This story originally appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of Pointe.
Think fast: Would you like a few more degrees of turnout? If your answer is a resounding “yes" (perhaps even punctuated by a grand jeté), you're not alone. Although natural turnout is largely dictated by the anatomy of your femur and hip socket, if your turnout muscles are weak, you could be missing out on those highly coveted extra degrees of rotation.
But there's good news: According to Shannon Casati, a former Miami City Ballet dancer who's now a physical therapist assistant at Reavis Rehab and Wellness Center in Round Rock, Texas, strengthening the muscle groups that aid in external rotation and hip stabilization, such as the inner thighs, glutes and piriformis, can make a difference. Casati recommends these three exercises to help you access your full turnout. Try them daily after warming up, or two to three times a week when your rehearsal or performance schedule is intense.
- a Thera-Band
- a soft, soccer-sized ball
1. In socks or ballet slippers, face the barre standing in parallel.
2. Without lifting your toes, slide both feet along the floor into first position. “This is a good way to see how much turnout you naturally have," says Casati.
3. From there, plié and slowly straighten your knees without losing any turnout. This simple test will provide a benchmark while also strengthening your external rotators.
For the Piriformis
1. Tie a Thera-Band to the barre and loop it around your working knee. Start standing in parallel and come to retiré.
2. Pushing against the resistance of the band, slowly rotate to a turned-out retiré for 10 reps.
3. Repeat the same sequence with the standing leg turned out. Then switch sides.
For the Inner Thighs and Glutes
1. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor in parallel about hip width apart and a ball squeezed between your knees.
2. Press into a bridge, while keeping your core tight and engaging your glutes. Squeeze and hold the ball for a count of 5. Do 10 reps of squeezes.
3. With the hips still lifted, do 20 quick pulses of the ball before lowering to the ground.