The Australian Ballet

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Get Primed for Ballet

Taking ballet class with us from home? Dr Sue Mayes, our Director of Artistic Health, has some great warm-up tips to get you barre-ready.

Sue and her team have led the world in injury prevention. One of their most important findings is that strength beats stretch – that is, it’s better for the body to prepare for movement by strengthening, activating and exploring ranges of motion than to sit in long passive stretches, which can weaken and over-extend muscles.

Before your next class, awaken and prime your body with these simple warm-ups, part of a suite of exercises our dancers use to prepare for class. They concentrate on the hips, spine, hamstrings and abdominals. Every body is different, so listen to yours, and work just to the edge of your comfort zone. We suggest anywhere from 8 to 25 repetitions of each exercise.

Thanks to Soloist Brodie James and Dr Sue for taking these photos of our dancers in action.

Single-Leg Calf Rise

Our Artistic Health team’s secret weapon for preventing lower-leg injuries. Here’s how to do a safe and effective single-leg calf rise.

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Ingrid Gow

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Ingrid Gow

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Ingrid Gow

Single-Leg Bridge

Lying on your back, bring your feet close to your buttocks. Lift one leg off the floor; raise and lower your buttocks, up to 25 times. Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Concentrate on keeping your pelvic bones level – don’t tilt to one side.


Affectionately named for she of the famous butt, because it works strongly into the lower glutes. With the front leg bent in a lunge and the back leg extended, slowly dip your trunk forwards, bending at the hip with a straight back. Do up to 25 repetitions each side.

Tip: Watch that your front knee doesn’t splay inwards or outwards – keep it directly in line with your foot.

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Riley Lapham

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Riley Lapham

McKenzie Extension

Lay on your tummy with your palms alongside your upper ribs. Slowly push into your hands to raise your upper body, giving your spine a gentle curve. In case you were wondering, it’s named after Robin McKenzie, the physical therapist who developed it.

Tip: Keep your lower abdominals switched on to support your back, and don’t crunch into your lower spine.

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Sharni Spencer

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Sharni Spencer

Windscreen Wipers

Lying on your back, bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Slowly roll both knees to one side. Come back to centre and roll to the other side.

Tip: Don’t let gravity take over, so that your knees plonk down onto the floor. The movement should be slow and controlled.

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Sharni Spencer

Front and Side Plank

A full plank is done supporting your body on the palms of your hands and the balls of your feet. You can also do them supporting yourself on your elbows, or with your knees on the ground. Do planks to the front and to both sides, holding until your muscles start to tremble.

Tip: Make sure your shoulders are aligned directly over your hands or elbows, and turn on every muscle.

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Jacob de Groot

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Jacob de Groot