5 Little Known Facts You Need To Know to get those Dancer Legs!

barre-class face down

Barre Classes are all the rage these days. Every yoga studio and gym is advertising these dance inspired classes these days. So how do you know which one to try? The truth is, it's all in the set-up. You have to position the body (in particular your footwork) in a certain way in order to achieve long, lean and toned dancer like legs. And hey, while you're at it, don't forget about your core muscles and toning the upper body as well.  

Secret number 1: In order to work your legs, you have to engage your core.


It's true, as we teach at the studio in our Pilates classes, the engagement of the transversus abdominus is key to ANY movement we do. The transversus is a deep abdominal muscle that wraps around your waist like a belt, and attaches at the back of the sacrum. This muscle must be fired or drawn in to fire deep pelvic floor muscles. You can practice this yourself: sit up tall in a chair or on the floor so you are right on top of your tailbone and sit-bones. (don't slouch - no rounding in the lower back - so if you cannot sit up tall on the floor, use the chair). Place your hands toward your navel slanted downward toward the pubic bone. Draw breath into your nose on a big inhale and let your belly expand into your palms. Now initiate an exhale by firing the muscle about 2 inches below your navel. Start to draw it in toward your spine and also upward. You should feel your belly draw in away from your hands.

Now thinking about this is critical - you should do this exercise with every breath for every repetition of every exercise you are doing. That means Pilates, yoga, barre or lifting weights. Are you doing this already???

Secret number 2: To lift your glute muscles, you have to position the body where you are working against gravity.

Yes, you can tone and shape the gluteus muscles somewhat by exercises where you are lying on your side or even standing, but if you want to get a good lift in the medial glute the body should be positioned during some exercises with the core of the body facing downward. Here you are in the perfect position to lift your leg up against gravity AND you can still work it in any and all angles and planes to achieve great tonation. These types of exercises need to be included in your class work or training during each session. (This is for 2-3 sessions per week)

Secret number 3: Repetitions!

It's a common occurrence in my studio for my clients to look at me during class and ask "How many more?" Ha ha ha. I just smile and say when I think you have fatigued the muscles or muscle group. I am a fan of high repetition and low resistance. With much of the barre work, you don't even add extra resistance, it's using your own body weight against gravity that provides what you need. This means at least 20 - 25 repetitions and more than one set.


Secret number 4: Work it Stretch it. 

After all those reps now you must stretch. Stretch the muscle group you just worked. This means incorporating yoga poses, barre stretches or Pilates/mat based stretching. We even use the Reformers in some classes in our studio to use the straps and springs for stretching the legs. In barre class we are elevated onto the ball of the foot often which is great for toning the calf muscles but then they should be stretched - a down dog yoga pose is a great way to stretch the calves and the hamstrings all at once. Attempt to draw the heels to the floor, even working toward flat feet on the mat.

Secret number 5: Regularity and Consistency

Yes we are all busy, but if you want to achieve toned muscles, especially those harder to target hips, glutes and thighs, you need to make these kinds of exercises a regular part of your routine. And a BONUS SECRET - guess what - you are not done here. Cardiovascular exercise is also critical for burning calories so that you can see those muscles you are working so hard on. I tell my clients to do some sort of cardio everyday. This means walking (briskly), cleaning with ambition, working outside, chasing your kids or grandkids. If you work at a desk job, then you have extra work to do! Try to move an hour a day.

And what kind of Dietitian would I be if I did not mention food? This is so important. You don't have to work nearly as hard if you eat clean. It makes sense, the fuel you put into your body helps it perform. So if you put in foods that really don't count as fuel, like Doritos or pretzels or cookies, too much of high fat foods like cheese, fried items.....you will have to BURN all of that off because your body just can't use it. At least not all of it. So, would you rather eat a delicious salmon avocado asparagus salad and do your daily hour of workouts or have white flour pizza with extra cheese and need to walk an additional 3 miles per piece of pizza you eat?

So how to start? The studio offers a variety of Core/Barre/Cardio classes to help you achieve all of these elements to your workout. We are currently offering a 5 week package of unlimited classes per week for $175. This includes Core Barre, Cardio Core, Tone (Pilates Mat Class). Times are currently as follows:

Monday: 5:45pm Core Barre

Wednesday: 6pm Cardio Core

Thursday: 4:30pm Tone

Friday: 5:30am Cardio Core

Saturday: 7:30am Tone

Interested in signing up? Email me: Jodi@purelypilatesia.com or view our live schedule!

What do you think? Do you do any of these types of classes? I'd love to hear your thoughts!