Barre Series: Floor Barre
The secret to achieving a dancers body? Dancing!
Ballet and dance has been a part of my life since I was 3 and donned a pink satin skirt and soft shoes for the very first time. I got very serious about it around age 14, before attending a full time course at WAAPA for my three year undergraduate BA degree. My focus then shifted to contemporary dance, leading me first to New York and then on to London to complete my Masters degree in Dance Performance.
Moving my body through dance is my favourite way to sweat, whilst providing me with functional strength relevant to my interests and practices; Pilates, fitness and yoga, to integrate it all together for my healthy body: healthy mind mission. A journey in dance from a young age teaches you many things: discipline, control, balance and resilience- key aspects that can be taken into everyday life- but it also helps you analyze, understand and view the human body in such a way that you see pathways and connections through a series of shapes, movements and patterns.
The special thing about dancing, is often you don't even realise what an incredible workout you are getting at the time. You are constantly engaging the body, lifting the core, extending the muscles and working in a way that creates length, strength and control!
As a creative director of Studio One's Barre program, I am always looking for ways to take a ballet practice and make it accessible for everyone to experience; so that you can feel like a badass ballerina, mixed with a bit of grounded Yogi, plus the inner strength of a Pilates practitioner and minus the pink tutu!
I'll be releasing a series of barre inspired workouts over the next few months, however thought I would kick it off with a "Floor Barre" inspired workout - using the support of the floor to help you find your alignment, explore your range of turn out (ballet speak for external rotation) and strengthen the core & key postural muscles used in a barre practice!
The Floor Barre Workout
4th position attitude lifts on floor
Working on the booty, external rotators and the back muscles, this is a great exercise to help you find your attitude position with lot's of support from the ground.
Starting in an open seated 4th position, gently rock the bodyweight into the front leg and use the hands to support a long spine position, gently lifting the abdominal all back towards the spinal column. Squeeze your back glute and lift the thigh and knee away from the ground. You should feel activation along the back and side waist of the lifted side, as well as a good engagement and lift of your derriere!!
To advance, see if you can lift one or both arms off, or even bring the spine up more upright to increase the strength required in the back to support this attitude position.
Inner thigh lifts + circles
A classic side lying series to help you find long, lean inner thighs and lift through the pelvic floor to maintain your posture & balance in a turned out alignment.
In side lying position, bring the top leg to a turned out position, foot flat on the floor and knee directing to the ceiling. The underneath leg should be long and reaching away from the head. With a strong, engaged core, you exhale to lift the underneath leg up towards the ceiling. Focus on staying in a long line with the torso, not rolling back off the underneath hip, engaging the core to support the lift. After long leg lifts, move into drawing circles with the big toe, focusing on the UP lift and a smooth wide circle of the entire leg!
10x circles in each direction
See saw tricep push ups
A great exercise to find connection in the core to allow freedom through the periphery limbs. Focus on flowing through the movement while staying engaged!
From a four point kneeling position, extend one leg long keeping the toes on the floor. Focus on wrapping the elbow points back towards the knees and drawing the abdominal wall in towards the spinal column. As you bend the elbows, lower the chest towards the floor between the hands with a tricep push up action. Simultaneously the extended leg reaches towards the ceiling, squeezing the butt so that you have a see-saw action of the head and toe! As you extend the arms back up, lower the toe back down and reset to go again. Pointe those toes for extra ballerina points!
Attitude and Arabesque Kneeling
This series focuses on two key ballet positions - Attitude & Arabesque. These forms engage the full body; legs, core & spine and require focus to find good positioning and technique! The four point kneeling helps offer guidance and alignment support.
From four point kneeling position, lift one knee and externally rotate at the hip so you find "attitude". Without displacing the spine and pelvis - and keeping the core engaged as always- try to slowly pulse the knee slightly further open towards the ceiling, by engaging the external rotators and gluteus medius.
Holding the thigh bone still and lifted, try to unfold the shin and extend the leg out into a long "arabesque" line, keeping the external rotation and extension of the hip without losing the control of the spine & pelvis. Bend the knee back to "attitude" to continue before repeating.
Keeping the "arabesque" line, tap the toe down to the floor and then lift back up, aiming not to hinge from the back.
Find a long "arabesque" line and the extend the opposite arm forward, slow and controlled pulses up of both pulses finds strength and engagement through the back and glutes. Look to keep the engagement of the core at all times and be careful not to drop into the supporting side thigh!
20x attitude pulses
10x attitude to arabesque extensions
10x arabesque toe taps
20x extended arabesque pulses
5th position upper back extensions
Working on finding a beautiful ballet back, always look for the opposition reach from the head to the tail to strengthen the back extensors and build endurance through the stabilisers of the spine.
Lying prone on your stomach with the legs long and extended and arms resting by the shoulders. Make sure you press the pubic bone and two hips bones down into the mat and draw the bridge of the abdominal wall away from the ground to support the lower back. You want to gently squeeze the glutes and press the hip crease into the ground to find length through the body.
Using an exhale find upper back extension, keeping the gaze low and long so as not to compromise the angle of the neck. The arms reach wide to second position (or a T shape), with an inhale the arms reach forward to find a round 5th position, fingertips almost touching, without the shoulders lifting up to the ears. Exhale to return to the arms to 2nd position and repeat.
This exercise is great for spinal extension and booty burn! It requires co-ordination, strength, endurance and commitment - key elements of a dancers persona.
Lying prone on your stomach with the same set up as the last exercise, however now you can wide the legs and externally rotate them so as to allow for more movement in the lumbar spine.
Use an inhale to extend into a swan dive position, aiming to point the hip bones towards the wall opposite you, drawing the abdominals in, booty engaged, shoulders away from the ears and lower back long and soft!
As you exhale, think about squeezing your glutes more and aiming to keep the shape of your spine, bend the elbows so you rock forward. You then want to bend the knees and cross the ankles, looking to have the thighs lifting off the mat. Change the cross of the ankles three times, then hold and extend the legs long to an extended V-shape, looking for length and external rotation of the hip.
On the next inhale, press through the hands and lift through the chest to return to your start swan dive position!