‘I’m a Former Broadway Dancer, and Here’s Why Pliés Are the Perfect Warmup for Your Workout’

Photo: Getty Images/ Photology1971
Fitness teachers often begin their classes with a set of dynamic stretching, or maybe a few minutes of medium-intensity cardio, with some mental centering and deep breathing to boot.

Clad in thick-soled Prada work boots and his signature short shorts, trainer Isaac Boots prefers to kick off his super challenging Torch’d classes with one power move—informed by his background as a dancer and choreographer—that he says does it all.

“Never underestimate the power of a good plié,” Boots says. “It’s low impact and yet the most impactful.”

Boots’ Torch’d classes contain a series of full-body toning moves worthy of the Torch’d name, since they absolutely set your body on fire. I got to experience just how challenging and energizing Boots' classes are during a recent Torch'd retreat at Gurney's Montauk Resort in the Hamptons. From the moment Boots begins class, the energy is revved up, and you’re constantly moving.

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So a good warm-up is essential. Boots needs the body to get limber so his students can raise, lower, pulse, and circle their arms and legs nonstop for 20 to 40 minutes. His go-to warmup comes directly from his training as a dancer; Boots performed on Broadway for 10 years in his 20s, and spent the next decade choreographing for the likes of superstars like Ariana Grande.

Which is why the first thing you’ll do when a diva ballad starts playing during a Torch’d class is separate your feet, turn out your toes (and the rest of your leg), raise your arms out to the side, and start lowering and raising your booty in a plié series.

The benefits of pliés

Boots opts for this warm-up because it helps his students connect to the breath, find alignment in the spine, and activate the lower body, upper body, and core—all at once.

“You’re working your entire body in a comprehensive way,” Boots says. “It’s about your alignment, how to really get into that low position while engaging your core in a really visceral way, while maintaining the alignment of your spine, while lengthening your arms and spreading your fingers wide, activating every fiber, while waking up your glutes and your entire lower body, spreading your toes wide, and pressing evenly, so that it's fully active.”

Boots is clear that the plié is not a squat. You want to keep your head upright with a neutral spine, as opposed to leaning forward like you would in a squat. You don’t want to arch your back or tuck your pelvis, either.

“Never a tuck,” Boots says. “It's finding your natural alignment, the natural curve of your spine.”

To make that happen, you want to focus on your lower belly, and think about pulling it up and in. Doing so will help you find that neutral alignment, according to Boots. Additionally, make sure your toes and knees are both pointing out at an angle, with your thighs opening wide.

Boots also adds in arms to his plié series, with hands extended to the sides, up above his head, or out in front of him. He also alternates sides going up and down. If you intentionally move your arms, and don’t just throw them around, this will help you activate through your arm and back muscles.

The final component is cardio. Depending on the tempo, the constant movement of a plié series will get your heart pumping, with blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles, making sure they’re ready for what’s ahead.

Craft your own dance-based warmup with this leg workout: 

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