Sculpt a Ballet Body — Without Ever Touching a Barre

(Photo courtesy of Refine Method)

At 16, an age when most teens are on laser-focused on getting their driver’s license and scoring some independence, Brynn Putnam was committing to the captivity and discipline required of being a dancer with the prestigious New York City Ballet. When she retired from dancing in 2009, Putnam realized that she’d again need to summon discipline—this time to in order to figure out how to work out on her own. “Barre, Pilates, and yoga promised a ‘dancer’s body’ and seemed less intimidating than the world of treadmills and dumbbells, so I started there,” Putnam tells Yahoo Health. 

Taking classes soon turned to teaching at some of the top boutique fitness studios in New York City. But something wasn’t quite right: “I watched my students logging hours doing hard workouts, yet making little progress,” she says. “I started to wonder how much of what I knew about fitness was fact and how much was misinformation.” 

So Putnam decided to travel across the country, meeting with athletic trainers, coaches, and scientists, many of whom had experience with professional athletes. The journey was eye-opening for Putnam, who began lifting much heavier weights than she ever had before.

“I performed squats and deadlifts instead of plies and leg lifts. I struggled at times to figure out if I was doing it right,” she explains. “But I also felt challenged, both mentally and physically, and my body finally felt ‘dancer-fit’ again, with a fraction of the time spent working out.”

Drawing upon the lessons learned from her time as a professional dancer, boutique fitness instructor, and student of some of the top minds in sports, Putnam founded Refine Method. The New York City studio opened in 2010, and uses high-intensity interval training to deliver the results her clients want in minimal time.

“The qualities many admire in dancers — leanness, strong and proportional legs, balance and coordination and good posture — can all be trained as part of a smart program that is tailored to your body and goals, no barre involved,” Putnam says. 

The Workout

With this exclusive workout created for Yahoo Health, you can experience a taste of the Refine Method right from your living room or local gym. 

Perform each exercise in order for the allotted time, going from one move to the next with minimal rest. Once you’ve finished all five exercises (one round), repeat the sequence for two to three rounds total. 

Note: Although these photos show kettlebells, you can also do the workout with dumbbells. 

1. Reverse lunge touchdown

Stand with your feet under your hips, abs braced and spine neutral. Step your right foot back and bend both knees, lowering your hips down. 

(All photos courtesy of Refine Method)

As you lower down, hinge forward at the hips reaching your hands towards the ground. 

Drive through your front foot and use your front hip to “pull” yourself to standing, while keeping your torso tight and tall. 

Alternate legs for 90 seconds.

2. Crawl

Come to all fours, and lift your knees off of the ground. 

Step your right hand and left foot forward, then switch, crawling forward. Repeat four times. 

Next, reverse the crawl. Step your right hand and left foot back, then switch. Repeat four times. 

Repeat the entire sequence (crawling forward and backward) for 60 seconds.

3. Bottoms-up lunge into single-leg deadlift

Come to a kneeling position with your left foot forward. 

Push down into your left foot to come to a standing position on your left leg. 

Bend your left knee slightly. Keep your back straight as you hinge forward at the hips, extending your right leg straight out behind you and reaching your arms toward the floor. 

Lower your leg and return to a standing position. Then, switch legs.

Alternate sides for 90 seconds.

4. Suitcase swings into farmer’s walk

Stand with your feet together and a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand. 

Bend your knees and hinge at your hips as you swing the weights back. Then, in a fluid motion, stand tall and use momentum to swing the weights up to belly button height. Brace your abs and engage your glutes (butt muscles) as the weights come forward. Repeat, swinging the weights back and forward.

Complete 10 swings. Then walk for 100 meters holding the weights at your sides. 

Continue to alternate exercises (10 swings, walk 100 meters) for 2 minutes.

5) Wall slide

This exercise will give you some active rest before you start the next round.

Stand with your back against a wall, feet hip-width apart, your knees slightly bent. Reach your arms out to the side, and bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle so that the back of your hands and forearms are touching the wall. 

Brace your abs and maintain contact with the wall as you slowly slide your arms up toward the ceiling. 

Once you reach the point where your ribs flare open, or your shoulders start to rise towards your ears, slowly return to the starting position.

Repeat the exercise for 60 seconds.

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