Have you looked at a ballerina’s long, lean legs lately? There’s a good reason ballet workouts have become so popular recently: They work. We asked Mary Helen Bowers, professional ballerina, founder of fitness method Ballet Beautiful and trainer to big-time models like Miranda Kerr and Lily Aldridge, to show us an inner thigh workout inspired by the moves that give dancers their enviable physiques.
These five target the inner thighs, and as a bonus, hit the outer thighs, knees and butt a bit too. Plus, you can turn any of them into a great lower ab workout by simply engaging your core. Focus on pulling in the muscles beneath your hip bones and belly button. “It’s what happens naturally when you laugh or gasp with surprise,” Bowers says.
Throughout the workout, pay close attention to your leg positioning. “Ballet dancers are constantly engaging their inner thighs because so much of the dancing is done from a turned-out position,” Bowers says. That’s how they get the tight, jiggle-free legs the rest of the world wishes they had. Try these moves that follow suit, and you’ll be on your way to getting your very own pair, too.
Mary Helen’s shoes and leotard are available now on the Ballet Beautiful website.
1Classic Inner Thigh Lift
To get into starting position, lie on your right side, right leg extended straight along the mat. Bend your left leg and place your foot, either flat or on demi-point (heel lifted), on the mat in front of your bottom leg. Relax your shoulders and neck, and pull your stomach in, core engaged.
Lift your bottom leg to hover above the ground, and from this starting point, lift two inches and lower. The leg never touches the mat. Do 4 sets of 8 on each leg.
2Attitude With Bend-Stretch
Get into starting position: Lie on your right side, right leg extended straight along the mat. Bend your left leg and place your foot, either flat or on demi-point (heel lifted), on the mat in front of your bottom leg. Lift your straight leg four to five inches off the ground.
With the leg hovering in the air, bend the knee into attitude position with the leg turned out, keeping the bend bigger than a 90-degree angle. Straighten back out, still hovering above the mat. This movement hits both your inner thighs and your knee area, where the movement is coming from. Continue this bend-stretch motion for 4 sets of 8 on each leg.
3Inner Thigh Beats
Lie flat on your back. Extend legs straight up in the air, turned outward from the hips and toes pointed, so that your inner thighs and heels are touching. Place your arms out in front of you in first position—forming a loose circle. Be sure to engage your core and keep your belly button pulled into your spine.
Then, open up your legs to a V position, a little further than shoulder-width apart. Pull your legs back in and tap heels together lightly, then push back out to the V. Keep doing this repeatedly, with a steady “beat.” You should feel your inner thighs working as you pull your legs back together each time. Do 4 sets of 8.
Start in the same position as Inner Thigh Beats—flat on your back, legs extended straight up in the air, toes pointed, hips and legs turned outward so the soles of your feet are facing each other. Pull your abs in tight.
Then, flex feet and bend knees into a plié. To truly work your inner thigh area, think of it as someone pulling your knees out from the sides, rather than pushing your legs down from the top. Push legs back up straight into starting position. Push from the heels and extend your legs as long as you can, pressing heels together at the top. This bend-stretch also targets your knee area. Do 4 sets of 8.
5Rond de Jambe
Start in first position—heels together, toes out. Then, keeping your leg straight and turned out at the hip, point your right toes out in front of you. Arms can be in first position—a loose circle in front. Plié your standing leg—bonus butt workout!—and don’t put any weight on your straightened leg. The toes are lightly resting on the floor.
Move your front leg clockwise in a semicircle until it’s directly behind you. Make sure to keep your moving leg straight and toe pointed, and don’t swing; this should be a slow and deliberate movement. Straighten your standing leg as you rotate to the back. Stand up straight, making sure to keep your shoulders down and chest up. Continue to put all the weight on your standing leg.
Then, keeping your leg turned out, toe pointed, rotate it back counterclockwise until you’ve reached your starting position. Think of your inner thigh spinning outward the entire time. Plié your standing leg as you move to the front. Do 4 sets of 8 on each leg.