Ballet is renown for posture, strength, fluidity, flexibility and grace. But most of us will notice the beautiful tone and shape in the muscles and limbs of a dancer. Their muscles are firm, long and lean. Coupled with their carriage and fluidity  it makes an elegant and attractive physique.

So look at how we can use ballet barre exercises and make them work for you too!

Ballet was my first love, I was educated at Elmhurst Ballet School and I’m very aware how much practice and dedication it requires to be good at it. So my ballet barre exercises are for those who like the thought of ballet and fancy the benefits but haven’t practised in years or ever been to a ballet class.  In this short ballet workout we’ll emphasise ballet barre exercises that are particular to creating a nicely shaped bum and elegant legs.


It’s the very subtle angles and execution of each ballet move that creates and develops this look. For instance, all those rear leg extensions and holds, make the glutes (butt muscles) work especially well. You only need to see a ballet dancer’s backside to appreciate how well ballet training shapes and tones.

So to get the most out of what I’ve put together here for barre exercises, try your best to apply the tips listed. Quite quickly the  techniques will become natural and you’ll feel how the little rotations and bends work the muscles precisely.

Find a barre! Anything around waist height that is stable is perfect, the back of a chair, a kitchen top or the back of a sofa .


– Turn out the legs from the hips and rotate the thigh outwards.
– Keep the knees over the toes all the time.
– When legs are straight, ‘pull up’ and tighten the muscles – buttocks included! Feel the tension and support it brings.
– Keep the shoulders back and the back long. Put some pride into your poise and stand tall!

What to wear – Find something comfortable and stretchy. For your feet, bare feet, light weight trainers or ballet shoes if you have any, even those grippy socks can work. Ballet shoes are actually inexpensive (much less than trainers) and available from all dance shops.

So let’s hit the barre! Barre exercises will work muscles you’d forgotten about!

1. Plies in 2nd:

With one hand on the barre and your feet wide, bend or ‘plie’ with the knees going out over the toes. Slowly up and down 8 times. Allow the glutes to stretch open and as you straighten up, lift the backside muscle up and together.


2. Wide Plies and Rises:

In the same position, with one hand on the ballet barre, plie low while extending the lower buttock muscles and rise the heels to exaggerate the action. Keep the knees pressed outwards. Slowly straighten and  tighten the legs. Repeat this wide diamonds 8 times. This works inner thigh, mid thigh and backside.


3. ‘Degage and Plie’ behind:

Facing the barre, slide out one leg behind keeping good friction with the floor and lifting and contracting the buttocks upwards. Return it to the 1st position in a small bend or plie. Repeat 8 times each side. This works the upper backside and upper outer thigh.


4. ‘Developes’:

With one hand on the barre, draw up one  leg against the inside of the other. Lift and extend the leg all you can. Hold a second. Take 3 to the front and 3 to the side. Switch sides.


This works the upper thigh strength and shape.

5. ‘Degage and Attitude lifts’.

Facing the ballet barre, take the leg to the side, sweep it up and behind into a bend leg raise. Softly bend the supporting leg to help the action. Hold a second then replace back to 1st, with both legs straight, before sweeping up again. Pay attention to make it smooth and feel the buttock muscles recruiting with every lift. Allow the upper body to tilt forward so it doesn’t work the lower back, focus on the backside. 8 each side.


This works the central upper part of the backside.

6. ‘Penches’ or tilts. Turn diagonally to the barre, with feet together, extend the leg behind and lift it, bend the supporting leg slightly and tilt forwards. Go slow for maximum effect, come back upright. The action is like a water pump, keep the weight on the front of the foot. The front arm can touch down slightly, the head and shoulders follow. This isn’t about the height of the back leg but about working the muscles.


This works the back of the leg and lower part of the backside.

These ballet barre exercises really hit the spot. If you follow them properly and persist it won’t be long before you feel and see the benefits!

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