By Petra Kolber
Updated: May 11, 2008

In your quest for great-looking thighs and calves, who better to emulate than a group famous for strong, beautiful legs: dancers. These ballet-inspired moves will strengthen and tone all of the muscles in you upper and lower legs—and might even add more elegance to your stride. Try these moves 3 times per week, gradually increasing to 3 sets of each per session.

Calf Raise and Leg Extension for calves and quadriceps
1A. Stand next to a chair, resting your right hand lightly on the back for balance (but try to use the chair as little as possible). With feet together, bend your left knee and bring your left foot to the front of your lower right leg. Extend left arm, and raise it to shoulder height.

1B. Push up through your right leg onto your tiptoes. At the same time, extend your left leg forward about 2 feet from the floor (or as high as is comfortable), keeping hips level. Pause, and return to starting position. Repeat 8–12 times on right leg, then switch legs.

Plie to Leg Sweep for upper legs and inner thighs
2A. Stand tall with your heels together, toes pointing out. Step out to the side with your right leg, bending at the knees and hips to lower into a plie position. (Thighs should be almost parallel to the floor, with knees in line with toes.)

2B. Press down on your right leg to return to standing. As you come up, sweep your right leg across the front of your body (this should be more of a lifting motion than a swinging one). Your leg should be about 2 feet from the floor, or as close as you can comfortably get. Pause, and return to plie position. Repeat 8–12 times on right leg, then switch legs.

Standing Hip Extension for hamstrings and glutes
3A. Stand facing the back of a chair, resting your hands lightly on it for balance. Place your heels together with feet turned slightly outward, then extend your right leg behind you, with your toe pointed down. Keep your abs tight, and be sure not to arch your back.

3B. Slowly lift your right leg, allowing the knee to bend slightly. Pause, and return to starting position. Repeat 8–12 times, then switch legs.

Dont forget:
  • Imagine that youre being suspended by a string from the ceiling to keep you standing tall throughout the workout.
  • Keep your abs tight and chest lifted during each exercise.
  • Dont lock your knees when straightening your legs.
  • Turn your legs out from the hips, and only go as far as is comfortable.
  • Keep all of your movements fluid and graceful.

Cardio Tip:
For some additional leg work (and a calorie-burning boost), incorporate hills into your regular walk or run, or increase the incline on the treadmill or elliptical trainer.