Most dancers crave a solid turnout. That’s when your hips, knees and feet laterally rotate (or turn out) instead of being parallel with each other. Every foot position in ballet is done in turnout. What changes is how wide the stance is or where your feet are lined up in relation to each other, but the feet, knees and hips are always in turnout. The motion should come from the lateral rotators of the hip, but not everyone is born with a natural turnout and some people really struggle to increase turnout.
To try and mask a poor turnout, people often torque their feet to make it look like they have a turnout. This can create the appearance of turnout, but it’s fake. And the problem is that a fake turnout weakens the ankle and foot, a problem if you are a ballerina or Irish step dancer because foot and ankle strength are vital for dancers.
So how do you actually develop a strong turnout from the hip using the proper muscles?
One simple exercise is known as the clam.
It’s fairly easy, but be careful. A common mistake it to move the entire pelvis, not just the leg. Moving the leg might mean you don’t get as much range of motion at first, but you will actually be strengthening the proper muscles for a good turnout. So think less is more and target the muscles deeper.
Another exercise is to practice engaging your lateral rotators when you are standing. This is a good tool because you can do it anywhere. Suddenly standing in line becomes productive.
Not a dancer? These moves will be especially helpful to work on if you are naturally pigeon toed. In that case your body requires stronger lateral hip rotators just to get your legs in parallel.