A dancer's calves play a major role in propelling her through the air when she jumps and enabling her to walk on her toes, so ballet dancers' calves tend to be extremely toned. You don't have to spend years in ballet or invest in pointe shoes to have a dancer's legs, though. Instead, incorporate a few ballet exercises into your routine and you might notice your soleus -- the muscle in the inner calf that runs alongside the gastrocnemius to make up the calf -- looking much more toned.
Practice putting your feet into the five ballet positions so that you can perform each ballet exercise in each position. The positions can also help you stretch your legs and warm up. First position is done with your heels touching and your toes pointed slightly out. Second position separates your feet hip-width apart but keeps your toes pointed outward. In third position, one foot is placed about a foot in front of the other with the toes of the front foot pointed completely to the side and away from the other foot and the toes of the back foot pointed slightly to the side. In fourth position, the back foot in third position also moves to point completely to the side, and in fifth position the feet are brought together with one foot in front. The toes of both feet face away from one another and to the sides. The positions help stretch your soleus, as well as numerous other muscles in your legs, and will prepare you for a calf-toning workout.
Do a calf raise. While standing in first position, slowly lift the heels of your feet off of the ground until you're standing on the balls of your feet; don't go all the way up on your toes. Hold for one to five seconds, then lower yourself back to the ground. Do two reps in each position, and work up to more reps as you gain strength in your legs. This exercise targets both your soleus and gastrocnemius; your quadriceps and hamstrings will also get a workout.
Perform a plie. While standing in first position, lower your torso straight toward the ground while bending your knees. This exercise will work your thighs and hips and, when you are completely lowered, your soleus. After you've mastered this exercise, do it while standing on the balls of your feet. This activity works your calves directly, but requires some balance. Do one rep in each position and gradually build up to more reps.
- If you're trying to lose fat on your calves, you'll need to do regular cardio, such as running, jumping or cycling, to burn enough calories to shed the fat.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.