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Turnout Questions


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:shrug: I have a few (aka many) questions and I have been searching the old threads but I cant find exactly what I want to know...


Firstly, out of sheer curiosity, I see that it has been said that its possible to have a perfect straddle split but not perfect turnout. Is the reverse also possible (i.e. perfect turnout but a bad straddle) ? Ive been trying to picture how the hip joint would work in that situation and failing.. :thumbsup:


Secondly, I have always known that I have a good and bad turnout side (as do most people, of course). However Ive come to realize that there is a turnout difference of almost 30 degrees between my hips. I know that I have tight hip flexors, especially on the bad side (and they do NOT want to stretch out). Is it normal to have such a large difference?


Finally, everyone talks about the anatomical limits of turnout, and how you can only reach the point predetermined by your hip structure. However, I want to know HOW people can tell when they have reached their anatomical limit? I mean, the point at which stretching will do no further good and may cause harm? Is there a specific feeling of bone on bone or something? I guess Im wondering because on my bad side whenever I try to stretch the turnout, I feel pain on the front of my hip... my physio has told me that this is my hip flexor because its so tight.. but I want to know what kind of pain would be caused by trying to stretch when the hip joint will no longer allow it...

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Alright. You have several questions here, and I'm going to attempt to answer them! B)


Let's talk about what exactly is a "perfect saddle split".

I have seen people do a side split completely turned in so while their legs are completely out to the sides, their knees are facing forwards. I'm betting that is some sort of hip or pelvic anomoly because the joints shouldn't allow that much side height without rotation.


So in that instance, the person with the "perfect" side split is actually not using rotation muscles at all.


Now, let's take a person who can actually do a saddle split with rotated legs. In the saddle split position, because of the floor working against you, a person could conceiveably have a turned out split without actually engaging and controlling the rotators. The split position is more a matter of flexibility than it is actual control. The muscles must elongate and stretch rather than contract and engage as in utilizing turnout when standing.


Many people confuse flexibility with rotation, and they are 2 different things, though related in that a person with greater natural flexibility will be better suited to the demands of ballet, but they won't necessarily be better equipped to control their rotation.


Now on to your differences. I think that 30 degrees seems a bit much. Most people have differences but I think it's more along the lines of 10-15 degrees. It sounds to me as though you could benefit from some release and stretching exercises, as well as strengthening ones. My guess is that you have either a shorter leg or a spine or pelvic issue that has not been uncovered.


In the shorter leg scenario, the psoas will tighten significantly and restrict movement. Lots of stretching in lunge position can assist that.


For the tight hip flexors, laying on the big round objects (can't use the word because our editing software thinks it's a naughty word) that are used in PT can help stretch those.


An exercise called 'slide-downs' can help put the pelvic area in place and strengthen quads in the process.


For strengthening rotation muscles, I have several tricks in my bag, one of which is called 'major chords'. Before I try to explain them in detail here, see if your teachers can help first. I'm a bit "Nutty" right now :P and may not describe them in the best possible way.


And finally, you're 20, right? You probably won't feel the effects of pushing turnout until you're 40. That is why it is IMPERATIVE that you have a good teacher. Knees, ankles, hips, and backs will feel the effects of improper turnout.


Hope that helps for now. :thumbsup:

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Sashinka, thank you for asking questions that I've been thinking about myself, and Clara, thank you for your response. It's probably somewhere between the lines, but what about people with not-so-good side splits? Is it still possible to have good rotation?

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Hi Clara 76 - what is the psoas?


And can you please describe how this would look/work/be positioned?


"For the tight hip flexors, laying on the big ###### that are used in PT can help stretch those."



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Loyola University Medical




The psoas is a very tough muscle to stretch. It runs kind of from your groin down under your leg and up into your lower back. It is the main muscle that connects your torso to your legs. It's very hard to stretch and frequently in dancers, tightens up. It is also very painful when it does.


Runner's lunges can be helpful as can laying on your back on one of those big ######. But I wouldn't want you to do it without a spotter or someone who knows what they're doing.



It's easy to confuse flexibility with rotation. But try not to. If your side split isn't so great, don't worry. It's more important that you are utilizing your rotators and maximizing your natural rotation to the best of your ability.

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I remember learning about the psoas with a skeletal model - great for seeing how it works.


Can I just add to this? I'm horribly inflexible. My teachers are always astounded by it. But, slowly, my rotation has improved. I still have a lot of work to do. Clara 76 has recommended some stretches here, and other exercises elsewhere. I think part of it is remembering that you don't need to just stretch, but also strengthen - and for different people this means different things. My pelvis naturally tips a bit (the kind of tip that makes a sway back), and so I have to do a lot for my abs, *as well as* the little muscles under my rear end. Pulling up and out, and getting the posture right (as Clara has written on a sticky) is so key to then 'freeing up' the legs so they can turn out. Usually for me my turnout starts so-so at the beginning of class but as I use it through barre it actually improves through a class, if that makes sense.


Reading that paragraph, I guess I'm not really adding much, just supporting Clara 76... and noting that it does take time, but just because we're adults doesn't mean we can't see progress in some of these things!

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Thank you so much for your thorough answer :shrug:. Im actually 24 now (wishing I was 20 again :P ).

I was always thinking of the properly rotated saddle split, as I knew that the type with the hips forward does not require the same flexibility. And I do realize that rotation requires strength as well, I suppose I am just thinking of the potential flexibility of a persons hips.


As to my issues, I have been checked by several physios/doctors/my chiroprator, and I dont have a leg length discrepancy according to them. I have a veeeery slight scoliosis (basically unnoticeable according to the chiro), but what I definately do have is more hyperextension on my right leg (my bad turnout side) than my left. I also tend to stand casually with all my weight on my right leg, so then I further hyperextend it and move into swayback position. Doc thinks this causes the tight hip flexors...

I definately need to work on strength, I hate how as soon as Im up on pointe, I lose 20 degrees of turnout! So frustrating :dry: . I will ask my teacher about some strength exercises...

But Im glad to hear that it may be improved, if I can get my hips about even, Ill have very good turnout..and I always hoped that since I have very good turnout on the one side, that the other side has an issue that would be fixable to the extent where I can even it out...But the pain of stretching that bad side always has me worried that I may be at that bone on bone limit.....

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I have to ask this one...


It seems like the reason why I cannot do a clean pirouette is that my fifth (or fourth) position is not closed well enough due to my lack of turn out. At least that is what my teacher tells me. She says "It is impossible to turn without having a perfect fifth or fourth".


I'm not that "irrotatable" (I love making up new words) and I have an overall good turnout, however when I start turning my passé comes up directed to the north-east or north-west instead of direct and sharp east/west; because my leg was rotated only that much. And pressing the foot against the knee during the turn to create a sharp 90 degrees line collapses my balance due to misaligned hips.


My question is, I know I'm not the only one in the world to not have a perfect 180 degrees turn out, then how can other people not close a fifth sharply and pull a passé up with a perfect 90 degrees to the side to help them turn? Is there a trick on that?

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Let me see if I can explain it this way: To bake a cake, one must have all of the necessary ingredients in the proper measured amounts called for, bake it at the proper temperature for the proper amount of time, allow it to cool, and then ice it.


What happens if one or more of the ingredients are left out? Or if the cake isn't baked long enough? Can you ice it while it's still hot? If you don't follow the recipe exactly, you will not have a perfect baked confection.


Silly analogy I know, but it's late. :):sleeping:


The thing is that with everything in ballet, everything matters. Since I can't see you I can't diagnose exactly why you're having this problem, but I can say with confidence that you're not able to do clean, consistant pirouettes because you're not there yet. The cake hasn't baked long enough. Your alignment and rotation aren't quite under your control yet and you don't yet have the muscle-reaction necessary to execute the step.


The operative word here being yet.


If you have good training and you're implementing corrections, you'll get there. :thumbsup: Just not yet. :wink:

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Clara 76,


I think that's a GREAT analogy - and it helped me get through my class last night. I especially like optimism so inherent in that little word yet.


Thanks for your great advice and attitude. (Now, do you know of any secrets that will actually help me implement the corrections that I get? :D )



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Yes. Keep trying.


Each and every one of us has a magic number of times that we must do any given physical movement correctly before it becomes muscle memory/natural. Your number may be much less than mine, but everyones' is at least many, many repetitions. So each and every time you hear the correction, implement it in your body, and mentally take it off the tally of how much longer you'll have before it sets!


I personally believe that if you understand the correction, it's only a matter of time. I have really not seen anyone who just didn't try.

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I just thought I'd add that I went to a new physiotherapist this week... she determined that not only were my hip flexors unbelievable tight, but that the whole "joint capsule" around my bad hip was completely stiff. So she did some releasing of the area, and I gained a good 10 degrees of turnout in 20 minutes!!! Im very very happy, and hopefully when she releases the area further tomorrow it will get even better! :yes:

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  • 2 weeks later...

let me see if I got it right... does having a very tight psoas make it harder to rotate?

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Yes, it certainly does! It can also make it painful to move your leg forward and back, as in walking.

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that's me, Clara! I wonder if the tightness I have there (my physio always goes wow! when she feels it) may have made me unable to fully exploit my turnout range. I am looking for reasons that have made me pass from 180° turnout to a much more limited one - I can't beleive that being in my mid-twenties is good enough a reason, so I must have done something wrong over the years!


For some years I have spent the summers walking briskly in the sea with water till my waist, and done all sortf of exercises to tone up my "reare end". Is it possible that I have overdone something, thus causing my muscles to work the wrong way and getting tightened up just by excessive and possibly wrong exercising?

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