How to get a male ballet dancer body

Weight Training for Male Ballet Dancers

Javelin Throw Exercises

Weight Training for Male Cheerleaders

by Jim Thomas

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Ballet dancers are superb athletes. In addition to general physical fitness, they must have incredible flexibility, high levels of endurance and exceptional strength. Male ballet dancer are called upon to lift their female partners many times in a performance, which requires a high degree of strength, stamina and coordination. As the Dance Teacher website explains, "Strength training is essential for building a strong foundation for dancing, especially for partner work." Weight training allows a male dancer to not only lift his partner overhead, but to do so with grace and precision.

Weight Training Methods

Weight training serves a number of purposes for ballet dancers. As explains, weight training can reduce the risk of injury, boost your stamina and produce leaner muscle. There are a number of ways to weight train, which might be more accurately called strength or resistance training, since you aren't limited to the traditional free weights or weight machines. You also can use your own body weight for strength training -- abdominal crunches are a good example -- or use resistance bands.

Lower Body

A ballet dancer moves with his whole body, and he lifts by using much more than his arms. So a male dancer must weight train in ways that strengthen his core and lower body as well as his upper body. Weight training exercises that target the large muscles of the legs include lunges and squats using weights. For the thighs and the hips, Dance Teacher recommends a dumbbell split-squat. Assume a lunge position with dumbbells at your side with a 10-inch platform, such as a step, behind you. Put your back foot on the platform. Lower straight down into a deeper lunge position and let your back leg bend until it just touches the ground. Then straighten your front leg and imagine being lifted "like a puppet on a string. "

Upper Body

Many athletes train by using exercises that mimic the actions they use in a competition or a performance, and ballet dancers are no exception. An excellent exercise for the arms and back muscles, as well as one that mimics the way a dancer lifts his partner overhead, is the single arm twisting push-press. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand at shoulder level with your elbow tightly at your side. Stand with your left foot 12 inches in front of your right. Dip down while rotating about 45 degrees to the right. Then drive from the hip and explode upward while reversing the rotation to the left. This launches the right hand skyward. Press the dumbbell up until your arm is straight over your head. Lower it slowly to your shoulder. A highly trained male ballet dancer might do four to seven reps with each arm and complete three to five sets.


Proper lifting technique requires strong and stable shoulder muscles. External rotation, to strengthen the muscles at the back of the shoulder joint, and internal rotation, to strengthen the muscles in the front, can be done with elastic bands. For external rotation, hold an elastic band tightly in both hands with your elbows tight at the waist, then pull on both sides of the band. For internal rotation, fix the band to a support structure and hold it with one hand. Pull inward against the resistance band with your elbow remaining tucked at your waist.


  • Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier

Writer Bio

Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.

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Exercises Male Ballet Dancers Do to Stay Strong and Agile All Year Round

Flexibility training is a big part of some ballet dancers' routines.

Image Credit: Vitalii Petrushenko/iStock/GettyImages

Like any style of dance, ballet is beautiful for so many reasons — it's a marriage of athleticism and art all in one performance.

Even the dancers themselves look like a work of art. And although dancers' movements appear effortless to the audience, ballet is no joke. Considering expert dancers commit to countless hours to training each week, it's no surprise their bodies often reflect this effort.

Interested in learning more about how to build a male ballet dancer physique? We chatted with a dancer and professional ballet instructor to get some insight.

A Note on Language

Here at, we carefully consider language surrounding sex and gender. We typically avoid language that implies a sex or gender binary in favor of neutral language, such as "assigned female at birth" (AFAB) and "assigned male at birth" (AMAB). We use "gender" when referring to a person's social identity; we use "sex" when referring to biological characteristics.

However, much of the professional dance industry still categorizes people as men or women, so we're using those terms throughout this article. But anyone can do the following exercises to build strength and improve their ballet skills.

More research is needed to more fully understand how biological differences may affect training in people taking hormones as part of gender-affirming care.

Male Ballet Dancer's Training Routine

Although a professional male ballet dancer's physique may seem like the result of hours in the gym, it's probably less than you might imagine, according to Michael Cornell, founder and CEO of the Align Ballet Method. For the most part, dancers (regardless of their gender) develop their strength from hours of precise dance practice, with about an hour or two of strength training per week.

With that said, there are some strength focuses that are crucial for proper (and safe) dancing, Cornell says. Shoulder and core stability are the biggest part of a dancer's training. These muscles are important in all ballet dancing, especially when lifts come in. Plus, developing strength in the core and shoulders helps keep dancers safe from injury.

Strength Exercises

These are a few shoulder-and-core-focused exercises Cornell emphasizes for all ballet dancers (or anyone who wants to try a dancer's strength regimen).

1. Dumbbell Overhead Press

Skill Level Beginner

Body Part Shoulders

  1. Sit on a bench with your feet rooted in the ground, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Hold the weights at shoulder height, parallel to the ground, elbows bent in a 90-degree angle.
  3. On an exhale, press both dumbbells up straight over your shoulders.
  4. Lower the weights back to the starting position with control.

A dumbbell shoulder press is more advantageous for a ballet dancer compared to a barbell press, Cornell says. That's because dumbbells are more unstable and can help a dancer grow stronger when lifting another ballerina.

2. Push-Up

Skill Level Beginner

Body Part Abs, Chest and Shoulders

  1. Come into a high plank.Your body should make a straight line from head to hips to heels, and your hands should be directly under your shoulders or slightly wider apart.
  2. From the high plank position (see above for more details), bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body and lower your body to the floor.
  3. Press into your palms and push the floor away from you to come back up to a high plank, still keeping your body in one straight line.

If a standard push-up feels too challenging, you can modify by dropping to your knees. This move builds shoulder stability and chest strength, both of which are necessary when it comes to executing partner lifts, Cornell says.

3. High Plank

Skill Level All Levels

Body Part Abs and Shoulders

  1. Lie face down on your belly with your palms on the floor underneath your shoulders and your feet flexed with the bottoms of your toes on the floor.
  2. Take a deep breath and press through your palms to lift yourself up into the top of a push-up position. Your body should make a straight line from your heels through your hips to the top of your head.
  3. Draw your navel toward your spine and squeeze your glutes.
  4. Look at the floor directly below your head to keep your neck in a neutral position, and breathe normally.
  5. Hold for at least 10 seconds and lower yourself back to the floor.

Planks help build your core stability, which helps protect a dancer's spine from injury, according to Cornell. "Dancers' lower vertebrae take a great deal of abuse landing jumps and lifting of dance partners. A strong core will reduce the risk of serious injury," he says.

4. Dumbbell Wood Chop

Skill Level Beginner

Body Part Abs and Shoulders

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding a dumbbell with one end in each hand.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and hinge your hips back into a semi-squat as you lower the weight toward your right shin.
  3. As you stand back up, use your core to swing the weight up over your head and to the left.
  4. Return to the semi-squat position with the weight to your right side. That's 1 rep.

Cardio Training

For the most part, dancers get their cardio exercise from ballet practice. Although a certain solo may last only a minute or two, the movements are challenging and definitely spike a dancer's heart rate.

"The more appendages involved in a movement, the faster we elevate the heart rate and stress its performance," Cornell says. "When we dance ballet across the floor, we are gliding the entire body-weight from one end of the studio to the other, immediately elevating the heart rate."

Flexibility Work and Recovery

Flexibility is a big part of dance, especially ballet. But genetics play a pretty big role in a dancer's natural flexibility — while some dancers don't need to spend too much time with their flexibility, others spend hours each week stretching.

More than anything else, professional dancers need to spend a lot of time recovering, according to Cornell. Most experts spend hours in the studio each week, so injury prevention is a priority. Foam rolling and rest are two non-negotiables for many professional dancers.

"I would advise that anyone who trains heavily or intensely must factor in recovery work in their process," he says. "[Foam] rolling and resting cannot be overly emphasized."

There are no ideal parameters. Ballerina about her profession and beauty standards

Light, airy and beautiful - usually the spectators describe ballerina performances with such words. At the same time, few people know that dozens of hours of work in the rehearsal room, as well as pain, blood, sweat and tears, stand behind the seeming ease.

Prima ballerina of the Musical Theater Yekaterina Zhigalova, on the eve of her debut in the ballet A Thousand and One Nights (12+), told Omsk Here about the benefits of choreography, injuries and standards of ballet beauty.

- Where to study to become a ballerina?

- You can start with children's ballet studios. Such, for example, is located in the Omsk Musical Theatre, girls are accepted there from the age of 6. Having basic skills at the age of 10, you can enter ballet schools, where they study until the age of 17-18. There, students live in special hostels, combining school lessons with ballet classes. Many strive to get a higher education, so after college they enter the institutes of culture and the conservatory, the academies in Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, St. Petersburg, Moscow and other cities, where they receive a diploma as a teacher-tutor or choreographer-director.

- How is the nutrition of students in choreographic schools monitored?

- For this there is a special table with the ratio of the height and weight of the student. In the school, the nutrition of children is varied, but if a ballerina has problems with weight, she must limit herself in order to be in shape. For example, with a height of 170 cm, a girl should not weigh more than 50 kg. Someone subtracts 120 from height to get the correct weight indicator, someone 122.

Weight restrictions are also necessary because duet dance begins at the courses, and the load on the partner’s not yet strengthened skeleton is strictly controlled: they cannot be lifted ballerina weighing more than 50 kg. Because of this, tall girls can have problems.

- Is it hard to keep fit?

- I don't follow any diets, but my diet is always different. But if I can skip lunch, then I will never miss an evening meal that is sure to end with a sweet dessert.

- Tell me about your regular daily routine.

- In the morning we have classical dance lessons in the theater - a necessary exercise for any ballet dancer. Further schedule is compiled according to the current repertoire.

- What are the benefits of choreography for a child?

- First of all, it is useful for general development: musicality, rhythm appear, the muscular frame is formed correctly. In the future, the child may leave ballet for other dances or sports, but he will already have a certain physical fitness. Even if a child does not go further into this profession, he will know from childhood that there is such an art form as ballet, and, perhaps, will be interested in culture in the future. The child needs to be occupied and developed so that he does not sit for days on social networks, but joins art.

I have been in ballet since I was 5 years old, but I can tell by myself that this is an unconscious age to start classes. Now there are private schools where children are brought at 3-4 years old. I don’t really understand this, because the children are still very young and do not fully understand what is required of them. Of course, they are not forced to do batman tandyu, they do exercises for coordination, rhythm. For professional ballet classes, a child must be brought to the group no earlier than 7 years old.

- Is there competition among ballet dancers?

- There is and should be competition, because each artist needs personal growth, and such a competitive moment always spurs on. Only not with envy and malice, but with interest. I think that going to performances is very useful, not only for my colleagues, but also for performances of other genres, theaters, where, believe me, there is a lot to learn.

- What is the reason for the gender bias towards women in ballet?

- Initially, this art was female, and the dancer was just a partner for the ballerina. Now, in addition to the classical traditional repertoire, there are many modern productions in theaters, where a man and a woman come out on an equal footing, both have solo parts. But, despite this, there are really fewer men in the profession. Perhaps this is due to the fact that ballet, as many believe, is not a completely masculine art form, that it is more suitable for girls. People have a stereotype that a boy should go in for swimming, hockey, choose more brutal activities. I fundamentally disagree with this. If a man has a beautiful body and moves great, why not show it on stage? People who are not familiar with the backstage, do not know what is happening in the rehearsal class, do not imagine that this is the hardest work. How many times you need to repeat the movements to achieve this ease, no one sees.

- What are the current beauty standards in the ballet world?

- Shorter, stockier dancers used to be in demand, but the standards have since changed. Perhaps the first in this regard was Anna Pavlova, who, in comparison with her peers at the school, was tall and thin. Now there are no certain parameters and standards that would be ideal - both tall and small ballerinas are needed. For example, in the ballet "Swan Lake" there is a dance of small and large swans, and for this, girls of different builds are needed. Along with this, there are ballet companies that recruit dancers with a height of at least 170 cm for women and 185 cm for men. This is done so that the team during the performance looked more harmonious and impressive.

- Is it true that dancers often get injured and their body wears out faster due to high loads?

- It all depends on this very load throughout the career - how regular it was, how often and what kind of injuries were. All ballet dancers have their own methods of recovery: swimming pool, bath, sauna, massage. Sometimes it happens that you wave your hand, they say, it will hurt and stop, but in fact, even a small injury can develop into a serious illness. Therefore, ballet dancers need to take care of their health, because the body is an instrument.

- How does a ballerina relax?

- After work, I prefer to take a walk in the fresh air, then have dinner and be sure to read before going to bed. I rarely go to the cinema, because I prefer the theater. The theater is a living organism, the same performance is never the same, it is always something else, and in the cinema you can do a thousand takes, and all the magic is lost for me personally. And worthwhile pictures come out not so often, just a few times a year.

- What do ballerinas do when they retire?

- The dance age is not long - ballerinas retire after 20 years of experience. If a ballerina stops dancing, she often goes to work as a tutor in the theater - she works with dancers, participates in staging new performances. She can also become a teacher at a ballet school or dance studio. Many begin to work with athletes - with figure skaters, gymnasts, because they also need choreographic training. Someone goes to other areas, graduate from universities and begin to master new professions.

- Is it difficult for a ballerina to build a personal life, because actors are in the theater almost all the time?

- Most often, couples form in a team. If outside the theater, then there must be a person who will understand you and accept your profession. The ballet dancer works until 9 pm, arrives home at 10. It is important that the other half appreciates what you do, and does not think that ballet art is not a profession, but entertainment.

Photo: Ilya Petrov

15+ facts about ballet, after which the tongue will not dare to say that this is not a male profession / Comfort zone

Nowadays, there is still a stereotype that ballet is more of a female occupation. In fact, until 1681, ballet was exclusively for men. It was thanks to the first dancers in ballet that movements appeared that originally came from fencing. The special reversal of the legs can still be seen on the stage.

  • A man who dances in a ballet is called not a ballet dancer or a ballet dancer, but a ballet dancer. The performer of the main male roles is the prime minister (by analogy with the prima ballerina), and the artist performing in the first line of the corps de ballet is the coryphaeus.
  • Initially, spectators could also take part in the ballet. Huge expenses for costumes and equipment were not required: there were no tutus and pointe shoes then. Choreographic movements were taken from court dances, dancers dressed according to the laws of the then fashion.
  • At first, all ballet parts were danced by men, then women began to appear on the stage. At the beginning of the 19th century, romanticism came into vogue, ballet turned to folklore, legends, myths and superstitions for inspiration. The airy Sylph and Giselle become the main characters, the dancers who played their roles stand on pointe shoes and become more and more important. Men are given secondary roles.

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  • But there are still a lot of myths about men in ballet. In 1988, sociologist William Worle conducted a study of stereotypes. He asked middle-class shoppers to describe ballet dancers in general using up to 15 words and phrases. People have described ballet dancers as follows: "Lovely boys are afraid to get themselves dirty with honest work", "Snobs!", "Secluded", "neurotic", "narcissus", "gentle", "sissy", "capricious".
  • Vladimir Ippolitov, a former artist and now head of the School of Russian Ballet in Geneva, said that stereotypes about the profession of a dancer are still widespread. “I usually advise you to watch the performances of Mikhail Baryshnikov - there is no femininity there. In general, I think that ballet is the most masculine profession: women are carried there on their hands, ”he shared.

© CBS Television / Wikimedia

  • Many myths even benefit ballet dancers. The low popularity of the profession among men leads to the fact that competition among artists is lower than among their female counterparts. Moreover, in order to lure boys, dance schools often offer them free tuition, while girls are charged.
  • Another significant advantage men in ballet have over their female counterparts is that they don't dance en pointe. “The pointe shoes were invented for the ballet La Sylphide, they were designed to emphasize the airiness of the main character. Men in classical ballet have, as a rule, more earthly images. Another thing is if the role is comedic, for example, in the ballet "Vain Precaution" there is the role of a maid, which is performed by a man, and he does it on pointe shoes. There is also the Trocadero Ballet troupe, in which male dancers perform parodies of popular classical performances and also use pointe shoes. But in choreographic schools, boys are not taught this, and perhaps in vain, because pointe dancing strengthens the ankle, ”says Vladimir Ippolitov.
  • While women's feet and legs are often more flexible than men's, there is no physical or medical reason why men should not perform en pointe, according to dance medicine and science professionals. This is purely an aesthetic choice.

© Evgeny Atamanenko /

  • Dancers wear ballet flats instead of pointe shoes. They have leotards on their legs, and on top they are wearing a tunic - something like a fitted jacket. Many people wonder why the outlines of underwear are not visible under the leotards of ballet dancers. The fact is that the dancers use seamless patterns of special underwear that is invisible under the costume - bandages.
  • The bandage protects the dancer from injury during movements, and also serves to make the body look aesthetically pleasing in tights. Most bandages are made in the form of thongs with a thick belt on the stomach. This is necessary so that the gluteal muscles are not pinched and remain free during the dance.
  • Finding the right leotard for a dancer is an art. The ballet leotard has a very high waistband, so there is always a risk of creases in the knees. The leotard should fit perfectly on the figure, nothing should hang anywhere. Therefore, before going on stage, ballet dancers carefully ensure that the tights fit the body as much as possible.