Tips for Developing Turnout that Every Dancer Needs to Know
Updated: Sep 27
Christine Fletcher, Senior Physiotherapist at Ultra Sports, offers these excellent tips for dancers.
Turnout! It’s the word that many ballet and contemporary dancers are familiar with and always looking to perfect. And with many dance schools shut and performances cancelled, now is a great time to perfect your hip control and flexibility!
Here are some tips to get you started.
Tip 1: Understand what turnout is and what is restricting your range.
Your hip is a ball and socket joint. Your leg (or femur) has a smooth round end called the “femoral head” and fits into a hole shaped socket in your hip called your “acetabulum”. There is smooth cartilage in between and space for the ball to move around comfortably while still providing stability. In some individuals, the socket is very deep, or it may face forwards or more sideways. Those with naturally shallow sockets often have more range than their counterparts, but not always. Similarly, the angle in which the femoral head sits in the socket can alter your range capabilities.
As you grow, the structure of your hips slowly develops and changes. This is called morphology. Studies suggest that in young dancers, the hips gradually change to improve and tolerate the load of turnout.
Additionally, there are several important external rotators and stabilises of the hip:
· Gluteus minimus and medius
· Gemelii superior and inferior
· Obturator Internus and externus
· Quadratus Femoris
My suggestion is to go have a look on a model or diagram and then try to locate them on yourself. They can be quite deep but is good to know which area of the body you are trying to work.
Each of them operates in a slightly different way and range. For example, quadratus femoris works best at controlling turnout in your standing leg while pirifomis is more active when en fondu.
Many people believe your gluteus maximus, inner thighs or front of the hip muscles are turnout muscles. While they do assist, they are not primarily responsible. Similarly, your core muscles are very important in creating a base to work your turnout, foot muscles prevent you from rolling in and your VMO helps control the alignment of the knee en fondu. All of these factors contribute to a more effective turnout.
Additionally, over-reliance on your gluteals can restrict hip external rotation while excessive use of rectus femoris can cause tightness at the front of the hip, limiting the height of your développé.
Tip 2: Release the tightness through targeted stretching, hip mobility exercises and foam rolling.
Once you’ve identified the areas of most restriction, you can start to improve your hip range.
To try my favourite hip mobility exercise (the modified lotus), follow these steps as demonstrated in the pictures below.
Step 1: First, adopt a sitting position. Place your left foot onto of your right knee.
Step 2: Gently fold forwards, aiming to keep your back straight. If you can, place your hands on the floor and stretch out forwards.
Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times each side. Stop if this move elicits pain in your knee or front of hip.
Tip 3: Strengthen and train the right muscles.
To maintain the hip range that you’ve acquired through stretching and mobility exercises, you must strengthen those same muscles. This improves your active range and quality of movement.
I have a great resistance band exercise for finding the deepest external rotators of the hip in a position of 90˚ high flexion and higher. Make sure to have your hip flexors relaxed. It is a great exercise to do before class or as part of a general dance conditioning. Click here for the full video.
There are plenty more targeted exercises to keep you entertained and improving your range!
Tip 4: Find out what is really going on.
Too often this is the step that people miss out on! Any tension and restriction in your hips are there for a reason, and the ‘true’ cure is to identify why this has occurred in the first place.
To properly analyse exactly what isn’t working for you and the reason behind it, come into our clinic and get one of our experts to explain. Please do not simply force your hips and knees by repeatedly doing traditional stretches (froggy and splits etc). These do not necessarily help and sitting in these positions for long periods of times can damage the hips in the long term.
Let us help you get back on track!
Christine Fletcher is a Senior Physiotherapist at Ultra Sports Liverpool St Clinic. Find out more about her here.
For more physiotherapy dancing techniques and pre-pointe assessments, book an appointment online at our Liverpool Street clinic.