An 8-Move Barre Workout for Your Butt and Thighs

Sit, squat, run, stand, walk—your butt and thighs definitely get a workout during your everyday life, but what about those smaller muscles? You’re likely hitting up the big guns like your glutes,quads, and hamstrings without having to think about it,

but it’s less likely you’re tapping into those smaller muscles like your adductors and abductors (that is, your inner and outer thighs) on a regular basis. These are the muscles that help you rotate your legs in and out, which helps make you more efficient and avoid injury while you walk, run, and more.

Ballerinas are no strangers to using these muscles. Think of all the pretty images of them leaping in the air or pirouetting—their legs are almost always turned out, which means they’re tapping into these more elusive muscles. Dancer Jillian Dreusike, creator of Allongée Technique in Philadelphia, put together this butt and thigh workout for SELF to help you tap into those muscles and give your lower body the 360-degree workout it needs.

These moves may feel a bit strange at first, especially if you’ve never taken a barre class before. “The smaller muscles aren’t less important, but they’re not the first group of muscles that our brain goes to activate during certain motions,” Dreusike says. That means you have to really think about the area you’re working and focus on tapping into each muscle—especially when you’re doing a move that requires tiny movements. After doing this workout once or twice, your muscle memory will kick in and it’ll start to feel more natural, Dreusike says.

Here’s what the workout includes:

  • Allongée Propellers — 10 reps
  • Allongée Swiveling Glute Burners — 10 reps
  • Ballerina Squats — 10 reps
  • Barre Assemblés — 10 reps
  • Assemblé Pulses — 10 reps
  • Thigh Super Burner — 10 reps
  • Four-Part Arabesque Lunge — 10 reps
  • Arabesque Pulses — 10 reps

Do all the moves on your right side first, and then switch to your left. Why? “You’re getting a greater burn when you’re making that side work and work, and then switching to other side to do everything else,” Dreusike explains. Plus, you’re really working both sides because your standing leg is always working to stabilize your body.

Dreusike suggests doing this workout—which she’s modeling for us below—two to three times a week.

If you’re doing this workout at home, you can use a chair in place of a ballet barre to help you balance, as she demonstrates here. “I use the window sill in my apartment,” she says. “The barre isn’t meant to be pulled on, so make sure to use a lightweight chair, which reinforces your balance while you’re doing the movements.” Try to use a chair that comes to hip height.

Allongée Propellers — 10 reps each side

Allongee propellers final

  • Stand at the barre, or at the back of a chair with hands lightly resting on it. Bend your right leg and bring your right knee up to your chest. Lift your left heel, so you’re standing on your left toes.
  • Plié (bend) deeply with your left leg. Keep your left foot in a forced arch, and simultaneously bring your upper body forward, hinging at your hips.
  • Flex your right toes, and lift your right leg (keeping it bent at 90 degrees) behind you to bring your heel toward the ceiling. Keep your back flat.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Continue on the same side for 10 reps. Switch sides.

To make it harder, on your tenth rep, hold your right leg at a 90-degree bend behind you and pulse four times.

You’ll work your glutes, thighs, and core all together with this full-body movement. You tap into your core when you lift your leg, and while you’re holding the upright (and flat-back) posture. When your body is parallel to the ground, and you’re really bending deep into your standing leg, you’re using your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

Be sure to keep the weight of your body toward the top of your standing foot, Dreusike says. “Hold the weight between your big toe and second toe.” And when you’re bending forward, make sure your knee doesn’t push forward beyond your toes.

Allongée Swiveling Glute-Burners — 10 reps each side

Jillian Dreusike demos the swiveling glute burners

  • Stand at the barre, or at the back of a chair, with hands lightly resting on it and feet slightly angled out.
  • Bend your right knee to a passé position, where you bring your right toe to your left knee, and the right knee out to your right side.
  • Keeping your hips stable, plié (or bend), your left leg. Leading from your right knee, swivel it in front of your left leg, then turn the knee back out to passé position. Keep your toes pointed.
  • Repeat on the same side for 10 reps. Switch sides.

To make it harder, on your tenth rep, pulse in your turned out passé in external rotation four times.

In this move, you’ll work your inner and outer thighs as you swivel your legs in and out. When you add in the pulse in passé, you’re also opening your hips and stretching your inner thighs, Dreusike says. You’ll also engage your lower abdominals throughout.

While you’re moving through this, remember to keep your hips and your standing leg stable. “A lot of times when we do something with the femur moving in our hip sockets, our hips move around like we’re dancing like Shakira. So try and keep them nice and square. Make sure that joint isn’t wiggling around.”

Ballerina Squats — 10 reps

Ballerina Squats

  • Start in ballet second position in a deep plié with your toes turned out and hands resting lightly on the back of the barre or chair.
  • Jump your heels together to first position, and do another plié.
  • Jump back out into second position.
  • Do four jumps, ending in second position with each jump.
  • Hold second position and pulse your knees open for four reps.
  • Repeat four jumps and four pulses. That’s one rep.
  • Do 10 reps.

You’ll feel this in your whole lower body, but mostly in your calves, quads, and glutes. You’ll also hit your core again because you are holding and switching positions in the air and on the ground. Try to deepen your plié while your heels are down in first position, Dreusike says, to get a good stretch in your Achilles tendon.

Be careful not to bend so deeply that your toes pass your knees. Also, try to keep your tailbone tucked and pointed down (not out behind you) because that keeps your posture nice and straight, Dreusike says. When your tailbone points down, it’s safer for your spine while you are jumping and pulsing.

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