Cindy Sites has heard request after request from her clients looking for long, lean dancer's legs. The classically trained ballerina and former Lotte Berk instructor founded Go Figure and The Figure Method 10 years ago to give clients an effective and fun workout that doesn't require heavy weights or equipment. The Figure Method is a unique hybrid of yoga, Pilates, isometric exercises and classical ballet that tones, strengthens, tightens and lifts.
Get off the abductor and adductor machines and use your own body weight to achieve leaner legs. The secret to thinner thighs, according to Sites, is a three-dimensional approach to your lower body movements.
"I view thighs from three directions: front (quadriceps), rear (hamstrings) and outer (gluteus minimus -- that pretty little hollow in the outer seat area)," says the fitness expert. "In order to develop beautifully toned thighs in 3D, I recommend the five leg exercises below, ending with a luxurious stretch to elongate the muscles you've just worked and say hello to beautiful, lengthened thighs!"
This move, a variation on the ballet battement, tones quadriceps (front of the upper leg) and adductors, which make up the inner thigh area and are one of the weakest muscle groups in a woman's body. The forward leg lift creates muscles that are toned and lengthened, not big and bulky.
Start position: Stand with your back against the ballet barre or chair, stairway bannister, kitchen counter -- basically anywhere you can find balance.
Movement: Extend one leg and lift and lower in a challenging range of motion, toes pointed, 20 times. Flex the foot and do 20 more reps. Switch to the opposite leg and repeat.
The reverse leg lift uses the same principle as the forward leg lift, but works the glutes and hamstrings (the back of the upper leg). While doing this exercise, you should feel a contraction in the entire back of the leg, from the glute to the ankle.
Start position: Stand next to the ballet barre, chair or other point of balance, holding lightly with your right hand.
Movement: Bend your left knee slightly and raise the right leg in a challenging range of motion, toes pointed, 20 times. Flex the foot, and do 20 more reps. Switch sides and repeat with the left leg.
The plié is arguably the most famous ballet position for a reason: it's a fantastic workout for the entire leg, targeting the quadriceps, hamstrings and glute muscles.
Start position: Squat, heels lifted and touching, knees spread to create a diamond shape between your heels and your pelvis.
Movement: Lift up and down one inch, never moving your rear below your knees. Repeat 20 times. Break for a moment and repeat.
Note: Those with knee sensitivity should opt out of first position and proceed to second position.
This variation on the plié is a very effective total leg workout. Make sure your heels are lifted (ballet term: relevé) the entire time to feel the full effect.
Start position: Squat with knees facing out, facing your barre or point of balance. Lift your heels and adjust your position until you feel that your leg muscles are fully engaged.
Movement: Hold the position for 60 seconds; or lift yourself up one inch, down one inch, never moving your rear below your knees. Repeat 20 times. Break for a moment and repeat.
This move is excellent for toning and strengthening the back of the thighs (hamstrings).
Start position: Stand with arms lifted in front of you, one knee slightly bent and the other leg behind you at a 90 degree angle.
Movement: With your toes pointed, lower the leg so that your toe touches the floor, then come back to the 90 degree angle. Repeat 20 times. Break momentarily and repeat 20 more times, with your foot flexed. Then repeat on the opposite leg.
After contracting the thigh muscles with the above exercises, it's important to give yourself a great stretch to lengthen the muscle. This position stretches out the back of the leg and thigh and is a perfect way to end a rigorous workout.
Stretch: With your right leg at a 90 degree angle and right foot firmly planted, extend the left leg behind you, being sure to keep your left heel lifted. Fold your arms into a prayer position and hold. Repeat on the opposite leg.
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