Improving Turnout

Lateral rotation of the hips.  Every dancer longs for more of this – but there is no secret that it is something that can be easily cheated.  Many dancers make the conscious choice to take advantage of the mobility of the feet and knees in order to create the outlook that they have extreme mobility in their hips.  Today we will teach you how to use the turnout correctly.

The Purpose

Why do we use turnout and what is the difference between lateral and medial rotation?  Well, the purpose and importance is apparent in ways that the audience recognizes but doesn’t acknowledge.  Turnout…

  • Allows the legs to be lifted to a higher extent, notably to the side.
  • Increases the “length” of the legs through the eyes, it creates an illusion of an extending line, especially in arabesque.
  • It create a presence of a dainty and elegant ballerina.  Even when you’re walking, it presents the feet.

Turnout originated in the Renaissance courts, way back when ballet was first originated, only for the royal family and their acquaintances.

It is also important to note that the outlook for amount of turnout has greatly increased over the years.  You may be wondering why, and the answer to this is because ballet dancers are fairly competitive people, and when they see somebody with more rotation than them, they automatically feel the urge to attempt to beat the record.

The Muscles

There are two main muscles that contribute to the lateral rotation of the hips.  They are the ADDUCTORS and the QUADRATUS FEMORIS.

Here are their diagrams:

These are the adductors, specifically known to dancers as the inner thighs. They are used to laterally rotate the hips.
This is the quadratus femoris. It is a muscle used to laterally rotate the hip. It’s located just beneath the gluteus maximus.

Now, let’s go through some exercises to find these muscles and help us realize how to engage them.


For the quadratus femoris, here are some basic exercises that you can do:

  • Clamshells w/ a resistance band (or w/o!): Lying on your side, extend your legs out laterally.  With a resistance band wrapped just above your knees, icelate the leg and rotate it before returning to the regular position.  I recommend 10 – 15 times for beginners at this exercise.  Once you’ve gotten used to this, try it again with the lower legs lifted off the ground.  For beginners, I recommend this version only 5 – 10 times.  Work up to 15!
  • Leg circles: Lying on your belly with your legs in 6th position on demi pointe, turn out your legs, point them, turn them in, and then return to the starting position.  Repeat this about 25 times for beginners.

For the adductors, here are some exercises that you can do:

  • Adductor pulses: Cross your top leg in front of your bottom leg.  Bend the top leg and place the arch on the ground.  The bottom leg should be straightened.  Lift the bottom leg and pulse it upwards about 25 times for beginners – 50-100 times for intermediate/expert.  To increase the difficult of this exercise, lift your upper body off the ground using your bottom forearm.

See my full, updated Turnout Workout as a follow-along video here!

Stretching your turnout muscles is also very helpful.  See my Flexibility Guide under the hips section for ideas for this.

Thanks for reading this post!  If you would like exercises for the ABDUCTORS of the hip, featured in my Improving Petite Allegro post, please leave that feedback on the Requests page – I have some great exercises for those muscles!

Leave a post request HERE.

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