You have to be born with it - you gotta have the shape and the even fat deposition pattern rather rare in women. Then any exercise that challenges your muscle will do as you reduce fat overall through diet (if you think you can lose fat through exercise - the answer is no; diet is a reducer, exercise is a builder).
It is a fallacy to think that a dancing workout will make you look like a dancer, that you will turn into a gazelle if you run, and that you will out-do Schwarzenegger if you lift heavy. It doesn't work that way, not for a woman. Your final body shape will be determined by the shape of your muscle, the ability of the muscle to take on pump (water), body fat deposition pattern etc. You will have to try different things to see how your body responds to load and to cardio.
Most women make a mistake of confusing what they truly want (firm) with thin. Bootcamps/Interval style training with light weights/high rep is particularly bad recommendation for most women, since for a most common body shape (pear/hourglass) it doesn't make a 'dancer' body; it leaves her looking concentration camp skinny up top (even though she can lift 8 lbs dumbells over her head 1000 times while doing jumping jacks), her face looking like a dry fish, and her thighs sporting ripples of fat basically unchanged from where she started (and, commonly love handles as well). Which makes her look unhealthy and FATTER than in the beginning. Her significant other will likely start complaining at some point about the sticking ribs and share fond memories of the Breasts That Were....
The only thing that makes a *significant* difference is if you workout on land or in the water. The very different principles apply and muscle/body fat deposition does develop a different profile. I wouldn't overdo swimming either though, even if it is a far less damaging and far better thing than running (Okay, I was wrong; there is a worse thing than the daily Bootcamp training for women who want to 'tone up'. It is a Dream To Run a Marathon. And the word 'toning'. Grr.). At the very least triathlon fins are a must, and limiting sessions in length plus doing sprints....
I will also say that the best and fastest way to what you are looking for is a good weight training program. Nothing else will come even close.
Yeah, I think it's sort of a misunderstanding about what getting a "dancer's body" entails. Ballet dancers do lots of squats (plies) and a lot of "body-weight" exercising (jete's, anyone?). And holding one's arms in second for a half-hour straight builds a lot of chest/back strength. But the tall & lean dancers, yeah, they're genetically selected, for the most part. The top dance companies select for a certain body composition.
I think pilates can be a good exercise, but remember that it was, in fact, designed by a guy to be used by guys, and then normally bed-ridden guys. I like it for teaching body-awareness and increasing joint flexibility, but it won't make you very strong anywhere outside your core. There are some workout DVD's that combine pilates with free-weights and body-weight exercise, as long as you quickly increase your dumbell weight I think these can be a good all-around workout, especially for someone new to any sort of exercising.
I did a lot of dance and gymnastics classes when I was younger, so I find using weight machines or just lifting to be boring, boring, boring. Just using one muscle at a time? yaaawwn....
If you really are interested in dance and have an agreeable partner, then you could sign up for some ballroom dancing sessions. Learning those steps also exercises the brain.
I've never done cross-fit, though I do think it looks like a good workout, and probably won't turn anyone into she-woman (unless her hormones are way out of whack to begin with), but I think everyone should exercise in whatever way they feel is most fun.
[quote]I did a lot of dance and gymnastics classes when I was younger, so I find using weight machines or just lifting to be boring, boring, boring. Just using one muscle at a time? yaaawwn.... [/quote]
The isolation work is not exactly a routine for a beginner. The large compound is what builds up the body. Squat, Deadlift, Overhead press, Bar-bell row and a Bench Press to a lesser degree. Squat is the king of lifting, because it challenges absolutely every muscle there is, apart maybe from that little nutter bicep brahialis. Heck, even a walk-out and a lift off gives you a new appreciation of your body. Once you get over your body weight on the bar boredom is unlikely because you are alternating between the maximum effort and the recovery.
But, then again, I am zero on musicality and choreography, so aerobics is not my thing. I do love Zumba because it free-form and has good up-beat music. I am not going for the workout though, but for the party, because I am a nerd who never really went to disco when she was young.
WEIGHTS WON'T MAKE YOU BULKY! Let me repeat that. WEIGHTS WON'T MAKE YOU BULKY. Read what all the others have said. You'd hafta have an enormous amount of testosterone for the average female to even think about being bulky. I can respect wanting to be lithe and catlike, but weights won't make you bulky.
That said, for what you want, IF your body type allows for that look (and to be honest, if you're going for top dance company aesthetic, you're more than likely SOL unless you've got those genes), go for compound exercises. When they get too easy as body weight, either modify them or add weight. Play your games, run like a madman, do all that stuff you're wanting to do and not look a fool. Then do some more of it. Over time, your body will develop what you need for that and (usually) drop at least a little fat in the process, if that is necessary.
Point blank: You can't force a square into a round hole. You can't become bulky without targeting it and you can't become a long, lithe, all-arms- and- legs ballerina body if you don't have the genetics for it. What you target playing and working out is what becomes stronger and lays better on your body.
[QUOTE=Leida;941289]The isolation work is not exactly a routine for a beginner. The large compound is what builds up the body. Squat, Deadlift, Overhead press, Bar-bell row and a Bench Press to a lesser degree. Squat is the king of lifting, because it challenges absolutely every muscle there is, apart maybe from that little nutter bicep brahialis. Heck, even a walk-out and a lift off gives you a new appreciation of your body. Once you get over your body weight on the bar boredom is unlikely because you are alternating between the maximum effort and the recovery.
I should have been more clear - by "just lifting" I meant the dudes I see in gyms who lay on the bench and just lift a bar up and down, up, down, up, down, up, down. Makes me sleepy just thinking about it. I would much rather put my back on a ball and use some free weights in a variety of ways to exercise every muscle in my arms and chest, and get my core and glutes into the action to keep me stable.
I was also a nerd who hated school dances. I wish schools would teach ballroom. Even if everyone went "free" from ballroom at a dance at least everyone wouldn't look like they have a squid for a mother.
Also, one under-appreciated fact in lifting for women is that any pec exercise will result in perkier boobs.
If you put your back on the ball and use dumbells you will never lift heavy enough to do anything but endurance, neither you achieve the body tension you need to make the most of the lift. Unless you have a spotter, getting dumbells of an appropriate weight to challenge the correct muscle you into a correct position will be hard. I love bench press because the way your whole core and shoulders participate and contribute to the lift. The pay-back is insane. You will net more improvement by lifting on the top your ability once and failing the second time than doing 20 lifts with the weight you can lift 20 times. Think about all the time it saves to do the fun stuff. Lol.
But the dudes are often overdo isolation vanity, I know. Heck, sometimes curls are fun to do just because how it makes you look in the mirror. Ha! Weight room is a woman's ultimate place. Maybe not the face you make when you come up on the squat, but the rest is like, men, oh, men, an hour of sheer bliss! Nothing like the embarrassment of doing an aerobic's class in front of the mirror, yukes!
Dancers are lean because they move a lot. Like... a [B]lot[/B] a lot! Yes, lifting heavy things is great, but you don't need to do so with barbells or medicine balls.
Go outside. Rock climb. Ride a bike. Kayak. Join a volleyball league. Join a dance class. You don't need to do the workouts that people find boring or the workouts that you don't want to do.
If you want to try to have a dancer's or gymnast's physique, move a lot and often... but have fun while you do it! (Side-note: have you looked at gymnasts and some dancers? They have necks like a defensive football player and crazy huge muscular thighs! Don't expect to be like a prima ballerina!)
[QUOTE=Leida;941326]If you put your back on the ball and use dumbells you will never lift heavy enough to do anything but endurance, neither you achieve the body tension you need to make the most of the lift. Unless you have a spotter, getting dumbells of an appropriate weight to challenge the correct muscle you into a correct position will be hard. I love bench press because the way your whole core and shoulders participate and contribute to the lift. The pay-back is insane. You will net more improvement by lifting on the top your ability once and failing the second time than doing 20 lifts with the weight you can lift 20 times. Think about all the time it saves to do the fun stuff. Lol.
Well, maybe for some people getting heavy enough free weights can be such a challenge that it isn't worth it, but for me (and most women I think, who naturally can't build upper-body muscle very well) 6-8 reps with a weight that makes you want to conk out at 5 is quite doable with free weights. But if you're at 20 or 25 lbs in each hand, then yeah, I can see how moving to another method makes sense. But I'm not at that place, not sure if I really have the drive to want to be.
I should explain that when I was a teen my mom taught an exercise class based around free weights and body weight exercises. I learned a lot about technique and form, so I can perform and modify a large repertoire on my own. Another thing I did learn is that this type of weight lifting itself definitely does not reduce body fat, which my mother continued to struggle with. The program was sensible enough, max 12 reps, sometimes 3 sets, sometimes on a circuit, so it was also "cardio" in the middle bit. But other than build some lean muscle across the board, it was only the already-skinny ones who got the "V" on the upper-arm.
So I hear what you are saying about 1 being better than 20, but I do think there is some happy ground in the middle too, where free weights can do more than just lubricate the joints for a few minutes, and when used right can strengthen whole muscle groups across a full range of movement (like rotating hammer curls while on the ball).
For me, I guess, I don't really care about how much weight I can press. I just want flexible ankles and don't want flabby arms. Pilates for the joints and some challenging free weights for the muscles = a win I can achieve in my bedroom.
Yes, it really depends on your body type. Some folks have to lift heavy to achieve an increase in muscle mass and some can achieve the same result with moderate weight. I advise to start out with light weights to give your connective tissue time to strengthen while perfecting form. After a few weeks add more weight and see how you respond. I like compound exercises to such as squats with an overhead press, walking lunges with bicep curls,ect. Now there are a few of us ladies who really respond to weight training such as myself. I look at a weight and gain muscle. So I keep it light to moderate with lots of bodyweight stuff to keep my muscles strong without the bodybuilder effect. Works for me. Find what works for you. If you have the financial resources hire a trainer, be very specific in what you hope to achieve, and have them design a program which will suit your desires and timeframe!