Challenge Yourself With This Professional Ballet Dancer’s Gym Workout

royal ballet dancer
(Image credit: unknown)

Ballet might be beautiful, but it’s also brutal in the demands it places on the body, in terms of both overall fitness and full-body strength. That means that between regular rehearsals and performance, Royal Ballet dancer Reece Clarke aims to fit in several workouts a week.

“What I do in the gym is a necessity for my career,” says Clarke, who is an ambassador for Albert Bartlett potatoes. “It enables me to not only perform at a higher level but to also protect and prevent my body from getting injured, which sadly in my profession is hard to avoid.”

“The workouts I do depend on my performance and rehearsal schedule for that week. So if I had a day when rehearsals were heavy on jumping and I was performing in the evening, I’d do upper body and abs in the gym that day. If it was a day where I was doing a lot of partnering and lifting, I’d do leg day in the gym.”

We asked Clarke for an example of the kind of workout he does to support his dancing, and he shared this full-body session, which also includes a cardio section after the blocks focusing on the upper and lower body. You can try and do the whole thing in one go, or split it up over a week.

Upper-Body Workout

Bench press

Sets 5 Reps 5

Lie on a bench and hold a barbell with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar out of the rack and bring it down to your chest, then push the bar straight up.


Sets 5 Reps 8

Clarke does a mix of wide-grip and close-grip pull-ups during the sets. Jump up and grasp the bar with an overhand grip, then pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Lower under control.

Lat pull-down

Sets 5 Reps 8

Set up the pads on the machine so it sits snugly against your thighs and grasp the bar using a wide grip. Pull the bar down to your chest in front of you, squeeze your lats, then return to the start position.

4 Single-arm kettlebell pull

Sets 5 Reps 8 each side

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a kettlebell between your legs in one hand. Pull the kettlebell up to your shoulder explosively, then control the descent.

Single-arm overhead kettlebell press

Sets 5 Reps 8 each side

Start with the kettlebell in the rack position with your elbow tucked in to your chest. Press the kettlebell directly overhead, then lower it slowly.

6 Single-arm cable rotation

Sets 5 Reps 8 each side

Set up the cable machine with a D-handle on the middle pulley. Stand facing the cable machine with your elbow against your body and your arm bent at a 90° angle. Keeping your elbow tight against your body, rotate your forearm as far as possible away from the machine, keeping your wrist straight. It should be a controlled movement out and in, using a light weight.

Biceps curl

Sets 5 Reps 10

Hold dumbbells by your thighs with your palms facing forwards. Keeping your upper arms tight against your body, bring the weights up to your shoulders. Squeeze your biceps, then control the curl back down.

8 Cable overhead triceps extension

Sets 5 Reps 10

Set up the cable machine with a rope handle on the low pulley. Stand facing away from the machine in a split stance, holding the handle above your head in both hands with your palms facing each other. Keeping your elbows close to your head, extend your arms until your hands are directly overhead.

Lower-Body Workout


Sets 5 Reps 5

You can do whatever kind of squat your equipment allows for, but the barbell back squat is preferred. Rest a bar on your shoulders and lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then drive back up.


Sets 5 Reps 5

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your shins touching a barbell on the ground. Reach down and take hold with your hands placed just outside your legs. Keeping a flat back, lift the bar by extending your legs and driving your hips forwards, then lower it with control.

3 Single-leg press

Sets 5 Reps 5 each side

Sit on the leg press machine and push the plate away from you by extending your leg, stopping just before you lock your knee out. Lower the plate under control.

4 Weighted calf raise

Sets 3 Reps 15

You can hold dumbbells or kettlebells by your sides, or rest a barbell on your shoulders. Stand up straight, then push through the balls of your feet to raise your heels off the ground.

5 Side steps

Sets 3 Reps 20 each side

With a mini loop resistance band around your knees, take small steps to the side. Do all the reps on one side, then switch.

Box jump

Sets 3 Reps 10

Stand facing a plyo box. Lower into a shallow squat, then drive back up explosively to jump onto the box, landing with both feet at the same time. Then jump or step back down.


In the off-season, Clarke likes to swim, while during a demanding performance schedule he’ll slip in either a 20-minute steady session or a quick HIIT workout to keep his cardio fitness up. Here are some options for you to pick from.

Exercise Bike

Either do 20 minutes at a medium resistance or complete the following interval session.

4 x 30sec high intensity, 1min low intensity
4 x 40sec high intensity, 1min low intensity
4 x 30sec high intensity, 1min low intensity

You can also do either session on the rowing machine.


Do two five-minute rounds of the following, resting for two to three minutes between rounds.

Work 20sec Rest 10sec

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.