According to legend, a Rockette’s leg is one of the most powerful tools known to man. One strut kick to the stomach and a grown adult would be flying into the rafters of Radio City Music Hall. Okay, not really, but have you seen how strong they are? These performers manage 300 kicks per show, in heels, with a smile on their faces. Icons!
But how do Rockettes—members of a NYC-based dance company you likely see every holiday season on TV or IRL— get those strong legs? (You know, aside from rehearsing six hours per day, six days per week, for six weeks leading up to opening night?) We caught up with Emma Massarelli, a physical therapist and first-year Rockette, to find out.
Here, Massarelli shares the exercises she does, what muscles they target, and some tips for how you can add these moves to your own at-home fitness plan. “They aren’t flashy but it’s the simple exercises that really make you feel the workout,” she says. Soon, you’ll have the strength to kick to your heart’s content.
A Rockette shares her go-to leg workout moves
If you’re just starting out on your strength journey, Massarelli has two important tips for you. First, take your time and make sure you’re doing the exercises below correctly. (Form is everything!) And don’t rush yourself. “If you’re doing one of the exercises that is timed, don’t simply try to fit in as many sets as possible,” she says. “Prioritize quality over quantity.”
Second, listen to your body. “If your soreness lasts beyond 48 hours, that is a sign that you worked your muscles too much,” Massarelli says. “Next time use less repetition or less weight. You can improve overtime, but don’t go too hard too fast.”
Ready? Here’s how to crush leg day like a Rockette:
1. Dynamic hamstring stretch
Target muscle: hamstrings
To achieve their iconic “eye-high kicks,” Massarelli says it’s crucial the Rockettes have warm and lengthened hamstrings. “I make that a dynamic process rather than a static stretch in order to activate my musculature,” she says. “It’s not helpful to just sit down and touch my toes.”