A plié (pronounced plee-AY) is as simple as bending your knees — and yet, this foundational movement really isn’t that simple.
When translated from French, plié means “bend” or “bending.” It’s a staple movement in ballet and many barre workouts, like Xtend Barre on Openfit. In these workouts, you’ll need to know how to do a plié properly, as it’s a foundation for more advanced movements.
There are a few variations of plié, such as the demi or grande, and in Xtend Barre you’ll sometimes do a plié while lifting your heels off the ground in relevé. The following tips can help you do all these variations correctly.
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How to Do a Plié
Yes, we all know how to bend our knees. That’s not the tough part about this move — the thing that’s the most important when you’re doing a plié is your alignment: Your feet, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, and head must all be placed in proper alignment to truly get all the benefits and strengthening a plié has to offer.
Here, we break down the basic steps to do a plié, and then we dive into some tips to help you improve your plié.
1. Find first position
First position is a standard foot placement in ballet. You can also do a plié from many foot positions, such as second, where your feet are separated.
- Stand tall with your feet together and your toes pointing forward.
- Rock back on your heels, and then turn your legs out from the hips so you toes point out to the sides.
- Don’t worry about how wide your turnout is — you don’t want to force it to a point that it’s uncomfortable.
2. Solidify your foundation
- Distribute your weight evenly between your right and left foot, the front and back of your foot, and the inside and outside of your foot.
3. Bend your knees
- To begin your plié, simply bend your knees.
- For a demi plié, your heels should remain firmly planted on the ground.
4. Maintain proper alignment
- Your knees should track over the middle of your foot, instead of caving in or bowing out.
- Keep a long spine to avoid hunching your back or sticking your tailbone out — you should be in neutral spine.
- Make sure your abs are engaged the whole time to help you maintain this position as you bend your knees to lower into the plié.
5. Rise back up
- To come back up from the bottom of the plié, simply straighten your legs and return to your original position.
- Engage your muscles (legs, glutes, core), and move slowly and with control: press through your heels to activate your hamstrings and glutes, and strengthen your inner thighs to keep your knees tracking over your toes.
Here’s a video of Xtend Barre creator Andrea Roger’s explaining how to plie:
Tips on Doing Pliés
Doing pliés correctly will strengthen your thighs, hamstrings, calves, and booty. But to really target all those muscles and protect your joints, you have to make sure you have the right alignment. Here are some tips to perfect it.
Turn out from the hip
External rotation (when your toes point out) should always come from your hips. If you force your feet to turn out farther than is natural, you might feel a twinge in your knees. If this happens, back off your turnout and focus on making the movement come from your hip instead of your knee. It’s OK if you don’t have a wide turnout — you’ll still get the benefits of doing pliés without it!
Knees over toes
Your knees should naturally pass over your toes as you bend in to your plié. If you pushed your feet into a wider turnout than is natural for you, your knees may cave in, instead of going over your toes, which can cause pain in your knees.
To find your balance and move gracefully through a plié, you want proper spine alignment. Lengthen your spine to stand tall. Avoid hunching your back or sticking your tailbone out — you should be in a neutral spine. Make sure your abs are engaged the whole time to help you maintain this position as you go through the movement.
Stick with the right heel placement
For a demi plié, your heels stay on the floor. If you start to lower down and your heels pop up off the floor or you start to lean forward, lessen the bend in your knees until you can firmly place them down again.
If you’re doing a grande plié, you’ll let your heels come off the floor so you can lower down further. And in Xtend Barre, sometimes you’ll do compound movements that involve lifting your heels into relevé (where you’re balancing on the balls of your feet), and then go into the plié movement.
All of these variations are safe and effective as long as you keep proper alignment in the rest of your body.
While bending your knees might seem like the simplest movement, finding your proper alignment is what’s critical for doing this movement correctly. Once you’ve mastered your plié, your muscles will be burning after Xtend Barre class in all the right ways. We’re looking forward to meeting you at the barre!