As ballet dancers move gracefully across the stage, you will notice besides their incredible poise and grace is the long slim lines of their legs. Ballet requires a lot of leg strength to execute and hold these moves while making the dance look light and effortless. But if you begin ballet and build the strength to hold extensions, will this make your legs bigger?
The leg strength required to execute dance positions will build muscle, and if you had minimal tone before, you would see an increase in size. These muscles are essential, and though the thighs get bigger, this is partly genetic. Some people build muscle very quickly, while others do not.
If you’ve recently picked up ballet, either because you’ve always wanted to dance or because you want to take up a new exercise, perhaps you’re a little concerned about how it will affect your legs. As someone who needs to cross-train in ballet to improve in my sport, I have a slightly different way of looking at it than a dancer. I believe that the strength ballet training gives you is invaluable, regardless of muscle size.
Will Ballet Make My Legs Bigger?
While body fashion trends come and go, some people are still concerned about the size of their legs increasing due to exercise or sport. Although it looks beautiful and graceful, ballet requires immense strength, especially in the lower body. Ballet also encourages length and flexibility, encouraging a more extended, leaner look.
It will tone and lengthen your muscles, improve your posture and coordination, and give you better balance and flexibility. Because so much of ballet’s strength uses your legs and core, you will likely develop the most muscle in these areas, though you also work out the upper body.
Because of the discrepancy in upper and lower body training, after many years, it may look as though ballet dancers have more extensive thigh musculature compared to their smaller upper bodies.
If you have very little muscle tone and are a good responder to physical training, you may find your legs seem to get a little bulkier after some time training. This bulkiness is all muscle and will help you in every aspect of your daily life.
Some people have a genetic predisposition to building muscle fast, and they may notice more of a difference. Others, like me, take a very long time to make significant muscle gains, and it can feel like your legs never get the muscular definition you crave. Sadly, you can’t change your genetics, but you can work with them by training your body the right way.
Is Ballet Good for Toning Legs?
When you begin training in ballet, you will find you have muscles in places you never thought existed! If you’re an adult, picking up ballet or dance training is an excellent workout with many benefits.
While getting stronger is a massive upside of ballet, it’s also an effective cardio workout and can make your legs look leaner if it helps you shed unnecessary fat. Today, many people use modified ballet workouts such as this lean legs workout from Mary Helen Bowers to help them build the physique they crave.
Ballet dancers are often held up as a ‘feminine ideal’ in beauty standards, including their slender, sculpted legs.
The kinds of leg exercises used to help ballet dancers gain the strength they need target the different inner and outer legs muscles and the glutes and core. By building these muscles, legs begin to get a more defined and muscular look.
While it’s true that certain sports favor specific body structures, this does not mean you can’t get a lean dancer’s physique by doing ballet. The kind of physical training we do will influence where our bodies build muscle and therefore increase muscle size and definition. In the case of ballet, the most challenging work is done by the glutes and legs, and they will benefit the most from these toning exercises.
Ballet to Lengthen Leg Muscles
Since ballet focuses on strength, long leg extensions, and flexibility, if you learn correctly, your teacher will emphasize stretching and lengthening the muscles. This training will also help prevent muscles from getting a compact, bulky look.
Incorporating correct stretching after and between classes will help keep your leg muscles long and lean.
The base exercises performed in ballet training all work towards creating that dancer’s long lean line and improving their strength and posture. The sliding and brushing movements used in such exercises as tendus, degages, and grande battements all work towards lengthening the leg muscles.
The typical ballet dancer’s powerful lean legs come from developing the right kind of muscle engagement and positioning so that the muscles are lengthened, stretched, and strengthened.
Ballet Stretches to Elongate Legs
Ballet stretches are an essential part of every ballet dancer’s life, and they do them every day to help keep their bodies in peak condition. While they need all the necessary glute, quad, and hamstring strength for extensions and jumps, they also need to maintain their flexibility and encourage a long, slim line in their legs.
These stretches and exercises also help prevent injury and reduce the risk of damage to their bodies. However, you also need to ensure that you don’t hyperextend or push yourself beyond your capabilities, as this can lead to long-term injury.
It’s best practice to stretch after your classes, deeply and slowly, without forcing yourself, to lengthen your muscles gently.
Many dancers use pilates as cross-training to help them build these lean muscles.
Incorporate a gentle daily ballet stretch routine to maintain flexibility and create lean legs and body.
Any exercise that focuses primarily on the legs and which you do often and regularly will increase the muscle size. In this case, ballet focuses on building muscle strength in the core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings, and some people may find that this makes their legs appear bigger.
Building these muscles will help tone your legs, and by doing the ballet exercises correctly, you will also lengthen the muscles which creates a leaner aesthetic.