6 Easy Exercises You Can Do to Make Your Legs Pop in a Pencil Skirt

Updated: Feb. 10, 2017

Hello, leg envy! Victoria Baggio, a Chicago-based SWEAT instructor, shares her favorite leg workouts you can do anywhere.

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

Curtsy lunge

“How fitting, because you’re wearing a skirt and all, ya know?” Baggio says. “This movement targets the inner and outer glute and hamstring muscles with a toning benefit on your front quad, basically shaping the outside of your leg.” To complete this movement, turn a regular reverse lunge into a diagonal, stepping back and behind the front bent knee. The key to completing this movement correctly, Baggio says, is to keep your hips square and facing forward. She recommends practicing in front of a mirror. For an added challenge, grab dumbbells and hold them by your sides.

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

Hip extensions

Tired after a long day of work? No standing necessary for this leg exercise. “Yay for laying down!” Baggio exclaims. Lying on your back, bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the ground. From here, drive through your heels and push your hips to the sky while squeezing your glutes. Do 12 of these in a row and Baggio promises you will feel your hamstrings fire up. For more of a challenge, add dumbbells and hold them at your hips; however, Baggio stresses that proper form is non-negotiable. “Before progressing in weight or speed, your body needs to be able to move in a certain range,” she says. “Form is king.” (Related: These easy chair exercises help tone your whole body.)

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

Russian split squat

This leg exercise—Baggio’s all-time favorite move—targets every muscle cable in your quads. “Because it’s a single leg movement, you are challenging your balance,” says Baggio. “When we balance, we activate all the muscles that are required to stay balanced, all while actually doing the exercise itself.” To complete this movement, grab a box or a bench. (The higher the bench, the more challenging the exercise becomes.) Turn your back to the bench. Raise one foot back behind you and dig your toe into the bench, then wiggle your front foot forward a few inches until you’ve created enough space for you to safely lower down without your knee traveling over your toe. Baggio recommends taking your time and doing the movement once you’ve found your positioning. You should be in a “split” position with your hips pointing forward. Slowly lower down by bending your front knee. All the work is loaded into your front standing quad. Grab dumbbells and hold them by your sides for an added challenge. Switch legs after 5-10 reps. (Related: Good balance could be a sign of a healthy brain.)

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

One-legged weighted calf raise

To focus on those calves, try this seated leg exercise. Sitting on a bench, box, or chair, pick up one dumbbell. Place the dumbbell on top of your right thigh, stabilizing the weight with your hand. Next, start to press into your right toes and lift your heel. Continue this up and down motion. Baggio likes to remind her clients that working out can be an escape. “Think about working out because you get to, not because you have to,” she says. “It creates [a] perspective that delivers that extra rep.” Switch to your left leg after 10 reps. (Related: Check out these secrets of women who work out every day.)

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan


Although you will without a doubt test your balance with this active exercise, Baggio says to remember your muscles will be engaged. “Each time you try to balance, your body engages and contracts all necessary muscles to fight the urge to fall over,” she says. Skiers are lateral jumps. With your feet together or just 6 inches apart, begin to bend at the knees. In an explosive movement, jump to your right, powering through the left foot. Your right foot will find the ground as your left foot swings behind you and hovers above the ground. “Ease the impact by bending your right knee as soon as you feel your foot plant,” Baggio says. By hovering, you are engaging your balance. Pause for one to two seconds, then jump to your left, concentrating on the energy through the right calf muscle. When you land on the left leg, you shift the weight into the left calf, with your right foot hovering behind.

Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

Donkey kicks

Grabbing a bench or a box or a chair, plant both hands firmly on top of the flat surface, or grab the sides of it. Channel your weight on top of the box by stacking your shoulders directly over your elbows, and your elbows directly over your wrists. Baggio reiterates the importance of ensuring you have a micro-bend in your elbows here. Keep your toes and knees tightly together as if they were securely tied with a rope. Start jacking your feet side to side, trying to kick your butt with your heels. Jack (or jump) side to side on the ball mounts of your feet. “This immediately engages your calves,” Baggio says. “Try walking up the stairs after… I dare you.” (Related: Here are 10 secrets personal trainers won’t tell you for free.)

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest