Dance moves for thinner thighs

Personal trainer Michelle Gordon illustrates a hamstring press at Anytime Fitness in Medford.Julia Moore

Many women with large thighs avoid leg exercises for fear of adding inches to their legs. What they don't consider is that exercise burns fat, and that fat, not muscle, is the culprit when it comes to thunder thighs. Strong, muscular legs are lean and shapely. Fat legs are, well, the opposite.

Below are some exercises that use stretching and body weight only — the same moves that give dancers those enviable gams. You can use a chair, a counter, a table or any other stable structure for balance. Add some good cardiovascular exercise, such as walking or jogging, and a low-fat diet, and you should be on your way to looking great in those skinny jeans.

Forward leg lift

1. Stand with your back against a chair, table or kitchen counter — wherever you can find balance.

2. Extend one leg, lift, then lower in a controlled motion, toes pointed, 20 times.

3. Flex the foot and do 20 more repetitions. Switch to the opposite leg and repeat.

Reverse leg lift

1. Stand next to a chair or other point of balance, holding lightly with your right hand.

2. Leaning slightly forward, bend your left knee slightly. Raise and lower the right leg behind you, toes pointed, 20 times.

3. Flex the foot and do 20 more reps. Switch sides and repeat with the left leg.

Plié et Relevé

For maximum results, keep heels lifted (ballet term: relevé) throughout the exercise.

1. Squat with knees pointing out while facing your point of balance. Lift your heels and adjust position until you feel leg muscles fully engaged.

2. Hold position for 60 seconds, or lift yourself up 1 inch, then down 1 inch. Do not move your rear below your knees. Repeat 20 times. Break for a moment and repeat.

Hamstring press

1. Stand with arms lifted in front, one knee slightly bent, the other leg behind you at a 90-degree angle.

2. With toes pointed, lower the leg so toe touches the floor, then come back to the 90-degree angle. Concentrate on keeping hamstrings tight throughout. Repeat 20 times.

3. Break momentarily and repeat 20 more times, with foot flexed. Then repeat on the opposite leg.

Runner's lunge

1. Assume a lunge position with the right leg at a 90-degree angle in front, right foot firmly planted, then extend the left leg behind you. Be sure to keep left heel lifted.

2. Fold arms into a prayer position. Swing shoulders to the left and hold.

3. Repeat on the opposite leg.

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