Get lean and sculpted—and drop up to 3½ pounds a week!—with our 25-day Ballet Boot Camp Challenge.
You don’t have to be able to arabesque in pointe shoes to get the graceful, sculpted body of a dancer. What you do need: our fat-blasting Ballet Boot Camp Challenge. Created by Sadie Lincoln, founder of Barre3 exercise studios, these moves combine yoga, Pilates, light weights, and a secret weapon that in-the-know exercisers (including celebs like Ricki Lake) swear by—barre work. You don’t even have to leave home to get the body-slimming benefits: The ballet-derived exercises are normally done using a stationary handrail, but you can do them with a chair or kitchen table.
What makes this workout so effective?
It strengthens your deepest belly muscles, pulling in your waist like a corset, while lifting your butt, trimming your thighs, and toning your arms. It also whips into shape your perfect-posture muscles, so you’ll stand straighter after a single session. We know it works because we tested the plan on real women. For 25 days, they followed our Ballet Boot Camp Challenge, as well as eating guidelines and recipes recommended by Andrea Nakayama, a functional nutritionist in Portland, OR, and owner of Replenish PDX. The final results were astonishing: One woman lost 9 pounds in 13 days, another trimmed her hips by more than 2 inches and whittled her waist by 3 inches, and testers’ upper arms shrank by up to 1.5 inches! The group also saw improvements in grace and balance and even had less lower-back pain.
Aim to do the Ballet Boot Camp moves 3 or 4 times a week and Your-Choice Cardio sessions 2 or 3 times each week. Feel free to swap days according to your schedule.
To speed your slim-down, include at least 30 minutes of moderate-to high-intensity cardio 2 or 3 times per week. Boost your burn by incorporating intervals: Alternate bursts of faster walking (or whatever aerobic exercise you like best) with bouts at a slower pace. Here’s a calorie-torching interval workout to get you started.
What You Need
A 9-inch exercise ball, 1- to 3-pound dumbbells, and a barre or another waist-level surface—your kitchen counter or the back of a sturdy chair works great!
Warm up by marching in place for 2 to 3 minutes. Then perform 1 set of each move, unless otherwise noted. (Too many reps? Start gradually and work your way up, or try the moves without weights.) For best results, do the moves slowly and with control: Perfect form, not speed, will help you slip into your skinny jeans faster! Cool down with 5 minutes of full-body stretching.
1. Carousel Horse
Targets: Thighs, butt, arms, back
Stand facing barre, feet parallel and hip-distance apart. Step back with left leg, bending right knee about 90 degrees and keeping it over ankle, and lift arms overhead. Pressing feet into floor, bend left knee toward floor and lower hips a few inches. This is your starting position (A). Open arms out to sides while straightening legs, keeping left heel lifted (B). Return to start. Do 30 reps. Switch legs and repeat.
Make it easier: Rest hands lightly on barre throughout the move.
2. Athletic First-Position Biceps Curl
Targets: Thighs, core front of arms
Holding dumbbells with palms up, stand with heels together, toes pointing out slightly. Lift heels about 1 inch off floor and press together. This is your starting position. Bend knees slightly as you curl weights toward shoulders. Return to start. Do 30 reps.
3. Dancer’s Twist
Targets: Thighs, waist, shoulders, back
Holding weights, stand with feet wider than shoulder-distance apart, toes turned out slightly. Bend knees about 90 degrees and lift arms overhead. This is your starting position. Straighten legs to stand, slowly twisting to right as you lower arms to chest height. Return to start and repeat twist on opposite side. That’s 1 rep. Do 20 reps.
4. Triceps Lifts In Crescent Lunge
Targets: Legs, butt, arms, back
Holding dumbbells with arms at sides, step left foot back, bending right knee and hinging torso forward. Bend elbows about 90 degrees, lowering left knee toward floor. Return to start, squeezing triceps to straighten arms. Do 30 reps. Switch legs and repeat.
5. Oblique Twist
Targets: Waist, core, shoulders, back
Sit on floor with knees bent, feet flat, ball behind lower back. Holding dumbbells, elbows bent slightly, lean back into ball. Slowly twist to right. Rotate to center and then twist to left. That’s 1 rep. Do 20 reps.
Targets: Core, back
Place palms shoulder-width apart on barre and bend forward. Keeping back straight, walk feet back until they’re under hips, knees slightly bent. Engage core and press palms into barre. Straighten legs, lifting left arm and rotating chest to left. Repeat on opposite side. Alternate arms for 1 minute. Do 2 sets.
7. Ballet Leg Lift
Targets: Thighs, butt, core, back
Stand with heels together, toes 3 to 4 inches apart, left hand resting lightly on barre. Extend right leg back with toes pointed while raising right arm, elbow slightly bent. Keep hips facing forward, pelvis tucked under, and abs drawn in. This is your starting position (A). Draw right foot toward left calf, engaging core, and lower right arm to chest height (B). Return to start. Do 20 reps. Repeat on opposite side.
8. Standing Seat Work
Targets: Butt, thighs, core
Stand facing barre, heels together and toes 3 to 4 inches apart. Place ball between belly and barre and draw navel toward spine (A). Step back with right foot, heel lifted and top of big toe on floor. Engage abs and raise right leg a few inches, lifting from glutes (B). Lower right leg 1 inch and lift again. Do a total of 60 pulses. Switch legs and repeat.
Get more out of your move! On your final rep, keep your back leg lifted and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
9. Power Leg Pulse
Targets: Thighs, calves
Stand with feet parallel and hip-distance apart, ball between inner thighs, hands resting lightly on barre. Squeeze ball with thighs and lift heels. Bend knees. Holding here, pulse down and up about 1 inch, keeping heels lifted throughout. Do 50 reps.
Get more out of your move! Finish by holding the lowered position for 30 seconds.
Lie on back with knees bent, ball under hips, arms out to sides. Lift feet so shins are parallel to floor, knees stacked over hips, then extend legs straight up. This is your starting position. Lower right leg, keeping toes pointed. Return to start, then lower and lift left leg. That’s 1 rep. Do 25 reps.