When you think of a ballerina body, you may picture a petite, slender physique. But many dancers have rejected that rigid idea of what a ballerina is supposed to look like—and instead, they’ve led a shift towards embracing a diverse range of athletic ballerina bodies. One woman who’s played a major role in that movement is none other than Misty Copeland, the iconic principle dancer at the American Ballet Theater.
“We are real women and ballerinas, muscular, feminine but also strong, lithe but also curvaceous,” Copeland writes in her new book, Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You ($30, amazon.com). But Copeland doesn’t pretend she always felt so confident in her skin. “None of it was easy. Not my climb in the ballet world, not my arrival at a place of personal contentment and peace, not my journey to the body I stand in.”
Her book is her way of helping other women reach the same state of body confidence that she now exudes to the world. “I dream of sharing what I’ve learned—of showing women everywhere how to reach their body goals and achieve what they see as their best selves,” she says.
For Copeland, that has meant prioritizing exercise, as an integral and positive element of her day. “Working out, so essential to our mental and physical well-being, can and should be woven through every part of our lives,” Copeland says.
Below are four exercises that she incorporates in her cross-training routine, to help maintain her ideal ballerina body—“one that is lean but sinewy, with muscles that are long, sculpted, and toned.” But you certainly don’t have to be a dancer to reap the benefits of these challenging moves. Try them out to get toned from head to (pointed) toe.
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