Barre Series: Calves & Booty
The second workout in the Barre series focuses on the strength, alignment and support of the lower body, specifically the intrinsic muscles in your feet, calves, hamstrings and as always, your booty! You can follow this one in sequence for a full barre burn or separate into the three different series for a quick blast - maybe you fit in the rise series as you brush your teeth or the fold over while waiting for your kettle to boil - fitting in fitness whenever you can in whatever way you can!
The videos here are just a simple mini guide of the series, I only do 4 repetitions of each exercise, however aim for 8-12 of each to make sure you activate, engage and burn up!
This series allows you to find alignment and strength in the foot, ankles and calves, finding your support from the ground up and finding stretch and mobility through the joints and supporting muscles and tendons. As always, execute this series with perfect Pilates/Dancer posture; shoulders aligned over hips, hips over the feet, with the abdominals drawn in and lifted, shoulders open and exuding confidence always!
This entire sequence is executed facing the barre; if you don't happen to have one of those in your house (what a dream), then a chair, kitchen bench or back of the sofa can substitute quite well! For this one, you want to be about a foot away, with your fingertips only resting on the barre for gentle support and guidance!
In a parallel position, toes facing forward in a train track manner, ankles and big toes gently touching.
Keeping the knees stretched and legs long, press through the foot so that you lift the heels but keep the front bridge and toes connected to the ground. Try to lift the heels as much as possible, with good technique and feel yourself grow tall through the crown of your head - this is your demi (half) pointe position. Slowly lower the heels back down, with control, to lengthen the calves and stretch back to the start.
Rises with Plie Bend & Stretch
Staying in the high demi pointe position, you want to stabilise the ankle joint and bend the knees so that you plie without letting the heels drop down. You should feel a stretch through the fascia and tendons in the base of the foot, whilst increasing the range through the joints of the toes. The action of the body is to slide down, don't stick that booty out!! And you never want the knees to come forward over the toes, keep the torso stacked and neutral and simply plie those knees!
Rises with Heel Lower & Lift
From the demi pointe & plie position, you want to hold - in an isometric contraction - to really work those legs. From here, the only action is lowering the heels down the floor & back up - mobilizing the ankles and strenthening your soleus in the calf. Try to keep every other part of your body stable and still, this means your head shouldn't bob up and down!
Repeat All in External Rotation
From the hip, externally rotate the legs out so that the hips, knees and ankles all find an open rotation, which will settle in the body with the heels together and the toes apart. Be mindful of the pelvis here, that you do not sway back, and additionally that you don't overcompensate from the knees and try to push your rotation, work within your limits!
Hinge Thigh Di(v)es
I call these ones my thigh dies - however the action is that of a dive! We are working here in an eccentric contraction - that is the lengthened phase and these bad boys absolutely burn! Focus on technique and core control so that your legs do the work!
Staying in the external rotation, you want to tuck the pelvis under and lean the torso back, so you find a long straight back hinge position - drawing a line from the knees, through the hip crease and along the torso to the shoulders. The chin stays gently nodded to avoid over extending the neck. The booty and abs should be well engaged! Gently think about reaching the knees further underneath your barre so you have a sliding action, forward and back. The shake should really become evident here!
Forward Fold Series
This series is all about the booty & hamstring burn! Don't be fooled into thinking it's just about the working leg, when you focus on aligned technique, your supporting leg should be working overtime to ensure you are controlled, maximising the workout and overall effectiveness of the exercises.
Your set up here starts with the legs in parallel, hip distance apart about a foot and half away from your barre (or substitute). You then want to fold the elbows and lean the body forward to rest them along the barre so that you have your spine elongated; shoulders in line with the pelvis, and your feet directly underneath the line of the hips, creating a 90 degree angle with the body. From here, bend the left knee, maintaining neutral alignment through the leg with the knee never reaching past the toes, and extend the right leg behind you so that you lift the thigh bone up in line with the pelvis. The hip bones and shoulders MUST face directly to the floor, with the abdominal wall engaged and lifted so you don't ever sink into the lumbar spine or place any tension through this area.
Keeping the thigh bone extended and lifted - so you are in hip extension - you want to engage and squeeze the back of the leg so that the knee bends and the heel draws towards your booty. Keep the length through the femur to then extend the leg back out straight.
Stamp The Ceiling
Staying in the hamstring curl position, flex the foot so that the sole of the foot is facing the ceiling. From here, engage the butt and imagine you are stamping your foot into the ceiling, so the shape lifts up, thus increasing the hip extension and glute activation. Watch out you don't collapse or compensate in the back!
From the hamstring curl position, you want to tuck the right knee low behind the left and increase the bend down into the left knee, so you are low in a single leg curtsy squat. Then press through the left leg and return to the start position. Watch out for the alignment of the left leg, try not to drop out to the side and rather stay parallel through the legs!
Holding the hamstring curl position, you want to focus on keep the pelvis and shoulders square towards the floor and engage your external rotators so that you turn the knee out to the side. The best image here, is that of a dog cocking its leg onto a fire hydrant - super classy, I know! Make sure you do not sway out of the pelvis and work within your range!
Staying in the externally rotated position, lift and engage the abdominal wall and activate through the side of the glute to gently pulse the knee higher towards the ceiling. Focus on technique, alignment and burn!!
Single Leg Series
This series focusing of uni-lateral work to strengthen and rebalance the body, which will simultaneously challenge you to find your centre - Hello obliques and deep core muscles to keep you upright! Look for length & stretch in the legs, especially when you add in the Rises and as always, perfect Pilates/Dancer posture!!
Set up for this series begins sideways to your barre with your left hand on the barre and your legs in a parallel alignment. From here, step your right (outside to the barre) leg backwards so you are in a split lunge position, with the toes down and heel lifted. You want to keep most of your bodyweight in the front leg, however get down low in the back knee so your in a deep, low lunge. The right arm is out to the side, in a curved rounded second position.
Lunge to Retire
From the set up position, you want to press the weight through the left foot and drive up, straightening the leg as you bring the right toes to touch the left knee in a parallel retire position. At the same time bring the right arm in to a rounded first position, with your fingers opposite your belly button. Suspended slowly back down to the lunge, keep track of the alignment of the left knee!
Lunge to Retire with Rise
To progress, as you bring the right leg to retire, keep stretching and pressing through the left foot so you rise up onto the toes, lifting the heel and keeping equal pressure across all of the toes. Place the heel back down as you return to the deep lunge.
Staying in the retire position, we begin working on strength and endurance in the ankle and calves with the added challenge of the single leg. Bringing the arm above the head to fifth position, the leg stays lengthened and you simply lower and lift the left heel, maintaing the shape within the rest of the body.
To test your balance and alignment, hold up on rise and bring the barre hand to join the right hand in fifth or first position and hold, focusing on drawing up and out of the floor, whilst staying supported through the postural muscles! Watch out for wobbles!!