Known for their beauty and grace, ballerina’s have a distinctive body-type that comes from years of specific training.
Whether you want to become a ballerina yourself or you simply admire the body, it IS possible to approximate the look of these incredible dancers.
But a word of warning: It’s going to be hard work!
So how can you get a body like a ballerina?
To get the long, lean, and toned body of a ballerina, your best bet is to spend a lot of time on strength and flexibility. Yoga and Pilates are perfect for both, but you can also supplement with some high-rep strength training in the gym.
You’ll also need to perform lots of cardio, specifically dancing! It’ll help you lean down and develop grace and fluidity to go with the toned physique.
I asked a few fitness instructors and dance instructors for their best tips on how to get a ballerina’s physique, and here’s what they said.
What Are the Hallmarks of the Ballerina Physique?
There are many words that come to mind when you think of a ballerina: light, elegant, graceful, dainty.
But strong? Toned? Muscular?
Those last three rarely spring to the front of your thoughts — but they’re true, too.
Ballerinas may not do heavy weight training, but they have extremely powerful bodies capable of incredible grace and movement.
As Tori Hall, a Pilates instructor and former ballerina dancer lays out:
“Dancers all have amazing legs because they use them in all planes of motion. Most of our daily activities happen in the sagittal plane, such as walking.”
There’s lots of muscle definition there via strength, endurance and agility — it’s just not always obvious because it’s hidden under tights and the muscles are elongated and appear leaner.
But it’s not all about the legs, as dancing is really a full-body workout that tones you up and improves your posture and overall health.
Ballerinas and other professional dancers also carry excellent strength and muscle tone in their upper body and core.
Donna Flagg, a classically trained ballerina and teacher, creator and founder of the Lastics Stretch Technique, refers to the dance as “constant cardio”.
The end result is:
- A lean but strong body
- Superior stretching ability
- High endurance
- Fantastic heart health
- Great posture and fluid movements
- Leg strength and muscle definition
Sound good? Of course it does!
You may not be able to train full-time with the help of a professional coach, but if you covet the long and lean ballerina’s physique, here are a few tips to guide your training.
8 Training Tips for a Ballerina Body
There’s a lot more to the ballerina body than just being dainty.
You need to focus on building and elongating your muscles, increasing stamina and strength, and you’ll have to work on your posture, too.
Let’s take a look at how you can get it done.
#1. Eat Well to Fuel Your Body
Donna Flags bluntly states, “We (ballerinas) tend to obsess about food.”
While there are ways this can and does go overboard, eating a healthy and balanced diet is still incredibly important.
You want to take in a diet rich in nutrients, including the nutrients that social media fitness gurus tell you are “bad”.
There are no bad nutrients, only bad ways to get them.
Instead of eating empty carbs like bagels and pastries, eat complex carbs like beans and whole wheat bread — they’ll be better fuel for your workouts.
Fats? Go for the healthy ones via fatty fish, not processed fats like those found in fried foods.
It’d also be a good idea to cut out liquid calories like alcohol, fruit juice and carbonated beverages.
Don’t limit yourself too much when it comes to what you can and can’t eat; you can still enjoy your favorite treats in moderation.
Yes, ballerinas tend to be lean and extremely toned — so if that’s the look you want, you may need to eat in a caloric deficit to lose some fat.
But with the prevalence of eating disorders related to dancing, you might want to consider working with a professional dietician or nutritionist to be as safe as possible.
The most important thing is fueling your body so you can crush your gym and dance workouts.
#2. Take a Dance Class
Not everyone wanting a ballerina body is actually a ballerina.
Some of you never plan to become one, either — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a dance class every once in a while, or ideally once a week.
Taking a dance class is a fantastic way to burn calories, develop the range of motion and agility of a dancer, and build insane stamina.
Dancing helps you develop better posture, too.
There are plenty of adult beginner ballet classes that will generally be your best option here, but you can take other forms of dance too.
Make sure your dancing is similar enough to ballet to work the same muscles and give you the same benefits.
For example, modern dance is an okay alternative based on the flowing movements in it, but hip-hop is too different from ballet to suffice.
#3. Don’t Overlook Home Workouts
One of the best things about trying to covet a ballerina body is that the workout isn’t confined to dance glasses or even a gym.
There are some exercises you can do at home, too.
Here’s what Tori Hall recommends:
“Lateral lunges and plie squats with the feet turned out.
“Any movements to the side or in a slightly turned out position will help develop the inner thighs and outside of the glutes.”
These are easy to fit into your schedule. You can do them in one long session of intense reps, or you can do them on and off throughout the day.
Do the dishes, then do some pile squats.
Send an email, do a few lateral lunges.
You’re always working your way towards that ballerina body whether you’re training intensely or casually working those muscles.
#4. Incorporate Plenty of Gym Workouts
The ballet body isn’t built only in the dance studio.
While the home workouts above work well, the gym can help speed things along and improve your results.
Going to the gym also helps if you need structure to be motivated to work out.
At the gym you can continue doing those lateral lunges and pile squats, and there may be ankle or hand weights there that you can use, too, to increase the difficulty of those movements.
Here’s what Tori Hall has to say:
“Professional dancers are dancing for 6-7 hours a day and they rarely do heavy weight training in order to maintain their lithe appearance.
“However if you’re a regular person with only an hour to get in and out of the gym I recommend adding some weight to speed up the process for muscle development. Ankle weights can also be a good option.”
Alongside those movements with the ankle weights you may want to consider doing some very light leg work on some machines; work the thighs, calves, and glutes.
You can also consider lifting some light dumbbells to give you more arm strength — high reps of dumbbell curls and lateral raises work well for endurance, range of motion and toning.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid building up bulging muscles.
Focus on muscular endurance and see how long you can last with any exercise — go to exhaustion and try and increase your reps and sets without adding more weight or resistance.
#5. Do Lots of Cardio
Cardio is a must for the ballerina physique.
It helps you increase your stamina, shed excess weight, and get leaner without adding bulky muscles.
Donna Flagg says ballet is “whole body weight work all the time, combined with constant cardio. So the muscles are working and calories are burning at the same time.”
Pick your favorite cardio option, whether it’s:
- The elliptical
- The StairMaster
- Spin class
- Or something else!
You can even mix and match all different kinds of cardio for exceptional results.
#6. Practice Pilates
Tori Hall says “I may be a little biased but I highly recommend Pilates as well!
“Professional ballet dancers have a certain air about them created by amazing posture. A great Pilates instructor will help you find your perfect posture and strengthen your posterior chain.”
Many gyms offer Pilates classes along with your membership, or you can join up at a Pilates studio like Club Pilates.
(See more about Pilates studios vs gym Pilates.)
If you’d rather go it alone, YouTube is packed with follow-along Pilates lessons and sessions.
Engaging in Pilates will help with your range of motion.
It helps you stretch and elongate your muscles, but more importantly, it adds strength endurance to your muscle tone without excess bulk.
It can help you achieve a healthy and graceful posture, too. You’ll end up looking like a dancer and holding yourself like one.
A few sessions a week should be plenty to help you on your way to the physique, with a minimum of one weekly session if you’re struggling to find the time.
Pairing Pilates with some of the other classes recommended in these tips would be ideal if you’re only doing one Pilates session per week.
(Learn more about the results you can see from Pilates in one month or more.)
#7. Dive Into Yoga
While Pilates can help with flexibility and strength, it doesn’t focus on fluidity.
So, alongside Pilates you should consider taking yoga classes.
One Pilates class and one yoga class per week is a good starting point — but if you’re only going to do one of the activities, then 2 – 3 sessions of your chosen workout is ideal.
During your yoga sessions, you should focus on smooth transitions between poses, or “flow.”
This will help you move like a ballerina, graceful and smooth.
Yoga is also great for building endurance as you learn to hold poses and stretches for longer and longer.
As your muscles elongate with your yoga poses, they also strengthen.
If classes aren’t for you then consider following along with an instructor on YouTube, like Yoga With Adriene who produces 30-day runs of daily yoga sessions.
#8. Adopt a Stretching Regimen
Donna Flagg says, “Dancers stretch… a lot!”
So while you’re busy toning your muscles and working on your dancing endurance, don’t forget stretching and recovery.
It’s a crucial component of your flexibility training, even if you’re doing regular yoga and Pilates, too.
You can get even more out of your stretches by taking a lastics stretch class.
It was created by a dancer, for dancers, so it’s perfectly designed for people who want to obtain a ballerina’s body.
Lastics stretching works to lengthen your muscles so you can build strength without building bulk, and helps you learn to bend and stretch “like a rubber band.”
Learn more about the amazing results you can get from stretching regularly.
The keys to a ballerina physique, again:
- A heavy emphasis on flexibility and fluidity
- Regular yoga and/or Pilates
- High-rep strength work in the gym
- Tons of dancing and/or other cardio
To really look like a ballerina, you’ll have to get quite lean and lose some fat — it’s best and safest to work with a professional dietician to find a plan that works for you.
But otherwise, you’ll need to eat plenty of nutritious foods to fuel your intense workouts!
After all of this training, you’ll gain a new appreciation for just how hard ballet dancers work.
For more, check out:
- How to get a sprinter’s body
- How to get a distance runner’s body
- How to get a swimmer’s body
- How to get a rower’s body
- How to get a soccer body
Hope this helps!