I’m a huge fan of ballet, and my close friend Tiler Peck, world-renowned principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, always says that dance isn’t just great exercise in itself, it’s a smart way to prep for any other sport—or even a sporting event like the Olympics. In fact, pro football players from teams like the Jets, Patriots, and Dallas Cowboys have taken ballet classes to help them stay nimble and flexible enough to avoid injuries.

I asked Tiler to share some ballet moves anyone can do to train for their favorite sport. I knew she’d be the right person to turn to, because, in addition to dancing in front of audiences, she also teaches non-dancers through her video series Turn it Out with Tiler. (On top of that, she’s the author of the children’s book Katarina Ballerina, and has her own line of dance wear.)

Five Ballet Moves for Sports Training


Below are some basic ballet moves—no toe shoes necessary!—that you can use to strengthen and lengthen your muscles or start training for your own big game or Olympic-style event, whether it’s little league, neighborhood pickup, or swimming at the next pool party!

1. Swan Stretch for Swimming


This stretch strengthens your arms and shoulders, and hamstrings—great for all swimming strokes and is also very similar to the pike position divers do before hitting the water.

Step 1: Sit on the floor with one leg tucked behind you and the other stretched out in front, then raise your arms up and out to the side.

Step 2: Keep moving your arms forward and toward each other, letting the motion bend your torso as you go.

Step 3: Finish in swan position, arms together, torso bent forward, folded over your legs.

2. Plié and Passé for Basketball

In ballet, plié is a bending of the knees, and passé is when the working leg bends and “passes through,” rising up the supporting leg to connect to the knee. These motions are similar to what basketball players do when they’re dribbling and shooting.

Step 1: Lift one leg off the ground, bending both legs at the knees.

Step 2: Rise up on your toes on your standing leg (to the ballet position called relevé).

Step 3: Bring the other leg up to passé, until your toes reach the knee of the standing leg.


3. Grand Jeté for Track and Field

Dancers leap from bent legs when they perform plié jumps—a move called “grand jeté.” Runners do the same when they compete in hurdles or the long jump.

Step 1: Step forward with one leg, bending both knees.

Step 2: Spring up, extending the opposite leg in front of you and the standing leg behind you, and lifting your arms into a V at the same time.

Step 3: Land on your front foot.


4. Cambré Back on Relevé for Gymnastics

This dramatic pose involves standing on your tiptoes, opening up your chest, and reaching back behind you with your arms in a V. It’s much like what gymnasts do when they finish a move and stick the landing.

Step 1: Stand with your feet parallel to each other.

Step 2: Bend your knees, then rise up on your toes.

Step 3: At the same time, reach your arms in front of you and then extend them back behind you in a V while opening your chest.


5. Attitude and Développé Front for Soccer

Bringing your leg from a bent-knee back kick through and forward to an extended leg front kick is an impressive ballet move—and great practice for kicking a soccer ball!

Step 1: Hop forward with a slight bend in your front knee, lifting your other leg behind you.

Step 2: At the same time, raise the corresponding arm behind you.

Step 3: Bring the back leg forward, past the standing leg and extend it straight in front of you, switching arms as you go.