Part of ballet's difficulty comes from the emphasis on turnout. From their first ballet class, dancers work to increase their turnout. Many different muscles are involved in turnout, but the most important are the six deep rotators: the obturator internus, obturator externus, piriformis, quadratus femoris, inferior gemelli and superior gemelli. You can improve your turnout by strengthening these muscles with a theraband. Once you have conditioned these muscles, focus on actively turning out in every ballet movement. Aim to use every bit of turnout that your hip structure allows.
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Sit on the floor and bend your knees so that your feet lay flat on the floor. Wrap your theraband loosely around your thighs, just above your knees, and tie the ends into a knot so that your theraband becomes a loop. Keeping your feet where they are, lay back onto the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles to keep your spine lengthened. Open your knees against the resistance of the theraband as you exhale. Inhale as you close your knees. Repeat eight times, trying to keep the movements as smooth as possible.
Tie one end of your theraband to a fixed object, as close to the ground as possible. Place a chair near this fixed object so that when you sit on the chair your right side is closest to the object. Sit on the chair, and tie the other end of your theraband loosely around your right ankle. Exhale and externally rotate your leg by bringing your ankle upwards and to the left while keeping your right thigh in contact with the chair. Inhale and return to the starting position. Perform this movement eight times with the right leg and eight times with the left leg.
Attach your theraband to a fixed object, as close to the ground as possible. Make a loop in the other end of the theraband, and place your right ankle through the loop. Tie a knot to secure the loop. Stand facing the attachment, and touch your pointed right foot to your left ankle, with your right knee facing to the side. If there is too much resistance on the band, move closer to the attachment. If there is not enough resistance on the band, more farther away. Straighten your right leg, and point your right foot front. Then, simultaneously bend both knees as you bring your right foot back to the starting position. As you move your right foot, focus on trying to get your right knee to arrive to the side before your foot returns to its position. Perform this movement eight times, then switch legs.
Tips and warnings
- Pelvic alignment is crucial to turnout. If you tilt your pelvis, you will not be able to engage your deep rotators. For all of these exercises, focus on keeping your pelvis in the neutral position.
- As you are doing these exercises, remind yourself that turnout is a process. Too often, ballet teachers tell their students to "hold" their turnout. This command leads to gripping of the muscles. If you think of turnout as a process, you will be able to engage the muscles without gripping them.
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