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6 Dancer-Approved Leg Exercises to Get Long and Lean
Looking to add a little grace and poise to your lower-body routine? Enter: Flik Swan, co-founder of Sleek Technique (a ballerina workout program that offers online interactive cardio, strength, and stretch classes—now on DVD), and the dancer in the upcoming Cinderella movie. So let's just say she knows a thing or two about how to strengthen and lengthen muscles. These six leg exercises do just that, shedding fat from your inner thighs and lifting your glutes. Master these moves at home—no equipment needed—and be sure to catch Swan twirling and leaping on the big screen on March 13th.
Ballet Positions 101
For our dance newbies (don't worry, we are, too!), here's a breakdown of some basic ballet positions. They lay the foundation for these leg exercises, so be sure to try 'em and nail 'em!
First position: Stand with your legs touching, toes pointed out to the sides and arms slightly bent in front of you.
Second position: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out to the sides and arms lifted in line with shoulders.
Third position: Stand with one leg slightly in front of the other, toes pointed out to the sides. One arm should be lifted in line with your shoulder and the other bent slightly in front of you.
Fourth position: Stand with one leg in front of the other, toes pointed out to the sides. (Your front foot should completely hide the other.) Lift one arm high above your head and bend the other slightly in front of you.
Fifth position: Stand with one leg in front of the other, toes pointed out to the sides. (Again, your front foot should completely hide the other.) Lift both arms high above your head.
Retiré: Stand on one leg and bend the other so your pointed toe is touching your knee. Bend your arms slightly in front of you.
Ballerina Balance Transfers
Your stabilizer muscles get some love with this move since you're transferring your weight from side to side, while leaning, will force you to engage your core. Do this move with the others or on its own as a warm-up.
Targets calves, quads, and glutes
1. Start with legs apart in second position. Pull up both knees, squeeze your glutes, and lift your heels to engage your calf muscles.
2. Take your arms up and out to open fifth.
3. Lower one heel and transfer your weight over to the side, bending the supporting leg and stretching the other leg. Lean over from your waist, rounding the arms to fifth position over head.
4. Come back through center and repeat to the other side. Move in quick succession. Do two sets of 16 each way.
MAKE IT HARDER: Slow the second set down and take the stretched leg 6 inches off the floor each time. Aim for control—no wobbling on your supporting leg.
You'll feel some serious burn with this classic dance stance.
Targets quads, glutes, and calves
1. Start with legs apart in second position. Without leaning forward, bend your knees and lift one heel off the floor.
2. Pulse in this position, keeping your knees open and in line with your middle toes. Do two sets of 16 on each side with a quad stretch between each set.
MAKE IT HARDER: Add a third and fourth set, sinking your hips lower to the floor to pulse so you're in a deeper plié. Keep your spine straight and your knees over toes.
Squeeze your glutes while you lift your arms.
Targets quads, hamstrings, and glutes
1. Stand with one leg behind you in fourth position with your back heel lifted off the floor.
2. Bend both knees, bringing the body over your front thigh and sweeping your arms out and down to first position.
3. Pull both legs up, bringing the arms overhead to fifth position. Repeat 16 times on each leg.
MAKE IT HARDER: Lift your back leg off the floor as you pull up and touch your toes high to the back of your supporting leg at the top, pressing your knee open to retiré position.
Tendu to Second
They look simple, but remember to keep your toes pointed and knees straight when you do these. You'll get a better stretch in each leg that way.
Targets calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors
1. Start in first position with your heels apart, keeping your toes in a "ten to two o'clock" alignment and squeezing your glutes.
2. Open your arms out to second position and slide one leg out to the side, lengthening the leg and pointing the toes.
3. Draw the leg back into first, keeping both kneecaps pulled up, holding the arms in second. Do two sets of 16 on each leg.
Get ready to sculpt your upper thighs.
Targets rotator muscles
1. Lie on your back and raise your legs to a 90-degree angle, flex your feet and rotate the legs out to first position.
2. Place your hands onto your waist and bend both legs, keeping your core engaged and knees turned out in a diamond position.
3. Straighten your legs fully, pressing your heels back up to the ceiling and drawing your legs together. Do 4 sets of 8.
MAKE IT HARDER: Take your arms over head to fifth, hovering your arms one inch off the floor throughout.
Battement Stretch Switches
We love a move that hits the abs, too. Squeeze 'em when you do these switches to really engage your core.
Targets hamstrings and abs
1. Lie on your back, draw your tummy in, and lift your legs to a 90-degree angle, pointing your toes.
2. Place your arms in fifth position overhead, shoulders down.
3. Lower one leg only, hovering it off the floor for 8 counts, aiming to draw your top leg close to your nose, fully stretched. Do two sets of eight switches.
MAKE IT HARDER: Take your hands down to either side of your outer thighs and lift your shoulders and upper back off the floor throughout the sequence.
Video: Dancer Legs Workout
Nike Master Trainer Traci Copeland takes you through the key moves you need to get gorgeous legs like a dancer.