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RETURN TO BLOG Posted 09 February 2021

Improve your Turnout

By Claudia Dean

Every dancer has heard the words ‘turnout more’ in their training years or career in classical ballet. Often dancers can be left feeling confused because knowing HOW to improve it is through specialised daily Key Exercises that target both your turnout strength & flexibility. With the right guidance, exercises & motivation, improving turnout is absolutely possible. 

Today, I am going to share with you why turnout is so important as dancers & ways that you can improve yours! 

Turn out allows us to reach the maximum extension of our legs through rotation. If you didn’t use your turn out, raising your leg into an a la seconde, or an arabesque would be nearly impossible because the height of your leg would be restricted. Engaging the correct muscles will enable you to lift your leg higher & hold your legs in positions rather than  forcing your body into extreme positions.

Before I share with you some of the best key exercises to improve your turnout, it is crucial you know where your turn out originates from anatomically. Most visible in the placement of your feet, the external rotation of your leg is actually initiated from the top of your leg, within the hip joint and involves your hip, thigh, knee, ankle and foot. 

Because there are so many muscles and joints involved in the creation of your turnout, it is essential to know that not every part of your leg may have the same degree of rotation. 

For example, you may have excellent facility in your hips, but less range of motion through your lower leg, or vice versa. Maybe you have fantastic range of motion through your entire leg, or your lower limbs may naturally have less facility to externally rotate. No matter what your anatomy or age, improving your turn out is absolutely possible, by applying the correct exercises, and knowing what areas you need to focus on specifically.

Improving your turn out will not only highlight the look of your leg line and lift your overall aesthetic, but it will also contribute to the height of your extensions and help you master pirouettes and grand allegro. On top of that, it will make you appear more professional and protect you from injuries along the way.

En dehors is the magic ingredient - as long as it is functional. Being able to stand in a flat first position is not of much use if you cannot sustain the rotation through your leg as soon as you start moving. Clenching your largest muscles, the Gluteus Maximus (or your paw paw) and grinding your feet into the floor is not the ideal way to hold your turnout. You want to work on using your deep rotators, buried underneath your larger, visible muscles (I often call this muscle the ‘pin prick’ muscle). Switching these on and learning to engage them as you dance will allow you to create a wrapping feeling, from your feet all the way to your hips, bringing the back of the leg forward, as you move from standing at the barre to moving across the studio. 

Here are some Key Exercises that will help you engage your ‘pin prick’ muscles instantly: 

  1. Deep Rotator Clams both legs

  2. Singular Deep Rotators

  3. Turn me out 

Now that you understand how to activate the key muscle for your turnout, let’s work on our hip mobility. This will help you achieve the aesthetic line and placement of turnout & give you more range of movement in your hip area. Complete ‘Open My Hips,’ ‘Retire Turnout with Powerband’ & ‘Attitude Middle Splits’ , Key Exercises to improve the range of motion in your hips. 

Finally, we want to improve the appearance of our turnout and increase the range in our lower leg. Focusing on engaging the VMO muscles (located right above the inside of our knee cap) and rotating them forwards, will help with the en-dehors in our lower legs & feet. It will help us close and hold a clean fifth and encourages a straight leg line, especially for those of us with bowed legs! 
Try these key Exercises to learn how to activate your VMO muscles:

  1. VMO Wall Activations

  2. VMO Flamingo Singular Leg 

  3. First Position Strengthener with Powerband

Remember, turn out does not happen overnight! Your muscles will gradually strengthen, while your hip mobility increases, creating greater range of motion and better rotation throughout your entire leg. Complete 5 key exercises from the turn out category, 5 times a week, to access your maximum turnout safely and sustainably and watch your entire line and technique improve! Go Dancers!

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