The Dancer Body Workout: Circuit for Long, Lean Muscles

7 Apr, 2023 | MNB TEAM


Few can look at Misty Copeland, Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, and say, her body is just “ok”. Yeah, right! – She’s absolutely stunning, displaying strength and grace in her lean, ballerina body.

Still, it’s not our aim to set unrealistic standards by saying that dancers’ bodies are the only perfect bodies. In fact, if you like to dance, then congratulations – you have a dancer body!

woman doing ballet in pale leggings and matching sports bra

Plus, the truth is, you can’t actually elongate your muscles, contrary to popular belief. People who are long and lean are actually genetically predisposed.

In fact, Misty Copeland is only 5’2” or 157 cm. She looks long because of the way she holds herself. We’re talking optical illusions here. Ballet training relies on good posture, lots of repetition, and specific technique.

Dancers train their entire lives to achieve the strong yet elegant bodies that can be so enviable and the good news is, there are some things you can do at the gym to encourage longer, leaner-looking muscles.

Here, we’re sharing one of our favorite full-body circuits for dancer-body results.

This workout includes two circuits and each circuit should be completed twice through.

Set a timer for 6 minutes and complete as many rounds within each circuit as possible.

Take a 90-second break between circuits for a 30-minute workout. And, since we’re doing this dancer-style, you’ll count in 8s!

Circuit 1

Second Position Plies (Sumo Squats) – 16x or two counts of 8

Dancers perform most exercises in a turned out position which helps shape their muscles around their bones, versus building them outward.

Start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart with legs turned out from the hips, not from the knees. As you bend, keep your knees in line with your toes and your heels on the ground, making sure your chest stays lifted.

Tip: Keep you arms activated in second position during this exercise.

Spider Push-Up – 16x or two counts of 8 (8x on each side)

Start in a plank position and get ready to do some push-ups. As you lower your chest and bend your elbows, bring your right knee to your right elbow. Then repeat on either the left leg.

Keeping the legs turned out at the hips, spider push-ups work your glutes and your arms. This exercise simulates the ballet move called developpe a la second, but while on your hands!

Single-Leg Releves (Calf Raises) – 32x or four counts of 8 (16x on each side)

You can hold onto a barre or wall for this one as it takes a bit of balance. Keeping your legs turned out from the hips, stand in first position with your heels touching and toes pointing outward. Bring your right leg to coupe so that you’re standing only on your left foot and lift your left heel up and down.

You’ll feel the burn in your calf which also helps stabilize your ankles and feet for injury prevention.

Arabesque Pulses – 32x or four counts of 8 (16x on each side)

With your shoulders down and back, chest lifted, and hips square, extend and lift your right leg behind you. Hold onto a barre or the wall for stability with one or both hands. Hold your leg at a 45-degree angle from the ground and pulse up, activating your glutes.

Point those toes and keep your eyes looking forward. To focus on different parts of your bum, you can do this exercise with legs turned in and turned out.

Tip: As always, just make sure you’re turning out from your hips, not your knees.

Circuit 2

Side Plank- 32 seconds on each side or four counts of 8

Come into a plank position either on your hands or forearms. Slowly transfer your weight to your left hand or forearm, placing your right foot on top of your left and lift your right hand toward the ceiling.

You’ll be activating your obliques and well, actually… you’ll feel most of the muscles in your body light up.

Challenge: It’s a tough one but for an added challenge, move your right leg up and down your leg through passe.

Second Position Plie Extensions – 16x or two counts of 8 (8x on each side)

Similar to the sumo squats from the first circuit, this one adds a tendu. With your arms in second position, your hips turned out, and your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, bend straight down before pressing into your right leg to standing, with your left foot in tendu.

Tendu is the ballet position with your leg extended and your foot pointed on the floor. Reach your left arm up to overhead and repeat to the other side.

Leg Lifts with Beats – 16x or two counts of 8

Lie on the ground and lift your feet toward the ceiling with straight legs, forming a 90-degree angle with your body. Turn out your legs from the hips and activate your core. In a criss-cross motion, beat your legs, switching each time as you slowly lower your feet toward the ground.

Without touching the floor, continue the beating motion as you lift your legs back up to the starting position.

Tip: Focus on squeezing your inner thighs together and avoid letting your lower back come off the floor.

Echappes – 32x or four counts of 8

Echappe means “to escape” and it’s a ballet term used in petit allegro (small and fast) combinations. Starting in first position with heels touching and legs turned out from the hips, plie with your chest lifted and jump to second position.

From there, jump back to first position while making sure your heels reach the ground each time. Consider this your cardio!

woman wearing black tights and black singlet doing barre class

Dancer Body Circuit Workout

  • Circuit 1 – 6 minutes

  • Rest – 90 seconds

  • Circuit 2 – 6 minutes

  • Rest – 90 seconds

  • Circuit 1 – 6 minutes

  • Rest – 90 seconds

  • Circuit 2 – 6 minutes

There are many ways to incorporate ballet training into a fun fitness routine that anyone can try. By turning out your legs and fully extending your limbs, you’ll see your body change as a result of the rotation and extension.

Ready to try out this ballet-inspired circuit? Show us how it went @lornajaneactive! ????????

Kaylee is a freelance arts and fitness writer based in Brisbane. She was a professional dancer for nearly a decade which took her from theme parks to cruise ships to Las Vegas. Eventually, she moved from her native Florida to Australia and now, she shares stories of transition. Follow her here x

If you’re looking for more exercise information or inspiration, be sure to check out our Move Nourish Believe Blog. We are constantly posting new exercise routines and education on training, such as our posts How to trick yourself into running faster and further, and Five Beginner Friendly Yoga Moves to inspire you even more to live a life you love, through Active Living™!

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