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How To Improve Turnout Ballet How To Improve Turnout Ballet


How To Improve Turnout Ballet

Written by: Carolynn Ascencio

Learn essential tips and techniques to improve your ballet turnout and enhance your performance. Discover exercises and stretches to strengthen your muscles and achieve greater flexibility in ballet.

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Welcome to the exciting world of ballet, where grace, beauty, and precision come together in perfect harmony. One of the fundamental elements that sets ballet apart from other styles of dance is the technique known as turnout. Turnout is the outward rotation of the hips and legs, allowing the feet to be positioned pointing away from the body. It creates the iconic appearance of fluidity and grace that ballet dancers are known for.

However, achieving a strong and natural turnout is no easy feat. It requires diligent practice, patience, and a deep understanding of the biomechanics involved. In this article, we will delve into the world of turnout in ballet, its importance, common challenges faced by dancers, and most importantly, valuable tips and exercises to improve your turnout.

Whether you are a beginner just starting your ballet journey or an experienced dancer looking to refine your technique, this article will provide you with the necessary guidance to enhance your turnout and take your dance skills to new heights.


Understanding Turnout in Ballet

Turnout in ballet refers to the external rotation of the hips and legs. Instead of the feet pointing straight forward, they are turned out to the sides. This position allows for a wider range of movement and is essential for executing ballet movements with precision and elegance.

The ability to achieve a proper turnout is influenced by factors such as bone structure, muscle flexibility, and joint mobility. Some individuals naturally have a greater range of turnout due to their anatomical structure, while others may have to work harder to develop and maintain it.

In ballet, the ideal turnout involves the rotation starting from the hip joints, not just the feet. This means that the entire leg, including the thighs, knees, and toes, should turn out from the hip sockets. It is crucial to maintain proper alignment throughout the body while maintaining turnout, avoiding any misalignment or compensations that might cause injury or hinder technique execution.

Turnout is not only an aesthetic element in ballet but also serves practical purposes. It helps with balance, stability, and proper body alignment in various movements and positions. It allows dancers to achieve greater extension in lifts, jumps, and leaps and enables them to execute pirouettes and intricate footwork with precision.

It’s important to note that turnout is not something that can be forced or achieved overnight. It requires consistent training and a gradual progression to develop the necessary strength and flexibility in the muscles and ligaments involved. Understanding the mechanics of turnout and its importance in ballet will provide a solid foundation for improving and refining this essential technique.

In the next sections, we will explore its significance in ballet, common challenges faced by dancers, and effective tips and exercises to enhance your turnout.


Importance of Turnout in Ballet

Turnout is not just a mere aesthetic element in ballet; it is a fundamental aspect that underpins the entire technique and artistry of the dance form. It plays a crucial role in the execution of movements, ensuring grace, stability, and alignment. Understanding the importance of turnout in ballet will deepen your appreciation for this technique and motivate you to work on enhancing it.

1. Improved Stability and Balance: Turnout provides a solid foundation for stability and balance in ballet. By rotating the legs outward, the base of support becomes wider, increasing the dancer’s stability. It allows for better weight distribution and control, essential for maintaining balance during demanding ballet movements, such as pirouettes and arabesques.

2. Enhanced Extension and Elevation: Turnout allows for greater extension of the legs and feet, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of ballet movements. It enables dancers to achieve higher leg lifts, longer lines, and more impressive leaps, creating a sense of fluidity, elongation, and lightness in their performance.

3. Proper Alignment: Turnout promotes proper alignment of the body in ballet. When the legs are rotated externally, it aligns the bones, joints, and muscles in a way that supports optimal posture and technique. This alignment ensures that the weight is evenly distributed and reduces the risk of strain or injury on specific muscles or joints.

4. Artistic Expression: Turnout is an essential tool for expressing emotions and conveying the storytelling aspect of ballet. It allows dancers to create visually stunning lines and shapes with their bodies, adding depth and dimension to their performances. It brings a sense of elegance, grace, and poise to the movements, elevating the artistic quality of the dance.

5. Injury Prevention: Developing a strong and natural turnout helps in preventing injuries in ballet. When the legs are properly rotated, it ensures that the workload is distributed evenly across the muscles, reducing the strain on specific areas. It also promotes proper alignment, minimizing the risk of overuse injuries and improving overall muscle balance.

The importance of turnout in ballet cannot be overstated. It is the foundation of technique, enabling dancers to execute movements with precision, beauty, and control. By understanding its significance, you can prioritize training and exercises specifically designed to improve and maintain your turnout, enhancing your overall performance and enjoyment of ballet.


Common Challenges in Developing Turnout

Developing a strong and natural turnout in ballet is a gradual process that requires consistent practice and dedication. While some dancers may have a natural inclination towards turnout, many face common challenges along their journey to achieving a fuller and more functional range. Understanding these challenges can help you navigate them more effectively and make progress in improving your turnout.

1. Limited Hip Flexibility: Limited hip flexibility is a common challenge that many dancers encounter. Tight hip muscles and ligaments can restrict the range of external rotation, making it harder to achieve a full turnout. Regular stretching and targeted exercises can help increase hip flexibility over time.

2. Weak Hip and Glute Muscles: Weak hip and glute muscles can hinder the ability to maintain turnout properly. These muscles play a significant role in generating the outward rotation of the legs. Strengthening exercises, such as hip raises and clamshells, can help build strength in these areas and support a stronger turnout.

3. Incorrect Rotation from the Feet: Some dancers may rely solely on the rotation of the feet instead of initiating turnout from the hip joints. This can lead to improper alignment and strain on the ankle and foot muscles. It is essential to develop a strong connection between the hips and feet and ensure that the rotation starts from the hip joint.

4. Lack of Body Awareness and Control: Developing body awareness and control is crucial for achieving a proper turnout. Many dancers struggle with properly engaging the correct muscles and maintaining control throughout various ballet movements. Focusing on correct alignment and engaging the deep rotator muscles of the hips can help develop better body control and coordination.

5. Unbalanced Muscles: Imbalances between the inner and outer thigh muscles can interfere with achieving a balanced and functional turnout. It is important to strengthen both the external rotators and the inner thigh muscles to maintain stability and prevent muscle imbalances.

Overcoming these challenges requires diligence and a holistic approach to training. Consistent practice, targeted exercises, and ample rest and recovery are essential. Working with a qualified ballet instructor or physical therapist can also provide guidance and personalized exercises to address specific limitations and challenges.

Remember that everyone’s journey to improving turnout is unique, and progress may vary from person to person. Patience, persistence, and a positive mindset are key as you work towards developing a stronger and more expansive turnout.


Tips to Improve Turnout

Gaining a stronger and more flexible turnout in ballet requires consistent practice and targeted exercises. Here are some valuable tips to help you improve your turnout:

  1. Warm Up and Stretch: Begin each ballet session with a proper warm-up to increase blood flow and prepare your muscles for movement. Incorporate specific stretches that target the hips, groin, and inner thigh muscles to enhance flexibility and range of motion.
  2. Focus on Alignment: Pay close attention to your body alignment during turnout exercises. Maintain a tall and lifted posture, engage your core, and ensure that your knees and feet align with your hips. Proper alignment will help you develop a strong and functional turnout.
  3. Engage Deep Rotator Muscles: Work on strengthening the deep rotator muscles of the hips, such as the deep six muscles. These muscles play a crucial role in maintaining a stable and controlled turnout. Exercises like lateral leg raises and turnout pliés can target these muscles effectively.
  4. Gradual Progression: Building a strong turnout takes time, so be patient with yourself. Start with exercises and movements within your current range and gradually increase the difficulty and intensity as your muscles and ligaments become more flexible and strong.
  5. Utilize Resistance Bands: Resistance bands are a great tool for developing turnout strength. Use them in exercises like clamshells, seated leg lifts, and standing lateral leg raises to provide resistance and challenge the muscles involved in turnout.
  6. Incorporate Turnout-Specific Exercises: Practice exercises that specifically target the turnout muscles. These include exercises such as Swiss ball squeezes, butterfly stretches, and the frog stretch. These exercises focus on stretching and strengthening the key muscles used in achieving turnout.
  7. Create Mind-Muscle Connection: Develop a strong mind-muscle connection by focusing on engaging the correct muscles when executing turnout. Imagine drawing your thighs and hips outward and feel the deep rotator muscles working to maintain a stable and controlled turnout.
  8. Take Regular Ballet Classes: Regular ballet classes with a qualified instructor are crucial for improving turnout. They can provide valuable feedback, correct any alignment or technique issues, and guide you in proper turnout execution.
  9. Practice Outside of Ballet Class: Supplement your ballet classes with additional practice outside of the studio. Incorporate turnout exercises and stretches into your daily routine, even on days when you don’t have ballet class, to maintain and improve your turnout.
  10. Listen to Your Body: Lastly, always listen to your body and respect its limits. Avoid overstretching or forcing your turnout beyond what is comfortable, as this can lead to injury. Give yourself adequate rest and recovery time to allow your muscles to recuperate.

Improving your turnout is a gradual process, and it requires consistency, patience, and dedication. By incorporating these tips into your training routine, you will gradually see improvements in the strength, flexibility, and range of your turnout, enhancing your overall ballet technique and performance.


Strengthening Exercises for Turnout

Building strength in the muscles involved in turnout is essential for achieving a strong and controlled external rotation of the legs. Here are some effective strengthening exercises that target the key muscles used in turnout:

  1. Pliés: Pliés are fundamental ballet exercises that engage the muscles of the legs, including those responsible for turnout. Start in a turned-out position with your feet in first or second position. Bend your knees while keeping your heels firmly on the ground. Rise back up to the starting position. Repeat for several repetitions, focusing on maintaining proper alignment and engaging the turnout muscles throughout the movement.
  2. Lateral Leg Lifts: Lie on your side with your legs extended. Lift your top leg upward in a lateral motion, keeping it straight and toes pointed. Lower it back down to the starting position. Perform multiple repetitions on each side, gradually increasing the height of the leg lift as your strength improves.
  3. Clamshells: Lie on your side with your legs bent at the knees. Keeping your feet together, lift your top knee upward while keeping your feet in contact. Lower the knee back down without letting your hips rotate backward. Repeat on each side, focusing on activating the hip muscles responsible for turnout.
  4. Swiss Ball Squeezes: Place a small Swiss ball or a pillow between your inner thighs. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your knees slightly bent. Squeeze the ball or pillow using the inner thigh muscles, applying firm pressure. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Repeat for multiple sets, gradually increasing the duration of the squeeze.
  5. Relevés: Relevés help strengthen the ankle and calf muscles, which play a supportive role in maintaining a strong turnout. Stand with your feet in a turned-out position, close together or in first position. Rise up onto the balls of your feet, extending through the knees. Lower back down to the starting position. Repeat for several repetitions, focusing on maintaining proper alignment and controlling the movement.
  6. Deep Squats: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, toes turned out. Lower into a deep squat, keeping your knees tracking over your toes and your heels on the ground. Rise back up to standing. Repeat for multiple repetitions, focusing on engaging the turnout muscles as you lower into the squat.
  7. Seated Leg Lifts: Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair or a ballet barre. Hold onto the sides for support. Extend one leg in front of you, keeping it straight and toes pointed. Lift the leg upward, aiming to reach hip height. Lower it back down without letting your torso or other leg move. Perform multiple repetitions on each leg, focusing on engaging the hip and thigh muscles responsible for turnout.

When performing these strengthening exercises, remember to maintain proper alignment and engage the specific muscles involved in turnout. Start with a manageable number of repetitions and gradually increase as your strength improves. Consistency is key, so incorporate these exercises into your regular ballet training to see the best results.


Stretching Exercises for Turnout

Stretching plays a crucial role in improving flexibility and range of motion, key components for achieving a fuller and more functional turnout in ballet. Here are some effective stretching exercises that specifically target the muscles involved in turnout:

  1. Butterfly Stretch: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet together. Hold onto your ankles and gently press your knees down towards the floor. Allow your thighs to relax and open up. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute, focusing on deep breathing and allowing the muscles to release tension.
  2. Frog Stretch: Begin on all fours, with your hands and knees on the floor. Gradually widen your knees out to the sides, keeping your feet together and toes pointed outwards. Slowly lower your hips towards the floor, feeling a stretch in your inner thighs and groin. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute, breathing deeply and allowing the muscles to elongate.
  3. Seated Straddle Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs spread apart in a wide V-shape. Keep your toes pointed upward and your spine elongated. Slowly hinge forward at the hips, reaching towards your feet. Maintain a slight engagement in your abdominal muscles and avoid rounding your back. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute, breathing deeply and focusing on relaxing the muscles and lengthening through the inner thighs.
  4. Hip Opener Stretch: Sit on the floor with one leg bent and the other extended straight out in front of you. Place the sole of your foot from the bent leg against the inner thigh of the extended leg. Gently press your knee down towards the floor, feeling a stretch in your hip and inner thigh. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch sides and repeat.
  5. Standing Calf Stretch: Stand a few feet away from a wall. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step one foot back, keeping the heel on the ground and the toes pointing forward. Lean forward, bending the front knee, while keeping the back leg straight. Feel the stretch in the calf of the back leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch sides.
  6. Standing Inner Thigh Stretch: Stand with your feet wider than hip-distance apart, toes turned out. Shift your weight to one side and gently lean towards that side, feeling a stretch in the inner thigh of the opposite leg. Repeat on the other side, holding the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute on each side.
  7. Deep Hip Stretch: Sit on the floor with one leg extended straight out and the other leg bent and crossed over the extended leg. Hug the bent leg towards your chest, feeling a stretch in the outer hip and buttocks. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch sides.

When performing these stretching exercises, remember to breathe deeply and relax into each stretch. Ease into the stretch gradually, avoiding any sudden or jerky movements. Respect your body’s limitations and never stretch to the point of pain. Consistency is key, so aim to incorporate these stretching exercises into your daily ballet routine to improve your flexibility and enhance your turnout.


Proper Technique and Alignment for Turnout

Executing a strong and functional turnout in ballet relies not only on flexibility and strength but also on proper technique and alignment. Paying attention to these elements will ensure that you maximize the benefits of your turnout and minimize the risk of injury. Here are some guidelines for maintaining proper technique and alignment during turnout:

  • Engage the Core: Start by engaging your core muscles. This will help stabilize your spine and pelvis, allowing for a strong and controlled turnout.
  • Initiate from the Hips: Proper turnout starts at the hip joints, not just at the feet. Focus on rotating your entire leg, from the hip socket down to the toes, outward and away from the midline, while keeping your pelvis stable.
  • Keep Hips Level: As you rotate your legs outward, make sure to keep your hips level and avoid any tilting or shifting. This will maintain proper alignment and prevent strain on the pelvis and lower back.
  • Align Knees and Toes: Throughout your turnout movements, ensure that your knees and toes are aligned with your hips. Avoid letting your knees collapse inward or push too far forward.
  • Avoid Overturning: It’s important not to force your turnout beyond your natural range. Overturning can put excessive stress on your joints and lead to injury. Work within your comfortable range and gradually work to expand it over time.
  • Maintain a Lengthened Spine: Focus on elongating your spine and maintaining a tall posture while in turnout. This will help support proper alignment and prevent rounding or collapsing of the back.
  • Engage the Glute Muscles: Strong glute muscles play a vital role in maintaining a stable turnout. Be mindful of engaging and activating these muscles throughout your movements.
  • Avoid Gripping the Thighs: While engaging your thigh muscles is important, avoid gripping or tensing them excessively. Find a balance between activating the necessary muscles and allowing for fluid movement and range.
  • Be Mindful of Foot Placement: Pay attention to the alignment of your feet during turnout. The weight should be evenly distributed across the balls of your feet, and the arches should be lifted and supported.
  • Practice in Front of a Mirror: Use a mirror to check your alignment and technique while in turnout. This visual feedback will help you make any necessary adjustments and ensure that you are maintaining proper form.

It is important to remember that achieving and maintaining a proper turnout takes time and consistent practice. Regular ballet classes, under the guidance of a qualified instructor, can provide valuable feedback and corrections to further develop your technique and alignment. Embrace the process and focus on the quality of your movements to make the most of your turnout and enhance your overall ballet performance.


Precautions and Injury Prevention

While working on improving your turnout, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety and take precautions to prevent injuries. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:

  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any discomfort, pain, or limitations you may feel during turnout exercises. If something feels strained or unnatural, modify or discontinue the movement and seek guidance from a qualified instructor or healthcare professional.
  • Gradual Progression: Avoid pushing yourself too hard or progressing too quickly in your turnout training. Gradual and consistent progress is key to preventing injuries and allowing your body to adapt to the demands of increased range and strength.
  • Proper Technique: Focus on maintaining proper technique and alignment throughout your turnout movements. Poor alignment can increase the risk of strain or injury on muscles, joints, and ligaments. Seek guidance from a knowledgeable instructor to ensure you are executing movements correctly.
  • Balance Strength and Flexibility: Strive for a balanced approach between building strength and improving flexibility for turnout. Neglecting either component can lead to muscle imbalances and increased vulnerability to injuries. Incorporate strengthening exercises and stretching routines into your training to maintain a healthy balance.
  • Warm Up and Cool Down: Always begin your ballet practice with a proper warm-up to gradually increase blood flow to the muscles and prepare them for movement. Cool down at the end of your session with gentle stretching to promote muscle recovery and prevent tightness.
  • Cross-Training and Conditioning: Incorporate cross-training and conditioning exercises into your routine to support the demands of ballet and prevent overuse injuries. Strengthening exercises for the core, hips, and feet can improve stability and support proper alignment during turnout.
  • Rest and Recovery: Allow your body sufficient time to rest and recover between intense ballet sessions. Overtraining can lead to fatigue and increase the risk of injuries. Listen to your body, take regular breaks, and prioritize adequate sleep and nutrition to support your overall physical well-being.
  • Use Proper Equipment: Ensure that you have appropriate ballet shoes that provide proper support and flexibility. It’s also important to wear comfortable, well-fitted dancewear that allows for full range of motion and minimizes the risk of tripping or getting caught on clothing.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: If you have specific concerns about your turnout or are experiencing persistent pain or discomfort, it is best to consult with a qualified ballet instructor or healthcare professional. They can assess your individual needs and provide appropriate guidance and recommendations.

By practicing caution, maintaining proper technique, and following these precautions, you can reduce the risk of injury and enjoy a safe and rewarding journey towards improving your turnout in ballet.



Developing and refining your turnout in ballet is a continuous journey that requires dedication, patience, and a holistic approach. By understanding the mechanics and importance of turnout, as well as the common challenges and effective techniques to enhance it, you can make significant progress in improving your turnout technique.

Remember to focus on proper technique and alignment, gradually building strength and flexibility in the muscles involved, and incorporating targeted exercises and stretching routines into your training. Take precautions to prevent injuries by listening to your body, practicing gradual progression, and seeking professional guidance when necessary.

Embrace the process and enjoy the journey of discovering the beauty and potential of your turnout. Celebrate every milestone achieved and appreciate the improvements you make along the way. As your turnout improves, you will experience an enhanced sense of grace, stability, and artistry in your ballet technique and overall performance.

Continue to attend regular ballet classes, seek guidance from experienced instructors, and surround yourself with a supportive dance community. Ballet is not just about mastery of technique but also about the joy and passion for the art form. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the progress, and let your turnout enhance your dancing journey to new heights.

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