Ballet Leg Types

Hi everyone!  In today’s blog post we will discuss the different types of legs and the strengths and weaknesses of all of them.  Enjoy, and I’ll see you on Friday with another post.


How much do leg types matter?

It’s true that companies prefer a certain leg type to create the best line and promote the best technique of ballet dancers.  But, not only is the given leg type important, but the way the dancer utilizes and strengthens their own leg type has a great contribution to the company’s perception of it.

Hyperextended legs are truly prefered by companies if they are controlled and do not affect other factors of the dancers training or hurt their technique in any way.  The weaknesses that are associated with hyperextended legs are very important for companies to take into consideration.

hyperextensionpic'

Above is a picture of hyperextended legs (left) and straight legs (right).

Straight legs

The “normal” leg type would be legs that are completely straight – they straighten to 180 degrees – not above or below that angle.  These leg types should essentially have no problems – there is balance of strength on either side of the leg and there is no uneven distribution associated with them.

A disadvantage of having absolutely straight legs is the lack of the hyperextended line – the line that the dancer creates will most likely be average.  It is very important that dancers with straight legs work on the shaping and strengthening of their feet and toes so that the ends of their line can make up for the lacking in the middle.

These dancers should continue to equally strengthen their quadriceps and hamstrings.  The quadriceps do the job of straightening the leg, while the hamstrings bend it and support the straightening to prevent sitting backwards into the hip flexor and getting injured in the knee area.  Keeping these balanced is important for dancers with straight legs to help maintain thier position and prevent injuries.

If dancers with straight legs want to have hyperextended legs, they can do more hamstring stretches and quadricep strengthening than the opposite.  Although that will achieve a prettier line, it is not necessarily ideal if the dancer cannot control it.

Hyperextended legs

This leg type is actually quite common among professional dancers because of the beautiful line it creates.  Companies prefer this leg type in dancers because of the line it makes – but only if the dancer can control the movements and maintain their technique with this leg type.

Hyperextended legs straighten past 180 degrees and are “over-straightened.”  Dancers with this leg type can easily develop knee injuries and are prone to under-controlled leg movements.

The strength of hyperextended legs is an extended line.  It makes your legs look much, much longer when they are overextended and the shape they create is very pretty.  These dancers also have naturally flexible hamstrings, which can make extensions easier.  Hyperextended legs are also commonly paired with beautiful, flexible arches.

Although, hyperextended legs require the most maintaining and are the most difficult to control.  It’s vital that these dancers strengthen their hamstrings consistently.  Make sure to check out my Hamstring Workout for all of the exercises I recommend.  Again, the hamstring’s job is to bend the knee and support the kneecap.  This is vital for dancers with hyperextended legs.

This leg type can also make balancing and turning very difficult.  To think of dropping your supporting hip bone right on top of your ankle can help.  It doesn’t matter the shape of your leg – your hip needs to be placed correctly.

These dancers should also pay attention to the placement of their pelvis.  I hope to do an entire blog post and video devoted to improving your posture soon.  If these dancers have an anterior pelvic tilt, meaning they drop their pelvis forward, it will be easy for them to sit back into their heels.  This will make their problem of balancing even worse.

Bowed legs

This is the least ideal leg type for ballet.  It means that the legs are naturally bent – an angle under 180 degrees.  This does not help with creating a beautiful line of the leg.  While these dancers can still dance with this leg type, it’s important that they work on releasing their hamstrings and making the most of the flexibilitiy they have.

Bowed legs can make it difficult to balance and turn.  If dancers with bowed legs have a problem with a posterior pelvic tilt, meaning they “tuck,” this can contribute to the problem as well.  This often causes the feet to pronate and the knees to bend.  They should focus on lengthening their entire body.

It’s important that these dancers focus on strengthening their quadriceps and stretching their hamstrings.  This is vital because these muscles help straighten the legs more.


I hope this post is helpful to you.  I will be happy to do more specific advice for dancers regarding leg types as well as doing specific workouts for the different leg types.  Please leave requests on my requests page at gouletballet.com/requests to allow me to take note of these things.  Thanks!

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5 thoughts on “Ballet Leg Types

  1. This is really interesting! I’ve always wondered what type of leg type I have. It seems like I have bowed legs – they can’t straighten to 180°. Do you know of any exercises that would help me? Thanks so much!

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