Ballet Body: Upper Body Definition

Leah Sarago
Year Released: 2011

Categories: Ballet/Barre, Upper Body Strength

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Title: Ballet Body: Upper Body Definition
Instructor: Leah Sarago
Time: 44 Minutes
Level of Difficulty: High Intermediate-Advanced
DVD menu: Play workout
Production quality: average. Darkish gym area with fun tribal music.
Equipment used: Small (2-5#) hand weights

A little about me: I am new to barre but have been doing Dream Body and Tonique consistently (and less frequently, but still consistently, Horizontal Conditioning) and would consider myself an advanced exerciser. Ballet Body Upper Body has a reputation of being very tough due to the long plank portion of the workout. I was hoping I would find it doable (but still challenging) due to my HoCo experience, and I was very pleased! The plank work was tough but Leah made it doable by changing poses from plank to side plank, back to plank then side plank, reverse plank, etc. She recommended 2-5# for the upper body work and the circles and pulses were tough after the plank work.

Leah does not warm up, just starts right in plank with a sort of shoulder mobility exercise, pumps heels back and forth (pulses body weight towards hands then towards feet-I recogize this as a pilates move) which really worked the abs and shoulders, and some slow paced circles in one direction, then the other. Into side plank for pulses with careful foot placement, then move to other side. She continues the workout by returning to plank pose for similar exercises (heel pumps, pulses, circles), back to side planks for similar pulses but with different foot placement, and also incorporates reverse plank and some tricep dips, and hands in a triangle position for tricep pushups (slower on knees, faster but shallow pulses on toes, then hold deep arm bent position). I think the plank work seemed more doable than Horizontal Conditioning because of the lack of pushups, except for the triceps pushups which she did on her knees.

After the plank portion, she moves on to standing with light weights, for classic barre style arm work – lots of pulses and arm circles, and some slower flowy movements, and she really burns out the entire shoulder (anterior, posterior, medial) and triceps, and definitely less focus on the back and chest. The biceps were not worked at all. For this reason, despite how challenging the workout was, I found it to be somewhat unbalanced for the upper body.

The workout was calm and slower paced but definitely a strength challenge, in fact, I don’t think someone would get the most out of the workout unless they were already at a certain fitness level. For this reason I would rate it High Int-Advanced. Definitely a unique and challenging way to condition the upper body, especially for shoulders and triceps. For a comprehensive upper body workout I would be sure to supplement with a couple of back, chest, and biceps exercises.

Instructor Comments:
This is my first Ballet Body workout and I thought Leah was very professional – very calm and quiet (not chatty). She gave great form pointers.

Emily B.


Leah leads this 45 min ballet inspired upper body workout workout alone in a nice ballet studio.You will only need a set of light dumbbells. The workout is done voiceover & is not chaptered. The first portion of the workout is a plank series and is followed by standing upper body strength work with light dumbbells.

Floor exercises include: a very unique hi plank & side plank series with tempo variations, single leg pike & plank pulses, arabesque pushups, & tri pushup variations. Standing exercises include: arm circle & arm raise variations, balance stick delt fly and tricep work. TONS of unique moves and she really keeps things moving along at a great pace.

I rate this a solid intermediate workout. You may have to work up to the plank work if you have weak wrists. Leah is fabulously toned and provides excellent form pointers & cuing. She offers modifications to make the exercises easier. Tons of unique and effective upper body work. This is a great addition to anyone's dvd library. I really like Leah's instruction and the fun & unique exercises. I received this dvd to review.