Do you want legs like her? Try ballet
THOSE who shy from shorts often have nothing against the little pieces of fabric. It's not the shorts, really it's not. It's all about whether our legs are worthy.
If not, there is hope for those challenged by thunder thighs and jumbo calves. If you want better legs, there's no better person to ask than a dancer.
Ballet Hawaii instructor Susan Quong says that basic ballet exercises go a long way in strengthening inner thighs, glutes and calves to improve leg strength and appearance.
"The trick is to go for long, lean muscles, not bulky muscles. It's important to stretch and hold, rather than grip the muscles.
"You don't want large quad muscles, which is what you get when you do squats," she said.
Pliés and core- or abdominal-strengthening exercises also help to develop good posture, adding elegance to your stride.
"It's like building blocks. You want to put your body on building blocks. Like a kid playing with building blocks, if one is out of place, the structure is wobbly. But if everything's in place, you feel stronger, there's less tension everywhere."
Practicing basic ballet exercises can "reshape the body," Quong said.
"I've seen it happen," said dancer Kelsea Auld. "Even girls with short legs can make them look longer, but it's all about hard work."
THE FOLLOWING photographs of Auld show proper form and demonstrate what it takes to get great legs. However, the exercises encompass more than movement and these descriptions are very general. It is important to seek out an instructor who can examine your positioning and help you to focus on relevant muscles. Performing the exercises incorrectly can have unintended consequences, such as adding bulk where you wanted to lose it, straining the knees or tearing muscles. For all the exercises, keep your stomach pulled to your spine, and your buttock, spine, neck and head aligned. Hold onto a wall or table for balance.
1 - First position plié
Start with heels together and feet turned outward (turnout); for most people, this will be at a 45-degree angle rather than the straight line shown. Squeeze your inner thigh muscles as if you had a beach ball between them, engaging buttock muscles as well. Slowly bend your knees (pictured below). "When you bend your legs, they should go right over your middle toe, without sticking anything out," Quong said. Slowly restraighten. Repeat four times. CLICK FOR LARGE
1 - Second position plié
This variation of the plié involves starting with your legs spread apart. Do eight times. CLICK FOR LARGE
2 - Relevé
Consider these as push-ups from your calves. With heels together, feet turned outward and legs stretched straight begin with a plié, then straighten legs. Focusing on inner thigh and calf muscles, in a smooth continuous move, raise your body as high as you can on the balls of your feet. Keep heels in midline with toes. Lower your heels to the floor in the same smooth motion. Repeat eight times in first and second positions. CLICK FOR LARGE
3 - Elevé
After several weeks, you may add this after relevés, rising with legs straight and no plié. CLICK FOR LARGE
3 - Battement
This refers to the extension of a straight leg up in a kicking motion. Do only after warming up sufficiently. With heels together, extend your left foot forward, leading with the heel and inner part of your leg. When it no longer touches the floor, allow your leg to rise in a straight motion while your torso remains erect. Hold standing leg straight without torquing the knee and ankle joints. Repeat four times to the front and sides with both legs. CLICK FOR LARGE
4- Battement to the back
This is a little more difficult. Keep your turnout throughout the exercise. If using the right leg, reach back with the toes leading and leg straight. Your standing leg also remains straight. Keep your body erect and pulled up. Continue kicking up as high as you can. Lower leg back to first position with heel forward. Try pointing the feet the minute it leaves the floor in a brushing motion. Repeat four times with both legs. CLICK FOR LARGE