Train like A Ballerina
I have seen real changes in my body since introducing Ballet Beautiful into my life, including improved posture, toned muscles, increased energy and improved mood. This is an updated Ballet Beautiful review as I now have three more DVDs in rotation, Swan Arms Cardio, Backstage Workout & Essential Ballerina: Dance Class Burn (my two previous Ballet Beautiful reviews are linked at the bottom of this post). Swan Arms Cardio and Backstage Workout have now been released on iTunes, while the three twenty-minute videos from Essential Ballerina: Dance Class Burn are available in the Ballet Beautiful streaming library on their website. I find this a huge asset, as my current MacBook has no DVD drive and I like to bring my workout when I travel, so not having to pack DVDs simplifies my life tremendously.
In addition to the Ballet Beautiful work outs I have also made major improvements to my diet under Mary Helen Bowers’ tutelage. I used to be the girl who would eat cake for breakfast (shout out to Kate Spade) and considered french fries a balanced meal! I follow Ballet Beautiful on Instagram, where Mary Helen shares healthy meals and posts recipes on her blog, which I highly recommend, I’ve made so many of these and they are always delicious and super healthy! Since changing my diet, I have come to realize that healthy eating has so many more benefits than maintaining a slim figure. By incorporating more whole foods and balanced meals, while decreasing my intake of junk and fast foods and developing a more well-rounded diet (Mary Helen recommends at least one salad per day) I have seen some changes in myself in addition to the benefits of the Ballet Beautiful workouts. My skin and hair has improved, my energy and mood has lifted and my body just functions more easily!
Below is my review on my three new workout DVDs:
Swan Arms Cardio
I find this the easiest to get through of all the Ballet Beautiful DVD’s. The workout begins with a warm up and concludes with an extended stretch, so there’s a little less actual working out than some of her other DVDs. There are three standing cardio workouts, followed by two mat workouts which do a bit more strength & toning, still with the use of the arms. The bulk of the workout is the cardio portion, the most difficult part of it I find is maintaining balance, as she goes very quickly from two to one legs and also maintaining endurance with your arms as they are literally flapping like the wings of a swan in Swan Lake the entire time. The mat workouts are abs and outer thigh. This is one of her best and most thorough ab workouts in my opinion. As always she does the typical straight back ab workout, followed by working on your obliques. The outer thigh is very similar to her outer thigh workouts from the other DVDs. I love the extended stretch. Stretching has always been my favourite part of any workout. Now that I spend the majority of my life sat at a desk working on a computer, the folding stretch with your legs out straight really aids in loosening up my neck, back and shoulders. I have always loved that Mary Helen appreciates the benefit of stretching and that she builds them into her workouts. This does wonders to prevent stiffness following workouts, especially when you start to work new muscle groups, which we don’t use regularly. I like this DVD as a bit of a break from the other more strenuous workouts she has.
The Backstage Workout is broken up into six sections, which I have done separately, in part and and in full. I typically like to start such work outs individually, before diving in to a full one hour workout without expectation. This allows my body to slowly adjust to the new workout, rather than being exhausted and not able to complete the moves as they are meant to be. One of my favourite parts of the Backstage Workout is the short segments, which makes it so much easier to get through as you are constantly changing the focus of the muscles. Just when you have exhausted one muscle group, you switch over to the next, which makes for a very bearable hour-long workout. I do find the Backstage Workout to be one of, if not her most intense DVD’s, I would consider it comparable to her Body Blast DVD. I have broken down my review of the Backstage Workout based on each of it’s segmented exercises, which you could do on their own, or as a full hour workout.
Arabesque Extensions focuses mainly on the butt, so naturally I have a love/hate relationship with it. In modern day life we rarely use these muscles, so working them out is often a literal & proverbial pain in the ass. The results, however are ones we are usually looking for! Dancer’s have some of the nicest derrier’s out there and these exercises are sure to give you that tight & lifted look of a dancer! I generally find butt exercises difficult and these are no exception. I wasn’t able to get through without breaks for the fist couple of times I tried this workout, but as you exercise those muscles and they become stronger, you will get through the work out without a break.
This is one of my favourite arm series from Ballet Beautiful. It begins with a series of pushups on the knees, followed by push backs. I love the push backs because I need non-weight bearing arm exercises as anything weight bearing tends to irritate a nerve in my left side.
Abs with Core Twist
I normally don’t find Ballet Beautiful ab exercises too difficult, but the first part of these exercises really pushes me! You are doing sit ups lying down and your arms are moving between first and second and fifth and second. These are some of the most difficult ab exercises I have ever done. The second half with the twist is similar to the ab exercises you will find among Mary Helen’s other DVDs.
Ballerina Legs: Inner Thigh
I don’t love this inner thigh workout. I really love the one in the Total Body Workout DVD, which is more of a classic inner thigh workout, with leg lifts. This one has you laying on your stomach (always an uncomfortable position, especially when working out) and has you move your thighs in toward each other. I find it really difficult, but more so just in the uncomfortable position and in my lower back than really feeling it through my inner thighs.
Staggered Bridge: Legs, Butt & Core
I normally hate bridge exercises, unfortunately they are the kind of exercises I need most. Bridges strengthen the butt and legs near the knees, which I need help with because I have hyperextended knees, which makes them weak and my ballet teacher actually had me do them when I was dancing specifically to strengthen my weak knees. I actually really like the staggered bridge though, something about the weight placement being divided that makes this particular bridge series easier to get through.
The finale of the Backstage Workout is the Extended Stretch, which naturally, I love. I have always really enjoyed the amount of stretching included in Ballet Beautiful exercises, both embedded within the individual exercises and following them. I barely feel much pain following a Ballet Beautiful workout, despite the difficulty and visible results of the method. I attribute this entirely to the focus Mary Helen has always put on stretching. This particular stretch is wonderful, because she gets into places which are often neglected like the shoulders, lower back and spine. Those of you working at desks will love these!
Essential Ballerina: Dance Class Burn
Essential Ballerina: Dance Class Burn is intended to be reminiscent of an actual ballet class, which I think Mary Helen got very right, even the intensity reminds me of how I felt and how hard I worked in dance class. Much like a traditional ballet class the DVD is comprised of three workouts, each twenty-minutes in length, a floor barre (I would liken to ballet barre work), standing barre (I would liken to centre work) and standing cardio (I would liken to across the floor). I was worried I may not enjoy this DVD as much as I tend to like the shorter sections (ie. six ten minute workouts) as Ballet Beautiful workouts are so focused, its nice to not work too long on one muscle group. I also sometimes find the longer cardio sections a bit tedious (but that’s probably because I just don’t love my cardio, can you believe I used to be a cardio bunny, until I started with Ballet Beautiful and improved my strength!). However, I found this DVD very easy to swallow and never felt bored, or longing for the end. I consider this DVD to be low intensity compared to Mary Helen’s other DVDs. I would recommend Essential Ballerina: Dance Class Burn to a beginner who is starting out on their fitness journey, or for those days when you still want to workout but are looking for something less intense than perhaps her blast videos, or Backstage Workout, for example. I like to have this in rotation as I personally like a mix of advanced and easier workouts to keep my body on it’s toes and I sometimes want a bit more of a relaxed workout, as I exercise six days a week with Ballet Beautiful. This DVD is primarily focused on the legs with a small section dedicated to abdominals and arms respectively.
Floor Barre has three sections within it, first being abdominals. These are very similar to any other Ballet Beautiful ab work, with a great focus on the obliques. Next you do some bending and stretching of the legs (very simple, but not as easy as it looks). This is followed by an arabesque exercise. Personally I like her longer 15 minute arabesque exercises that really work and exhaust the butt, hip and thigh. This is similar to those, but shorter, so I don’t feel the burn as much as I would like.
The music in this section is so lovely! She chose Mozart’s Serenade no. 13 in G Major and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which are two of my favourites and I find the beautiful music helps me to forget I’m working out! Mary Helen of course uses a barre for this section to assist with balance and you could use a chair, or counter top. I personally don’t use anything and keep my hands in first, or second position depending on her orientation to the bar. I just prefer this as it forces me to keep my abdominals engaged. During the Ballet Barre you are primarily doing sets of pliés, tendus and relevés. I find this easier than some of her other barre work where she has you doing holds and lots of grand pliés, this one is a lot of leg work, but not too hard on the legs.
While this is called the cardio section, it is very low impact, so much so that I did not really feel much rise in my heart rate. Not that I’m complaining as cardio is my least favourite part of exercising, the lower impact the better! I recently read that cardio can cause inflammation in your legs, which is just about the last result I’m looking for in my workout. This first half of the cardio is dedicated to your arms. Mary Helen uses one pound weights. I never use weights as a personal choice, as I do not like using equipment. In the second half you are doing more leg work with lunges, which helps work your butt.
Each of these new DVDs is unique and has it’s purpose in the Ballet Beautiful method and how each individual would like to train with the program. I am a fan of everything Mary Helen puts out and I am always excited for her new releases. I would definitely recommend the Backstage Workout for someone who is more advanced and the Essential Ballerina: Dance Class Burn is great for beginners, the Swan Arms Cardio is great for a cardio day, or if you are looking to lose weight.
Have you tried Ballet Beautiful? What are your favourite workouts?