The Rockettes are known around the world for eye-high kicks (yes, their kicks really do come up to their eyes) and, of course, those glorious gams.
But great-looking legs don't come easy. Sure, a good set of genes helps, but it also takes discipline, hours of practice and lots of training to be Rockette-ready.
“We train a year out for the season,” says Jeanne Logan Cargill, a Bradenton native who has been a Rockette for four years. “There's no time for developing strength and endurance, you have to be ready to go on the first day.”
And how do they get those long, lean Rockette legs?
“We train six hours a day, six days a week,” says Laura Iberg, a Rockette since 2008. “To have nice legs, they need to be strong.”
We caught up with Cargill and Iberg while they were in town promoting their upcoming “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” which will run from Dec. 12 through 29 at The Straz Center, and we asked them to show us some of their favorite moves to get into Rockette shape.
The ladies were more than happy to oblige.
Now, we're not guaranteeing these moves will get you a spot in the legendary line, but if you add these leg-sculpting, core-strengthening exercises to your routine, you should be able to show off your gams just in time for the holidays.
As with any exercises, make sure you have proper form (see the photos above for help with that), don't strain, and stop exercising if you experience any pain or discomfort.
Before you begin the exercises, do a five-minute warm-up by taking a brisk walk or doing some other cardio activity.
Then, do these two stretching exercises before and after the next three moves.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on your left knee (as demonstrated by Rockette Jeanne Logan Cargill). Make sure your right foot is flat on the floor and your knee doesn't go over your foot. Put both hands on top of your bent thigh and, keeping your chin parallel to the ground, press your hips forward until you feel a slight tension in your left thigh. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, release, then switch sides.
Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat two or three times on each leg.
Standing Quad Stretch
Stand up straight with your feet together and knees touching. Keeping your left foot pointed, start lifting it behind you. Reaching back with your left arm, get a firm grip on your foot and pull your leg toward your buttocks, at about a 90-degree angle, until you feel a slight stretch across the front of your hip and thigh. Be careful not to strain your knee by pulling it too high. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs.
Tip: If you can't hold your balance, use a wall or chair to support yourself.
Begin in a seated, upright position, with your right leg at a 90-degree angle in front of you and your left leg at a 90-degree angle behind you (as demonstrated by Rockette Laura Iberg). You may need to lean slightly forward and away from your lower body to do this exercise (as shown). Align your right arm parallel to your thigh (it also helps with balance). Keeping your abs engaged, relax your shoulders and do small controlled lifts with your left leg about an inch or so off the floor. It's important that your working leg stays behind your hip and your knee remains lower than your foot.
Do 10 to 15 lifts, then switch legs. Do three sets.
Tip: If lifting your leg is too challenging, use your left arm to help hold your leg until your legs and core are strong enough to do it.
Lunge with a Passé
Stand with your back straight, both feet together and hands on hips. Bring your right foot up your leg toward your knee. Step backward with your right leg, bringing your knee down gently into a lunge position. Make sure your knee is straight over your ankle when you do the lunge. Bring your right leg slowly back up into the starting position.
Do 10 to 15 reps, then repeat on the opposite leg.
Tip: Don't let your knee go over your foot.
Start in a push-up position with your palms flat on the floor (as shown in photo). Make sure that your head, neck and spine form a straight line down to your feet. Engage your abs (like someone is about to punch you in the stomach) and hold this position for as long as you can.
To make the exercise more challenging, alternate lifting one of your legs a few inches off the ground and bending one of your legs at the knee. Repeat the move, alternating legs, and hold as long as you can.
Tip: Remember to breathe. Keep your abs engaged and your body in a straight line. Don't drop your hips or raise your butt.