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A ballet-inspired exercise, plies can be done indoors or outdoors.
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One of the classic ballet moves, plies are one of the first steps you learn in ballet class. They are excellent for toning your thigh and butt muscles and strengthening your calf muscles. Plies also target your inner thigh muscles, a common problem area. Plie variations not only add interest to an exercise routine, but different positions target different muscles. (Ref 3)
The basic plie works your glutes, quadriceps and inner thigh muscles. This exercise also stretches the backs of your legs. Stand with your legs together -- heels and knees touching -- and your feet pointed outward, forming a 90-degree angle between your feet. Tilt your pelvis forward to keep your back straight, and slowly lower your body, bending at the knees. Keep your heels touching and on the ground, sinking as far as you can without letting your knees go past your toes. Slowly rise back up to your starting position and repeat 10 to 12 times for one to three sets.
Plie with Heel Lift
Similar to the first exercise, this plie variation works your butt, thigh and inner thigh muscles, but it also provides an extra workout for your calf muscles. Starting in the standard plie position, lower your body while keeping your back straight. This time, as you lower yourself, lift your heels off the ground so you are standing on the balls of your feet. You may need to hold onto a ballet barre or the back of a chair for balance. Try to sink until your thighs are parallel with the floor, but do not let your knees extend past your toes. If you feel unsteady sinking this low, build up muscle strength before trying to get your thighs parallel to the ground. Slowly rise back to standing, keeping your heels raised as you do so. Repeat 10 to 12 times for one to three sets.
As the name implies, this plie variation has your legs further apart than in the basic plie. In this exercise, start with your heels and knees touching and your feet making a 90-degree angle. Take a large step out to the side, so your feet are more than hip-width apart, creating a large inverted вЂњVвЂќ shape with your legs. Tuck in your pelvis and lower yourself toward the floor, keeping your torso straight as your bend your knees. Try to get your thighs parallel to the floor, and hold the plie for five seconds before slowly rising back up. Repeat 10 to 12 times for as many sets as you can. To increase the difficulty of this exercise, you can lift your heels.
Increasing the Challenge
Once you have become adept at your plie exercises, incorporate hand weights to increase the difficulty of the exercise. Hold light- to medium-weight dumbbells in each hand as you do the plies, increasing overall resistance in the exercises. You also can make the exercise more challenging by including a side lift with your plie. As you rise up from a basic plie, straighten your right leg and extend it out to the side, placing your full weight on your left leg. Sink back down into the plie on your left leg, and bring your right leg back into the bent plie position. As you rise up again, extend your left leg out to the side. Repeat 10 times for one to three sets.