If you want a ballerina's body, the facts can be discouraging. A professional ballerina must be between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-8, slender and limber, have a perfect limb-to-torso ratio, a long neck, a small head and perfectly arched feet with good point. While there's not a lot you can do about how your skeleton is constructed, how tall or short you are, or how you're built, you can achieve a more dancer-like shape.
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Be sure that you are healthy enough to engage in physical activity.
Nourish your body. To get the lean look ballerinas have, you must develop muscle mass while reducing body fat. This cannot happen if you do not provide your body with adequate nutrients. Also, if you do not get enough essential vitamins and minerals, your connective tissues will be susceptible to injury, which will keep you from training. If you are reducing calories, you must adhere to a nutritionally sound diet appropriate for your current physical condition. Extreme diets that severely limit calories or deprive you of protein will ultimately hurt your ballerina look.
Build your strength. You may know that ballerinas have incredibly strong legs, but modern-day ballerinas have good upper-body strength, too. Also, a high ratio of muscle to other body tissues is perhaps the most important part of the lean look you need for a ballerina body. However, if you tend to develop bulky muscles, approach weightlifting with caution. Instead, do exercises that use the weight of your own body for resistance. For instance, a ballerina can do push-ups, and a lot of them. If you are pursuing ballet as a career, consult your instructors about the best strength exercises for your aesthetic and performance goals.
Strengthen your core and develop good posture. The graceful way a ballerina carries herself is due to the stability of her core muscles--abdominal muscles, back and side muscles. Ballerina posture is different from military posture. A ballerina keeps her spine as straight as possible, her hips tucked under, and her shoulders down and back, but not pulled so far back that she looks like a soldier. Exercises that strengthen your core will help you achieve good posture.
Train your body with exercises that mimic ballet movements. For instance, developing your extension (ability to raise a straight leg up in front of your body) and a good arabesque posture will cause you to move more like a ballerina, even when you're not thinking about it.
Improve your balance. Balance is a neurological phenomenon. Balance exercises, such as those that require you to perform certain simple movements with your eyes closed, are not necessarily physically taxing, but can be surprisingly difficult at first. Balance exercises done regularly will train your brain and nervous system to keep your body physically centred during all your activities, and you'll move more gracefully without any conscious effort.
Stretch your muscles. Improving and maintaining flexibility is essential to preventing injury. And like improving your balance, being more limber will cause you to naturally move with more grace.
Get plenty of cardiovascular exercise. Beginning ballet classes often are filled with hopeful dancers who struggle to get lean enough to have the ballerina look. Ballet classes are physically demanding, but they won't give you a very good cardiovascular workout. Incorporate running, swimming, aerobic classes, or some other cardiovascular exercise into your routine at least three times a week. If you're trying to be a dancer, choose an activity that will promote greater range of movement rather than inhibit flexibility.
Tips and warnings
- Ignore discouraging comments about your failure to meet physical standards for ballet. The standards are constantly changing. Hard work, skill and talent have allowed many brilliant dancers, who had been told their physical limitations were hopeless, to excel in professional dance.
- Check with your doctor to be sure you do not have any health problems that will be complicated by strenuous activity. If you are planning diet changes, discuss your nutritional needs with your doctor.
- Don't starve yourself. Real ballerinas are not malnourished. Ballerinas are careful about what they eat, but they make sure their bodies get all the nutrients and calories they need, especially carbohydrates for energy and protein to build and repair those muscles that get so much use.
- Do not become competitive about flexibility. Not everyone can be ultra limber, and pushing too far beyond your limits can do irreversible damage to your muscles and connective tissues. Choose or design a stretching routine that is right for your body.
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