Why Ballet is The Best Exercise for You
So many people feel intimidated about trying real ballet despite its wonderful fitness benefits. Here’s what you need to know to let your inner-ballerina shine!
Truth: You don’t have to be thin, leggy, flexible, or coordinated to do ballet.
We’ve all seen images of petite dancers performing athletic feats of startling beauty and skill. And who can forget the perfectionism and cut-throat competitiveness that tormented Natalie Portman in Black Swan? It’s no wonder many people feel intimidated about trying pliés! But the simple truth is that ballet offers AMAZING fitness benefits that will put you in the best shape of your life no matter your age, body type, or experience. The technique is designed to develop strength, tone, flexibility, balance, and grace even if you don’t start out with any!
That unmistakably elegant ballet physique–shapely legs, trim waist, toned back and arms–comes from a formula of ballet barre, stretching, and freestanding exercises that emphasize beautiful posture and correct form in all your movements. Whether you’re 20 or 70, ballet does a body good!
Myth: Barre workouts are ballet.
Truth: The only thing barre workouts and real ballet have in common is the barre itself.
Barre and ballet are two very different practices. In short, barre workouts are about creating tone through contraction; ballet is about developing strength and control through extension. Whereas barre classes use small (non-balletic) movement repetitions to sculpt specific areas of the body, ballet is an entire technique that teaches how to stabilize and control the body through fluid, full-range motion. The core and back engage while extending, bending, and lifting the arms and legs. Because posture and form are central to ballet technique, each exercise engages the entire body.
Other than the barre, there are no props in a ballet class. Instead, gravity and movement texture provide resistance. Whereas barre classes use the barre as one of several props (balls, mats, straps, etc.) for various exercises, ballet employs the barre as an assist for balance and stability during standing exercises before proceeding to freestanding movements. The goal is to develop strength, control, flexibility, and balance through movements both at and then away from the barre.
The results of these two practices are different as well. At first a barre class may feel more “intense” in terms of muscle fatigue and next-day soreness, but that doesn’t mean that ballet is any less of a workout! Ballet’s emphasis on movement with proper alignment hones beautiful body mechanics. Translation: You carry yourself with greater ease and poise as you get longer, leaner, and stronger. Further translation: your friends wonder what you’re doing that makes you look so fit and fabulous! Ballet not only shapes and tones your body, but it also transforms the way you move by instilling good postural habits that make you look taller, leaner, and more confident!
Myth: I’ll get more fitness out of bootcamp style workouts.
Truth: The more you do ballet, the more ballet “does” you!
Don’t let the stylistic differences between ballet and bootcamp fool you. While aggressive, high-intensity workouts have their place, such go-for-it tactics sometimes neglect the details of good form which can result in injury. Ballet’s emphasis on “placement” (form) means the technique actually gets more intense over time. The first class may leave you wondering if you worked enough, while the third class will have your core, calves, and inner-thighs announcing in no uncertain terms that they feel the burn! Ballet becomes more of a workout over time as you become more familiar and correct in your technique.
Although crunches and jumping jacks at first seem to produce more sweat, ballet dancers are actually among the strongest and most versatile athletes in the world. This is because ballet is about much more than strength. It’s about control. Even NFL players do ballet to help elevate their game! Read this: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/22954120/steve-mclendon-ballet-is-harder-than-anything-else-i-do
If all you want is brawn, ballet won’t get you there. But if you want length, strength, flexibility, balance, control, posture, and coordination, then ballet is the workout for you! And as if a graceful physique were not enough, doing ballet will protect your body from injury and enhance all your activities–even burpees!
So go ahead and get your pliés on! Ballet is the original barre workout that will create the most elegant physique possible. And unlike hundreds of years ago when only privileged royals got to experience ballet, this premier practice is more accessible than ever to help you elevate your exercise. Just find your best ballet teacher and start enjoying great results!
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