How many times have you heard the correction “turnout more” throughout your ballet journey so far? For most dancers, lots! While turn out is an important part of good technique, I always found the problem was that no one really showed or explained to me what exercises you can do that will help improve and increase your turnout.
This is exactly the reason I created Claudia Dean World - and more recently our Claudia Dean App - to help educate and empower all dancers with the knowledge they need to take their technique to the next level - and I’m proof that with the right guidance, exercises and motivation, improving your turnout is absolutely possible! We have just released a Turnout Goals Course on our Claudia Dean App so you can improve your turnout within 6 days 😍
What is turnout?
Let’s start with the basics. What is turnout? Turnout is the amount of outward rotation you can achieve with your leg from the hips. Did you know that turnout actually has 60% to do with your hips and only 20% to do with your knees & 20% with your foot and ankle complex? The range of turnout will be different for everyone, however the ideal amount of turnout is 90 degrees in each leg. Having good turnout and range of motion through your hips is crucial for extensions, and if you don’t have good turnout, raising your leg into an a la seconde or an arabesque feels nearly impossible as the height of your leg is seriously restricted. This is why it’s important to work on both strength and mobility, to allow us to reach our maximum extensions.
What muscles help with my turnout?
As I mentioned earlier, the majority of our turnout comes from our hips. Have you ever heard of the external rotator muscles? This is a group of 6 smaller muscles that are located in our hips joint and sit just below our leotard line. The Deep Hip Rotators are made up of; the Gluteus Minimus, Piriformis; Gemelli; Obturator Internus; Quadratus Femoris and Obturator Externus. Correctly engaging, strengthening and stretching these muscles will allow you to not only lift your leg higher, but also maintain your leg in positions rather than compensating by using other - and often times larger - muscles instead.
Because there are so many muscles and joints involved in the creation of your turnout, it’s important to remember that not every part of your leg will have the same degree of rotation. Some dancers may have excellent facility through their hips but less range of motion through their ankle or vice versa.
How do I know if I’m activating my Deep Hip Rotators?
Your deep hip rotators are a smaller group of muscles found underneath your Gluteus Maximus, which is the largest and heaviest muscle in the entire body! Oftentimes, our glutes will take over, but you really want to focus on working the 6 smaller muscles found deeper in the hip, which I like to call the ‘pin prick’ muscles. When they’re properly activated, you should feel a little pin prick sensation under your glute max. Learning to switch 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, turning them outwardly so as close to 90 degrees on each leg as possible.