strengthening knees and second position plié

Dear Deb,

I lately struggle lots with my knees, especially when I do a plie type exercises in second position, this is in gym and dance classes. I have to admit I am 40, but have been dancing all my life.

Was wondering if you have any suggestions to strengthen my knees.



Great question, Lisel! Plié in second position requires a slow controlled action from the quadricep muscle. This means the lower part of the muscle is doing an eccentric contraction – it is lengthening at the same time it is controlling your descent. That is the hardest kind of contraction for a muscle.

The other interesting consideration is that dancers tend to turnout more in second position than they would in first or fifth position. It’s just easier to be in a wide position and turnout.

One of the easiest ways to easiest ways to train your quads for that movement is by placing a physioball (one of the large balls that you can sit on) behind you on the wall. Your feet are away from the wall and in parallel first position and you are leaning with slight weight against the ball.  Then you simply do some slow and smooth demi pliés.

Slow and smooth is key.  Once you can easily do 10 – 15 reps on 2 feet try doing 5 single leg demi’s.  It will really work your balance so start with really baby demi’s and not lowering very far.

You could also sit and put a 5 pound ankle weight on one leg.  Slowly extend to straight, and then slightly (and slowly) bend the knee (only 4-5 inches) and straighten it again.  Be careful not to lock back into the knees when you are straightening.

By doing reps at a smaller range, slowly and smoothly, you are focusing the work more intensely.  This should translate to better muscular control in your second position plies.

As always – make sure your feet are accurately placed in a turnout range that your hips dictate.  In other words don’t turn out farther in second position than how you would easily stand in first position.

Hope that helps!


PS:  remember the early bird special on the Science of Dance Training Summer conference is only until March 30th! Check it out by clicking here!

5 replies
  1. Donna
    Donna says:


    Could you explain this exercise in a bit more detail? I don’t quite understand where the physioball is located while you are doing the demi-plie in parallel.

    Is the ball behind your knees, suspended above the floor?

    I would like to understand it better because I, too, have chronic knee problems and I am always eager to learn exercises that can strengthen them.


    • deborah
      deborah says:

      Donna, The ball is behind your back, and you are leaning onto it with a little bit of weight. The more of an incline you are at the more it works your quads, so start off more upright than on a slant. You can see a picture of it by clicking here
      Hope that helps!


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  1. […] gives advice on conditioning goals when dance classes just aren’t enough. Her advice on strengthening knees for plies is also quite […]

  2. Сергей says:


    С одной стороны сообщение интересное, но с другой очень мало фактических обоснований...

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