Exercises are designed to elongate, or lengthen, your muscles and improve muscle tone. In order to build leaner thighs you need to attack your legs from three directions: front (quadriceps), rear (hamstrings) and outer (gluteus minimus).
Ballet exercises, require you to possess basic input about the five foot positions, as all exercises begin with one of these five positions. First position calls for the heels to be touching and the toes pointed outward, with the feet forming a 180-degree (or almost 180-degree) line. In second position, the feet are pointing in the same direction as first, but the heels are about shoulder-width apart. In third position, both feet are turned out as in first and second positions, but one foot is placed in front of the other, with the heel of one foot resting in the arch of the other foot. Fourth position has the feet in the same stance as third, but the feet are about a foot apart instead of touching. Fifth position calls for the heel of one foot to be touching the toes of the other foot, with the legs pulled tightly together.
- Plie: An excellent workout for the entire leg, targeting the quadriceps,hamstrings and glute muscles. To begin with squat, heels lifted and touching, knees spread to create a diamond shape between your heels and your pelvis. Lift up and down one inch, never moving your rear below your knees. Repeat 20 times. Break for a moment and repeat. When practicing a plié, keep your buttocks tucked under and keep your knees over your toes. Repeated grand plies will strengthen all of the major muscle groups in your legs. To take it one step further, stand in a wide second position, with your feet wider than shoulder width apart and toes pointed out.
- Battements: That’s a high kick in which the feet begin in a position that require them to be touching the floor. One foot is then kicked out from the other, held straight and with toe pointed. It is important to remember that the battement is a controlled movement, so the leg is thrown up as high as you can reach, but controlled when coming back down to meet the other leg. A grand battement can be done to the front, side or back. This movement works all parts of the leg.
- Arabesque (Reverse leg extension): This exercise calls for a position of the body when you stand on one leg, while the other leg is extended behind the body, with both knees straight. This 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. To begin, stand next to the ballet barre, chair or other point ofbalance, holding lightly with your right hand. 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.
- Runners Lunge: This exercise stretches out the back of the leg and thigh and is a perfect way to end a rigorous workout. 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.
- Hamstring press: Excellent for toning and strengthening the back of the thighs (hamstrings). Stand with arms lifted in front of you, one knee slightly bent and the other leg behind you at a 90 degree angle. 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.
- Frappe: This exercise strengthens your thighs. Stand to the side of the bar with your closer hand holding the bar. Begin the exercise by lifting your outer leg forward about half way up to hip height. While holding your leg up, bend and extend your leg at the knee up to four times. Contract your thigh muscles to extend your leg. Lower your leg back down to the floor. Continue the exercise by repeating the movement to the side and then to the back. Repeat the exercise on the other side.
- Releve: A movement in which your heels rise off the floor, tightening the buttocks, thighs and calves and strengthening the ankles. This movement can be done in any of the five positions. Begin by standing with your feet in position, then rise, rolling through the feet until you are balanced on the balls of your feet.
- Penche: This is an intermediate ballet step that looks very graceful. Begin in an upright position with both feet placed on the ground. Place your right arm softly in front of your body lower than shoulder height (a chair). Begin to lower your arm and upper body keeping an almost straight line from the fingertips or your right hand to your left toes. Keep your left arm parallel to your left leg and outstretched behind your body. Lower your upper body while raising your left leg towards the ceiling. Go as far as you can. Eventually, you’ll be able to form a nearly straight line with both of your legs. Don’t allow your right hand to touch the floor at any point. Never let your back and left leg form a straight line. Keep your back arched. Slowly raise your body up back to starting position. Turn to the left and begin to perform a penche on the “left side.” Place your left arm softly in front of your body. Lower your upper body towards the ground with your right leg stretched behind your body. Reach the lowest point you can extend to. Raise your body back to starting position.
Note: Ballet targets smaller muscles that you don’t often use—instead of working your quads it works the inside and the back of your leg.