which exercises are ideal for dancers who can only spare 10 minutes a day.

You'll Need: A Thera-Band

Exercise 1: Banded Pliés

Where you'll feel the burn: glutes and thighs

Fold your Thera-Band in half and hold one end in each hand. Stand in a wide second position, with your legs turned out, and extend your arms straight in front of you at shoulder height.Plié as you reach your arms overhead, keeping them straight. Return to the starting position. Repeat 20 times.

Piskin says: “Keep your shoulders down and create more resistance in the band as you plié.”

Exercise 2: Heel Lifts

Where you'll feel the burn: thighs

Begin in the same starting position as Exercise 1.

Lower into a deep second plié.

Staying in plié, lift both heels off the ground as you extend your arms straight overhead. Remaining in plié, lower your heels and arms. Repeat heel lift 20 times.

Piskin says: “Keep your core and glutes engaged throughout the exercise so your heels and arms move together in one smooth progression.”

Exercise 3: Pull the Sword

Where you'll feel the burn: back muscles and triceps

Stand in parallel with both feet on top of the Thera-Band, hips-distance apart. Hold the long end of the band in your left hand, in front of your right thigh. Keep your right hand on your hip.

Pull the band on a diagonal toward the ceiling, bending the elbow as you pull and then extending your arm straight. Return to the starting position. Do two sets of 12 and then repeat on the opposite side.

Piskin says: “Keep your working wrist straight so you’re isolating and sculpting your back and arm muscles, not your wrist.”

Exercise 4: Arm-Extension Curtsy

Where you'll feel the burn: arms, glutes and hamstrings

Stand on the middle of the band with your left foot, turned out. Point your right leg behind you, staying on the ball of your foot so you’re in a curtsy position. Hold one end of the band in each hand, with your arms by your sides.

Pull your arms up and out to your sides as you lower into a deep curtsy. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.

Piskin says: “Keep your back leg parallel to the floor. As you curtsy, you should feel like you’re crossing your legs in a chair—this will engage and sculpt your glutes and hamstrings. You can make it harder by pulsing 10 times in the low curtsy position.”

Exercise 5: Bicep Cross Curtsy

Where you'll feel the burn: biceps and glutes

Begin in the same starting position as Exercise 4, but cross the band in front of you and hold one end in each hand, with your palms facing the ceiling.

As you curtsy, curl your fists in toward your body, working the bicep muscles. Straighten your legs and return your arms to the starting position. Do two sets of 10 and then switch sides.

Piskin says: “Keep your elbows tight to your body so you’re working your bicep muscles, not using momentum.”

Exercise 6: Arabesque Arm Extensions

Where you'll feel the burn: upper back, thighs and glutes

Stand on the center of the band with your left foot, bending your left leg slightly. Hold an end of the band in each hand and tendu your right foot back. Keep your focus on the ground in front of you.

Lift your right leg to arabesque as you pull the bands out to your sides. Lower your leg and arms to return to the starting position. Repeat 12 times and then switch sides.

Piskin says: “Keep your standing leg bent and focus on engaging your core to stabilize your body.”

Photography by Erin Baiano; hair and makeup by Chuck Jensen for Mark Edward Inc., modeled by Rachel Piskin.

Health & Body

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.”

You’ll need:

1. a stability ball

2. a set of 10-lb. weights

Do each move 15–20 times. Rest, then repeat.

Dead Lift

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.”

Single-Leg Bridge

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.

Sander says: “Don’t use that leg in the air for momentum—keep it perpendicular to the floor the whole time. This is a small, controlled movement.”

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.”

Hamstring Rollout

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.

Sander says: “You have to engage your glutes for this one, or you’ll get a charley horse in your hamstrings.”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health & Body

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.

 

The Pretzel

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.

With a flexed foot, press your right leg backward, slightly extending your leg, 20 to 30 times, continuing to sit as upright as possible.

Jessica says: "The key is to keep pressing your front hip down."

The Curtsy

What you're working: your thighs, core, back and balance.

Start in plié with your feet in a comfortable first position and your hands resting lightly on a chair in front of you. Lean your body forward at a 45-degree angle.

Lift your right heel, then slide your right leg back about two feet along the floor, crossing behind your body so your right foot is in line with your left shoulder.

Jessica says: “You’re working your turnout muscles. And the lower you go, the more you’re working your thighs.”

Keep your back heel high and your front foot flat as you plié further toward the floor. Keep your hips and shoulders squared and your front knee in line with your ankle.

Do 30 to 60 pulses up and down and then repeat on the other side.

The Superwoman

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.

Inhale as you extend your arms and legs and lean backward, pushing

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

 

 

 

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