Strengthening Guide

Today…oh man.  Today is a Wednesday, and I’m taking on a big task.  My STRENGTHENING GUIDE.  If you missed my Flexibility Guide back in November of 2015, make sure to check that out – as this is the second edition of that – but for strengthening.

Basically, this is a resource material that you can use to figure out what I mean by any strengthening exercise I use in any workout, comment, etc, etc.  You can also flip back to it to find out any exercises that you can do to strengthen a certain area if I haven’t done a workout or blog post on it yet.

Basically, this is a super-index of all strengthening exercises for every part of your body. Wish me luck!

Feet

  1. Full pointe.  Sitting on the floor with your legs extended out into a pike position, slowly point one foot then flex it.  Resistance can be added to this exercise with a thera band.
  2. Half pointe.  Keeping your foot in a pointed demi-pointe position, slowly point and flex just the toes, maintaining the position of your ankle.  Resistance can be added to this exercise with a thera band.
  3. Wing and sickle.  With your foot pointed in a neutral position, slowly wing out or sickle your foot, keeping it pointed all the way.  Resistance can be added to this exercise with a thera band.
  4. Push downs.  This exercise can be performed with pointed or flexed toes.  With your knee bent to 90 degrees and your heel and pelvis resting on the ground (sitting upright), slowly push down your foot to the floor, keeping the three points of the foot (outside, inside of the ball of the foot, heel) traveling equally and in alignment (not rolling in or out, sickling, or winging).  Resistance can be added to this exercise with a thera band.
  5. Ankle circles.  Sitting in a pike position, slowly make circles with your feet.  To go en dehors, first flex, then sickle, point, wing, and return to flexed.  For en dedans, first flex, then wing, point, sickle, and return to flexed.
  6. Toe scoops.  With a towel, marbles, or a pencil on the ground, crunch your toes to grab one of those items, and then release it down to the ground.  The goal of this is to work your intrinsic muscles and arch muscles.

Calves

  1. Rises.  Standing in a parallel position, slowly rise up to demi pointe, and then lower it back down.  You can make it more difficult by slightly separating your heels and putting a tennis or lacrosse ball between your ankles.

Hamstrings

  1. Half bridge.  You can do lots of variations of this exercise, but starting lying down on your back with knees bent, slowly lift the hips off the floor, keeping your feet firmly planted into the ground.  Think of squeezing your inner thighs together.  To add more of a challenge, put the arms in first position or add leg movements between rises and lowers.
  2. Single-leg squats.  Starting standing with your working leg in a turned in retiré, slowly plié the supporting leg as you bring the working leg behind you to a turned in attitude derrière.  As you straighten the supporting leg, slowly return to the starting position.

External rotators

  1. Clamshells.  Starting with your knees bent, lying on your side, either with the shins off the floor for more of a challenge or on the floor, slowly open and close your top leg to your maximum rotation.  Add a thera band above the knees for extra resistance.
  2. Side grand rond de jambes.  Lying on your side with both legs straight, parallel to your torso, slowly bring the top leg to the front, side, and then back, maintaining your turnout the whole time.  You can also reverse this action (en dedans) for an even greater turnout challenge.
  3. Table top crunches.  In table top position with one leg extended out backwards, crunch your upper body in the same direction as you bring your leg to attitude side, turned out, and then maintaining the upper body straight, extend your leg across your supporting leg and tap the toe to the ground.

Outer thigh

  1. Side grand battements.  Lying on your side, quickly grand battement alisicon the top leg up to your head, and then lower it back down.  You can also do this with the bottom leg elevated off the floor for an even greater challenge.
  2. Side développés.  Lying on your side, slowly do a big développé up, and then lower back down like you were lowering from a grand battement.  You can also reverse this (big énveloppé).
  3. Side pas de chevals.  Lying on your side, kick the top leg to the front, bring it into retiré, and then extend it backwards into arabesque.  You can also reverse this movement.  Just make sure to keep your upper body and hips square (no rolling or rocking).
  4. Side leg circles.  With or without a thera band wrapped above the knees for extra resistance.  Lying on your side, extend the top leg up to about 30 degrees.  Slowly do circles forwards and backwards or just pulse.

Inner thigh

  1. Inner thigh rises.  Lying on your side, cross your top leg over so the entire bottom of the foot touches the floor.  You can do pulses, circles, or simple rises with the extended leg.
  2. Tabletop rises.  In tabletop position, extend one leg back and out, bending the knee and flexing the foot.  Slowly pulse the top foot up to the ceiling.

Quads

  1. Squats.  With both legs hip-with distance apart, standing, bend both knees to 90 degrees as you lower your pelvis in line with your knees.  Return to the starting position.  Add a thera band above the knees to also target your external rotators.
  2. Elevated pliés.  With your heels lifted off the ground, do pliés and pulses without putting your heels back down.  You can do this in any position, but always focus on lengthening through the quads and hamstrings.

A quick extra note – biking is a great target for the quads as well, but it is technically cross-training, not an exercise.  See my All About Conditioning blog post for more information.

Abdominals

  1. Crunches.  With your legs bent and feet placed flat on the floor, lying supine, slowly crunch your abdominals to elevate your upper back off the floor, and return.  You can do this with your legs in any position to get a different part of your abdominal muscles.
  2. Leg lowers.  Lying supine with both legs straight and extended up to 90 degrees, keep the position of your lower back as you slowly lower the legs down to 10-25 degrees, and return up to the starting position.
  3. Toe taps.  Lying supine with your legs at 90 degrees, knees bent, slowly lower one leg down to the ground, tap your toe, and then return to the starting position.  Never change the position of your knee or release your lower back.
  4. Leg extensors.  Do toe taps, but instead of tapping your toe to the ground and keeping your knee bent, extend the leg out as you lower it.
  5. Pelvic crunches.  Start supine with your legs straight, extended to 90 degrees. Slowly use the strength in your lower abdominals to lift your lower pelvis off, and then return it to the ground.
  6. Bicycles.  Extend one leg out and bend the other knee, never touching the extended leg to the ground.  Twist your upper body so you are twisting towards the bent knee. Switch quickly back and forth.

Back

  1. Back ups.  Lying prone, slowly lift your torso off the floor and return it down.  This can either be done to 90 or 45 degrees.  They target different areas of the back and different muscles needed to control the movement.
  2. Prone leg lifts.  Lying on your belly, slowly lift one leg or both legs off the floor and lower them back down.  This will target the lower back especially.
  3. Superman.  Lift both your torso and legs off the floor, just staying grounded through the pelvis.  You can either hold this and do little pulses with your hands and feet (swimming), or lower and rise.
  4. Table top leg lifts.  In table top position, extend the opposite arm and leg out.  Pulse them both upward together.

Arms and upper back

  1. Resistance port de bras.  Do basic port de bras, both en dehors and en dedans, demi and grande, but holding weights.  This will really target the correct muscles and help you learn how to resist.
  2. Bicep crunches.  With both arms extended downwards, standing, holding weights, slowly bring the forearm up to touch the upper arm, and then lower back down. Maintain the positon of your elbow.
  3. Tricep crunches.  With your legs bent, standing, and back leaning slightly forwrads and holding wieghts, extend the arms out behind you to 45 degrees.  Maintaining the position of the elbow, straighten and bend the arms.  You can also do this as pulses up and back with straight arms.
  4. Arm extensors.  Starting with straight arms extended downards, holding weights and standing.  Bend the elbow as you bring the arm front to 90 degrees, straightening the elbows when you get there.  Return to the starting position.  You can also do this to the side, or you can alternate.
  5. Resistance arm pulls.  Start with both arms extended upwards, 30 degrees apart, holding a resistance band between your hands.  Slowly bend the elbows until the resistance band touches your head, then straigthen.  Make sure you are separating your wrists as you bend the elbows, not letting the band take over.

Thank you so much for using this as both an article and a resource.  I’ll see you on Friday with another blog post and video.

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