I love Element workouts—even when I don’t love the actual workout. Does that makes sense? Element creates beautiful, well produced workout DVDs, even when the actual workout doesn’t appeal to me. Element: Ballet Conditioning is one of those workouts. It is not a bad workout. Some of it actually challenged me, but overall it is not a workout I am interested in returning to. I checked it out from the library as part of my barre week.
The trainer for this Element workout is Elise Gulan, a ballet dancer and dance teacher. The workout is primarily ballet leg drills with some core work. You also work your arms isometrically. For every single lower body move, you also do ballet arms and hold them—so it does fatigue your arms. Like all of the Element workouts I have done thus far, this workout is done with a voice over and it is cued well. For everything done in this workout Elise uses ballet terminology. I don’t know how to spell most of the terms so for the most part I will just describe the move. Elise is barefoot and she recommends doing the workout barefoot. The only equipment you will need is a chair. The setting is gorgeous, as usual. Trees and flowers in front of the Pacific Ocean.
The menu has two selections—play the entire workout, or go to the chapters. I will describe the workout by chapters but here are the basics: the workout is 50 minutes, 1 minute intro, 3 minute warm up and 3:30 minute cool down/stretch. I really expected to like this workout more. I have been enjoying my barre workout week and, in fact, I am enjoying the Element: Barre Conditioning workout DVD (it contains two barre workouts and I’ve only done one so far, so that review has not been posted yet), so I expected to enjoy this one more than I did. I found the actual ballet aspect that this workout incorporates to be somewhat off-putting. For one, I am not graceful so my attempts at being ballerina-like feel (and probably look) absurd. Also, this workout calls attention to posture. I don’t think I have poor posture (I don’t think I have superior posture either), but I frequently found it hard to keep my spine as straight as it should be for some of the leg work. I have not experienced this problem with other barre workouts so that is another reason I didn’t care for this workout as much as the others I have been doing. So this workout will not get moved to my wishlist (unlike most of the library workouts I’ve sampled so far).
Stretches and Thigh Work (8:30 minutes): this begins the workout, so the stretches at the beginning are a sort of warm up with forward folds, side bends and lots of graceful ballet arm movements. The warm up stretching lasts about 3 minutes. Then you need the chair. It begins with releve (raising onto toes) and demi-plié. These plies are narrow ones, with heels touching. This moves into lots of fast releves. Then you move in and out of demi-plies; first shallow then very deep. Come up onto your toes while in plié then lower to halfway; from this position you go deep into the plié and only raise halfway. Pulse in plié. Next you move your feet to second position (or wide plié stance). Plié squats. Hold low in wide plié and pulse. Lift heels while in wide plié and pulse.
Streamlining Extension and Gluteal Work (21 minutes): this starts with a lot of toe pointing drills–front, side, back, side. Next is leg raises in which you bend your knee, sliding toe up inside of other leg then straighten–first to the front, then the side, then the back, then the side. Next is circling of the leg; this begins with the toe on the ground. You point it forward then rotate it in a half circle around behind you. Next you raise the leg to the side and bend the knee, circling the calf/foot while keeping thigh/hip stationary. You return to the pointing half circles but this time, after your toe taps in the front you, raise your leg to circle it around behind you then back to front. Hold your leg straight out in front of you and pulse. Repeat to the side, then again to the back. Next is “attitude” leg lifts (knee bent and leg slightly tilted so inside of foot is toward ceiling) from front to back. Raise your leg in attitude to the front and do small presses–inward and upward. Do the same thing with leg lifted in attitude to the back.
Cardio Boost Kicks and Jumps (6:30 minutes): She doesn’t use the chair for the rest of the workout but if your balance is poor, you may need it for a few of the exercises at the beginning of this segment. You start with double kicks to the front, to the side, to the back, to the side. These aren’t kickboxing kicks but very graceful pointed-toe ballet type kicks. The first two minutes of this segment are the kicks. Next is jumps with feet in first position (heels together, toes facing outward). Move feet to second position (wide plié) and do jumps in this position. Next you jump from first position to second position. Next is 5th position which is heel to toe; jumps in this position, except you are alternating the front foot on each jump. You will go through all of the jumps again but quicker. End with standing splits and spine twists. While in standing split (hands on ground and one leg raised high in the air and toward ceiling), you will do pulsing leg lifts.
Core Work and Final Stretches (9:30 minutes): The first 6 minutes of this section is core work and the final 3:30 minutes is your stretch. You start laying flat on your back, arms and feet stretching away from you; the first exercise is to roll up and reach hands over feet, then roll back down. Raise head and shoulders and one straight leg, the other leg is a few inches off floor; hold raised thigh with hands and pulse twice then switch legs. Continue this, eventually no longer holding thigh. Lay head and shoulders on floor with both legs raised to ceiling and do hip lifts. Raise shoulders and head again and this time bring in bent leg, grabbing the thigh; switch legs (so bicycle legs), eventually no longer holding thigh. Scissor straight legs. The workout ends with 3:30 minutes of lower body stretches.