The Power of Pilates — Using Pilates to Strengthen Your Core for Ballet


Cross training can sound intimidating: what about time commitment, additional expenses, or  lack of energy? However, don’t let these factors prevent you from adding a new exercises to your daily routine.

During my dance career, I experienced a plateau period when I didn’t notice advancements in my dancing. This was a frustrating time, and I struggled to find a reason why I wasn’t improving and gaining strength. I noticed my most prevalent weak area was my core, so I searched for exercises that would be most beneficial. Over time, I realized that I needed to incorporate some type of cross-training in addition to my usual ballet classes. I found my niche in Pilates, the ultimate core building series of exercises invented by Joseph Pilates. I realized that I needed a strong core, or powerhouse, to get to the next level.

Pilates is a fantastic cross training option that will improve your dancing and overall well-being. Focusing primarily on core strength, Pilates provides the perfect accompaniment to ballet’s core centered exercises. The moderately paced mat classes offer a low impact yet effective workout that will sculpt the body into a long, lean silhouette.

After completing the beginner phase of training, the workout starts with a challenging abdominal series, requiring immediate movement. Not to be mistaken for the series of prolonged yoga poses, Pilates requires swift execution of with rare, brief rest periods between exercises. The movement continues at a steady pace, including targeted leg, arm, and back work. The assortment of exercises prevents loss of interest and provides a full body workout.

Ultimately, the goal of Pilates as a cross training exercise is to enhance the lean muscle mass achieved in dancing. Also, Pilates leads to increased core strength and flexibility, as well as improved posture. For those who are searching for additional ways to improve their dancing, Pilates is a fantastic option for reaching the next level.

Image via Flickr User Migration Museum Project

In Search of Cross Training Tips + DVDs

PilatesFor the time being, I’ve given up on serious running. Not saying I won’t still hop on the treadmill or the trail every once in awhile, but I’ve given up on the idea of running a half marathon or ten miler (there’s a huge one in Philadelphia–the Broad Street Run). My legs seem to take forever to recover from it.

So now I’m on the hunt for additional ways to cross-train. I plan on using the elliptical machine every once in awhile, but I’m mostly trying to find DVDs and videos that I can do early in the morning (so no longer that 35-40 minutes is preferable).

Currently, I have a copy of an old Pilates for dummies DVD I really enjoy (plus, it’s short at about 30 minutes), a copy of Ballet Beautiful, and some Barre3 DVDS (which I’ve pretty much never touched).

There’s a couple more Pilates DVDs I’ve thought about checking out on Amazon, but for now, I’m looking for recommendations before I purchase anything else I won’t actually end up doing.

What cross-training DVDs or YouTube videos are your favorite? I’ll do a follow up post with what I end up liking! 


photo by:

Cross Training–Arm Strength

“Dancers often lack upper body strength. We spend so much of our time focusing on what the legs and feet are doing that we neglect the upper body,” says Nikol Klein, a former dancer and personal trainer.

I didn’t realize how true this was until I started doing arm workouts last summer. I now have a better understanding of how much arm strength can affect not only port de bras but also posture and overall movement quality.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easy and inexpensive to improve arm strength. Here are some workout videos I’ve found helpful:

Without Weights

Andrea Palen, 5 Minute Arm Workout


Ballet Beautiful, Swan Arms Workout


With Weights (Or water bottles)

Nikol Klein, Ballet Strength Arm Exercises for Port de Bras


Arm-Toning Moves from Ballet Body


Blogalites, Applause Arms Workout


Fitness Blender, Tank Top Arms Workout

My Current at Home Exercise List

Pilates classes help keep European military communities fit - FMWRC - US Army - 100924I’ve been trying to do better at doing my physical therapy-esque exercises to improve my strength. I wanted to share my current list of exercises so that I could get recommendations on what everyone else does for cross-training for ballet.  More than anything, I  was hoping that having it up publicly would help motivate myself to do them everyday!

Here’s my list:

10 First Position Calf Raises
10 Inverted First Position Calf Raises
10 Single Leg Calf Raises (each, 20 Total)
20 Clamshells (each side, 40 Total)
20 Leg Lifts (each side, 30 Total
20 squats
20 ballerina squats
60 second plank
30 second side plank (each side)
40 Bicycle Crunches
20 push-ups
Various Theraband exercises

I’m also looking to incorporate barre3 workouts a few times a week as well since HQ bought me a DVD set awhile back before I got injured.

What exercises do you do for cross-training? Do you have any recommendations for me?