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Arabesque Exercises: What They Are and How to Incorporate Them in Your Routine

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 4/25/2011

The arabesque is a cornerstone move in many dance moves for ballet. But did you know that this move also offers a great way to tone your legs? Learn what an arabesque is and how you can incorporate arabesque exercises into your workout for lean, toned legs.

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    What is an Arabesque?

    An arabesque is one of the most graceful moves in dance. You recognize it immediately when you see a ballerina balance on one foot, stretch her other leg behind her and curve her arm ever so slightly into an elegant line. But you don’t have to be the most graceful gal on the planet to work an arabesque into your exercise routine. And you certainly needn’t be a professional ballerina or prodigy dancer. In fact, it’s less about being elegant and more about the posture you use to execute the move.

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    Doing a Simple Arabesque

    Arabesque exercises on a floor or mat are fairly easy on their own. Begin by standing with both feet shoulder width apart and your arms at your sides.

    Outstretch one arm at an angle in front of you, pointing at a corner in the ceiling. Lift the leg on the same side back several inches, so it stays at about a 40-degree angle to the floor. Point your toes and flex your calf muscles. Tighten your glutes to support your leg on that side.

    Hold this position for several seconds, then switch sides with your arms and legs. Make sure you really flex those leg muscles so you get the most toning out of the workout.

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    Pike with Arabesque on Ball

    Pilates incorporates arabesque exercises from time to time. One such exercise is the pike with arabesque on an exercise ball. This move is fairly challenging and requires excellent balance, so it will take some practice.

    Start by propping your toes on an exercise ball and your hands supporting you at arm’s length on the floor. Your back should look like a straight table bridging the ball and your arms. Pick up one leg and roll forward slightly. As you do, point your free leg toward the ceiling, pointing this toe. Your upper body should be in handstand position.

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    Aerobic Step with Arabesque

    This medium-energy exercise requires an aerobic step or stair, but you can just take one step forward each time you would ordinarily be stepping onto the step if you don’t have one.

    Start with both feet behind the step on the floor. Step up with your left foot, then kick your right leg out into a high arabesque. You can even bend your leg behind your back, but you want to get a lot of lift. You should end up kicking your foot above the level of your rump. Land this foot on the step, then step down with both feet and repeat the process. Switch legs and repeat as desired.

    Want to get even more out of this move? Swing your arms as you step, and lean forward as you arabesque. Getting your whole body involved helps you make the most of this arabesque exercise.

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