Barre Series: Arms
For the third installment of the Barre Workout series we have moved to the upper body to strengthen, lengthen and tone the arms, shoulders and upper back. Targeting these key areas, we can develop a poised, elegant, open & confident posture - be gone rounded shoulders! In ballet, we refer to the movement and choreography of the arms as Port De Bras, literally translating to the carriage of the arms, or the manner of moving and posing the arms. This is important to remember, as we are always looking for clearly defined shapes and movements that appear graceful whilst remaining functional - bringing about that dancers body definition!
With this sequence I am utilising two props- the theraband with a medium resistance and some light 1kg weights - if you don't have dumbbells; tinned food cans or waterbottles are an easy substitute, however if you move with control, correct form & utilise the torque and resistance through the muscles themselves, you can still get a great workout without these tools!
This sequence is completed standing in a wide second position of the legs, with the hips externally rotated and a long neutral spine & pelvis. Look for the engagement and support from the abdominal wall.
To begin, hold the band shoulder width apart, move into a side bend reaching one hand towards the ceiling and bend the elbow so it points upwards and the hand is in front of the face. The other arm will bend into the support side waist, so the elbow stays connected to the ribs and remains here as the stable support from which to find tension.
Plie with overhead Tricep Press
Starting in a low plie, as you extend the legs extend the top arm only so that the hand reaches towards the ceiling, without losing the alignment and control of the upper arm. Simultaneously bend the elbow and knees so you return to the start position.
After 8 repeitions, windmill the arms so you are able to repeat on the other side.
Shoulder Bend and Press
Reaching the band directly to the ceiling, the hands are still shoulder width apart and the legs are straight to begin. Bend the knees to enter a plie and as you do so, bend the elbows pulling the hands behind the head, so that you find the elbows at shoulder height and the scapula squeeze together and down the back. Extend the arms and knees at the same time to repeat.
Staying in the plie and keeping the arms in the bent shoulder press position from the previous exercise, you stabilise the upper arm and extend from the elbow so that the hands reach out to a wide T shape. Focus on finding the support from the shoulder girdle and keep the fingers in your periphery so that you don't extend the front of the shoulder!
Diagonal Tricep Extension
Moving into a side bend position this is another tricep variation however working in the diagonal plane. With one elbow glued into the ribs, the other elbow reaches to the opposite diagonal and as you extend the legs out of the plie you extend through the tricep to find the extension. Simultaneously bending knees & elbows back to the start.
Staccato Rhythm Tricep Extension
Holding in the plie, we play with rhythm and the movement of the arm here to get a little extra burn! Try to break the extension movement down into 2 counts to bend and 2 counts to extend, looking for clear, sharp movements.
Weighted Port De Bras
This port de bras sequence can be completed with or without weights, however always look for length through the arms, supporting from the core and the back muscles to sustain the movement throughout!
You can be inparallel, 1st or 2nd position with the legs, adding on plies if you wish or stay still to focus purely on the upper body!
Rotator Cuff Pulses
With both elbows glued into the waist, the palms are rotated towards the ceiling and you squeeze through the back of the shoulders - across the rotator cuff- so that the forearms are externally rotated. Activating from this area, you gently pulse the fingertips away from the body and then pull the elbows back in.
Single Side rotator cuff reaches with heel raise
Working with a single arm, reach out to fully extend one arm from the start position and simulatenously lift that same side heel. Bending the elbow and placing the heel down at the same time.
Double side rotator cuff reaches with heel raise
Repeat the above movement with both arms and both heels at the same time. This should challenge your balance, so make sure that core is strong and engaged!!
Low arms to 2nd
Starting with the arms in low rounded shape, fingertips almost touching and elbows softly bent (bras bas). The arms move out to a wide T position, however the arms are slightly curved with the elbows bent, as though you are hugging a HUGE beach ball (second position).
2nd to 1st
From second position, stabilise the shoulders and reach the fingertips towards each other, creating an oval shape in front of you, with your fingers directly opposite your belly button (first position).
1st to 5th
From first position, maintain the oval shape and simply lift the arms towards the ceiling, so that you are framing your face and the fingers remain slightly in front of the head. The elbows stay soft and rounded and the shoulders do not lift up towards the ears (fifth position).
5th to 2nd
From fifth, reach the arms wide out to the sides away from one another, keeping the shoulders open and proud to reach second position.
Epaulment means "shouldering" and refers to the stylistic approach to the placement of the shoulder girdle, neck and shoulders.
With these reaches, you bend one elbow in towards the waist with the palm facing the ceiling as the back of the opposite hand reaches onto a high diagonal out to the corner of the room. There is a slight side bend and a feeling of diagonal pull or reach across the body.
Arabesque Tricep Pulses
From 1st position, extend one leg long behind you and lift the toes off the floor so you find a long arabesque life. The supporting knee should be softly bent and then you pitch the body weight forward slightly to find a long spine and balance point. The hands then reach behind you, squeezing the shoulder blades together and looking to have the arms higher than the back. The body then remains still as the arms pulse and lift higher by squeezing the tricep muscles!
Arabesque Tricep Squeezes
From this position, you keep the arms lifted nice and high and then try and squeeze the arms together to try and feel as though you could tap the arms together.
For an extra challenge- you could always add on pulses upwards of the arabesque leg!
8 repetitions in each exercise within this sequence and if you're brave, go for 2-3 rounds!