TORONTO– Thanks to the The Extension Method™ , a cutting edge fitness studio located in the downtown core, you don’t have to be a professional ballet dancer to engage in the soulful dance and also still benefit from its killer workout. I love fitness but absolutely dread mundane or repetitive workouts and therefore am always looking to switch it up. So, of course I was thrilled to test my strength in this high impact yet graceful method of fitness. After even one class, I completely understand why ballet dancers have such amazing ‘bods!
I ended up trying both the ‘Developpe Ballet Sculpt’ and ‘Allegro Ballet Bootcamp’ (their most popular class) which I found to be each rewarding in their own way. I found the sculpting class to really work all those muscles you probably never thought you had. This is great because you get more toned and refined definition as a result, a necessity for the upcoming bikini season! While I also equally enjoyed the Allegro class because its that fast-pased, intense workout that really gets you sweating, working all your muscles, and burning off those unwanted calories. It feels like the fat is just melting off to reveal that perfectly sculpted body beneath. It’s something you can easily get addicted to and really is considered the ultimate ballet fitness workout. If you are bored with your current workout routine, have reached your ‘fitness plateau’, or just looking for a great reason to get into shape–I encourage you to try it! 🙂
Before you go, founder (and professional dance sensation) Jennifer Nichols told us a bit more about her inspiration behind The Extension Method™ and just how this unique routine can benefit you:
Why did you design The Extension Method™?
I originally began to design The Extension Method™ (in 2003) for a few different reasons. I was at a point in my dance career where I was complimenting my daily class work with extra conditioning at the gym, and it was inevitable that whatever I did there, some ballet technique snuck in. 🙂 People starting asking me what I was doing and if I could show them some exercises. At the same time I met a chiropractor who treated dancers and athletes. He saw the potential benefits of dance training for athletes and wanted to find a dancer who was keen to apply these and create a program. So, under his encouragement, I started to develop The Extension Method™. It started as one class, the Allegro Ballet Bootcamp, and evolved from there. Ballet’s potential application to professional sport is very exciting. Hockey players skate using ‘turnout’ or external rotation, so why shouldn’t they incorporate this into their training? Basketball players could increase their jumpshot exponetially if they learned how to use the muscles of the arch of the foot and lower calves, would prevent injury by training the feet to land in the centre of the metatarsals and not roll over the lateral edge (which ballet does). Football great Lynn Swann and boxing legend Evander Holyfield both studied ballet for years to enhance their sport. I’ve been working with elite figure skaters and synchronized swimmers for years, but it is time to break into other sports.
Although the original genesis of the program was athletic conditioning, I started to see the appeal and benefits of this type of work for not just athletes, but everyone. Dance, and ballet, appeals to many, but those who have not studied it in the past or have not danced in many years tend it find initimidating to walk into a traditional class. I wanted to create a program (and later on, a ‘space’) that was warm and welcoming, palatable to all.
Traditional approaches to fitness are often limited in their scope, resulting in the overdevelopment of a small group of muscles, decreased range of motion, and a body which adapts to familiar patterns and is not challenged.
Dance based training is incredibly vast in its scope, requiring the body to move through an atypical range of motion, using all spatial planes, powering explosively both laterally and vertically, as well as harnessing control and balance in stationary positions. There is never a moment of complete rest , because while one or more limbs may be moving dynamically, the rest of the body is maintaining its centre through advanced core resistance. There is constant weight transfer, shift in speed and dynamics, and generating power not only by contracting, but by extending.
Ballet based training ensures that the body not only maintains but improves its range of motion and overall flexibility throughout. It also requires balanced development of the muscles of the back, with relation to the abdominals, so core strength is related to full spinal protection.
From a psychological perspective, dance based fitness removes the ‘boredom’ of the traditional gym workout. It adds music, dynamics, and the awareness that we are using our bodies to create beautiful lines that are aesthetically pleasing. For some, it takes them back to their youth, when being physically fit and healthy meant having fun and getting ‘lost in the movement’.
The overall result of this approach to fitness is a body that is strong at its core, supple and versatile, and, let’s face it, defined in an long, lean and elegant way. There is no mistaking the dancer’s posture, the dancer’s leg muscularity, and the dancer’s physical confidence. This program finds the muscles we ‘never knew we had’, the small, intrinsic, supporting muscles that define a unique shape. It could very well be the secret weapon that a professional athlete needs to give them that extra few inches in their jump shot, that greater reaching leap to catch the ball, or the faster, more grounded ‘pirouette’ on the ice to find the elusive puck…
There is nothing delicate or fragile here. The Extension Method strips the satin from ballet and revealed its muscle, making it accessible to all.
With several aggressive and high impact workouts available, how do you believe that The Extension Method™ is changing the game in fitness, especially for women?
The Extension Method™ is changing the game because it is far more comprehensive than most workouts and more tailored to a woman’s body. It covers all bases with respect to cardio, sculpting, balance, postural work, and flexibility enhancement. Most workouts place the emphasis on one or two components and in order to develop balanced strength a person would have to seek out multiple workouts.
In addition, in terms of an aggressive and high impact approach, the Extension Method™ program offers this type of intensity for those who seek it, but also offers so much more that is low to no impact and less aggressive. The options are endless as there are 7 different specially designed classes with a unique focus that appeal to different people at different times. Regardless of the variations in each class, they all build long, lean muscle tone and flexible bodies because they are all built on the premises of dance training. You can cover all your bases with one program and never get bored because there is so variation. Plus, the risk of injury is lower due to the fact that less stress is placed on the joints and an individual is not lifting heavy weights.
Dance and ballet has since reached cult status for working out. What makes The Extension Method™ different from barre classes and other forms of dance fusion?
What makes The Extension Method™ stand apart from other forms of dance/ballet fitness, is that it is the only program that if a ‘fully comprehensive’ workout, not JUST a barre workout, which is very trendy right now. I started creating this program over 10 years ago, long before it became faddish. It has evolved into a program that covers all aspects of fitness in 6 uniquely focused classes targetting different things. The Extension Method™ now includes:
- ALLEGRO BALLET BOOTCAMP (our very first, and most popular class)
- DEVELOPPE BALLET SCULPT
- BARRE 101
- CLASSICAL CORE & PORT DE BRAS
- CODA BALLET CARDIO
- ADAGIO BALLET STRETCH
In addition to not ‘just’ being a barre class, our own Barre 101 class stands out in that it is truly based on classical ballet principals (with the addition of weights, more repetitions and some extra props). But the underlying foundation is truly based on classical ballet. I have been told by students that have tried out other barre classes that the Extension Method™ Barre 101 has far more ‘dance’ involved; we don’t simply use a barre as a ‘prop’ to hold onto and perform basic fitness movements. Participants are actually performing proper classical ballet movements that are adapted for a fitness focus. Part of the difference is that our instructors are all current or former professional ballet dancers who have danced with major companies and/or trained at serious professional ballet schools.
Why did you choose King East for your location?
I guess I could say I didn’t choose King East originally, it chose me. I had opened a studio in the west end of Toronto in 2010 and was open for under a year when the building sold. It was devastating to have to move, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After searching the city everywhere for another location, and hesitant to leave the west because my clientele mainly were located in the west, I happened upon this stunning building at 30 Eastern. It needed a lot of work but I saw the potential and was sold on the sheer size of the place. So I got to work with a contractor and gutted the space, rebuilt my own style. With dance, the most important thing is room to move, and space is such a rare commodity in a downtown urban neighbourhood. I couldn’t pass up the potential in that space, despite the risk of moving my core demographic to the east end. I say ‘east end’, although I like to remind people who are nervous of the commute, that we are only a few block east of Yonge, so we are still considered central downtown. 🙂 There is also not a lot of options for locals in terms of fitness facilities, and it is nice to be able to offer them something accessible and unique. The neighbourhood is not saturated with studios and gyms like in the west.
Participants who pop in for class on the weekend can enjoy brunch afterwards at chef Jamie Kennedy’s incredible Gilead Cafe which is just next door, or stroll one block south to the beautiful Distillery District. We are close to so much, and the neighbourhood has just exploded in preparation for the Pan Am Games next year. So it was an ideal time for me to make the move. The development all around me is incredibly exciting and I absolutely LOVE our Corktown community.
Contact Extension Method™
647 352 7041
The Extension Room–Location
30 Eastern Avenue (@ Sackville)