Using the Barre: Ballet Stretches

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Using the Ballet Barre

Leg on Barre
Tracy Wicklund

Have you been trying to get your splits but just can't quite get to the floor? Do you feel like your stretch routine could use a little facelift?

Ballet dancers have a secret tool when it comes to flexibility: the barre. Using a ballet barre for stretching can really help improve your flexibility. Just be careful not to put too much weight on the barre.

Try the following stretches with the help of a barre. Be careful not to push yourself too far too soon. Take your time and really feel each stretch. By performing these stretches a few times each wee, you should have your splits before you know it.

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Stretch to the Side

Stretch to leg
Tracy Wicklund

Place one leg on the barre. Keeping your leg straight, reach over your leg with your opposite arm. Be sure to hold your turnout and keep your hips square. Hold for a few seconds, and be sure to breathe through the stretch.

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Stretch in Straddle

Straddle stretch
Tracy Wicklund

Slide your working leg along the barre as far as it will go without feeling pain. Try to go all the into a perfect straddle split position, or even an oversplit if you are able. Be sure to keep your legs straight.

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Reverse Straddle Stretch

Reverse straddle stretch
Tracy Wicklund

Slide your working leg along the ​barre in the opposite direction. Keep your legs straight to really feel a good stretch through your hips.

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Stretch Over Bent Leg

Bent leg stretch
Tracy Wicklund

This position will help stretch your external rotators, the six muscles around the hips. Keeping these muscles lose will improve your turnout.

Bend your working leg with your ankle resting on the barre. Hold your hips square and bend forward toward your foot. Make sure to keep your legs turned out. You should really feel this stretch across the buttocks.

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Stretch Backward

Stretch backward
Tracy Wicklund

Straighten your right leg and square your hips toward your foot. Holding the barre lightly with your left hand, reach up and back with your right arm. Feel a good stretch throughout your back. Make sure you keep your shoulders relaxed as you stretch backward, and keep your hips square.

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Extend Leg

Extend leg
Tracy Wicklund

Holding the barre with your left hand, extend your right leg to the side. Wrap your right hand around the outside of your foot for support. Keep your hips square to the front and your knees and back straight.

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Stretch Forward

Stretch forward
Tracy Wicklund

Keep holding your right foot and bend forward at the hips. Keep your chest lifted and your back and knees straight.

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Stretch Backward

Stretch backward
Tracy Wicklund

Maintaining the leg in extension, stretch backward. Try to keep both knees straight and remember to point your foot.

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Hold Leg in Extension

Leg hold
Tracy Wicklund

Square your hips to the front while bringing your leg to your chest. Keep your knees straight and chest lifted.

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Extend Leg Behind

Extend leg
Tracy Wicklund

Reach back and grab one leg from behind with the same arm. Try to pull your foot toward your head, being careful not to overstretch your back. Try to straighten your working knee as much as possible. Be sure to keep your standing leg straight and your chest lifted.

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Stretch in Attitude

Attitude stretch
Tracy Wicklund

This stretch will help to improve your attitude. Slide your arm down to the knee of your working leg until you are in attitude position. Pull your knee upward toward the ceiling. Try to keep your hips square and chest lifted.

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Stretch Forward

Stretch forward
Tracy Wicklund

While holding the working leg in attitude, drop your chest and feel the stretch in your legs. Keep your standing knee straight and the foot of your working leg pointed.

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Stretch in Penchee

Stretch in penchee
Tracy Wicklund

Finally, straighten your working leg to arabesque penchee. Strive to reach a perfect vertical position with your legs, with both knees straight. Use your free arm to help move your leg into position. If possible, check your image in the mirror to see how close your are to a perfect penchee.