Wednesday Turnout Wisdom; Part 1
Which muscles are responsible for effective turnout?
Although the large gluteal muscles do act as both hip extensors (extending the leg to the back, as we do in an arabesque) and external rotators, it is to the six deep lateral rotators that we turn our attention as these are essential for effective turnout. These muscles are: piriformis, internal obturator, external obturator, inferior gemellus, superior gemellus, and the quadratus femoris. Together they form a group of muscles that are responsible for rotating the thigh bone in the hip socket. To be clear, turnout is a movement that must be practised and understood; it is not advisable to think of it as the attainment of a ‘position’.
Developing an awareness of any over-tensing of the gluteus maximus during turnout is useful as this should be avoided for its potential to hinder the activation of the deep rotator muscles. The gluteus maximus is both large and superficial; it is therefore much easier to sense contraction and effort here, and as with any large muscle, any continuous over-use beyond its functional need will stimulate growth resulting in aesthetic changes.
Once the leg has been turned out via the primary external rotators and the femur extended, the adductors are then able to play a significant and contributory role in turnout. In using the adductors in this way, as outward rotators, the engagement of the hamstrings then plays an essential role. A hamstring that is insufficiently engaged could result in the adductor engagement producing inward rotation rather than outward, which has the potential to affect the attainment of the correct alignment of the pelvis. A balance must be found between the adductors and the hamstrings.
Wilmerding, Krasnow & IADMS have produced a fantastic resource paper entitled Turnout for Dancers: Hip Anatomy and Factors Affecting Turnout. Interestingly they advise that ‘It is from ideas or images of movement tasks that the dancer can achieve the most efficient dynamic movement, and not by trying to coordinate and control individual muscle activation, or to achieve some ideal of perfection that is anatomically unrealistic’ (2011, p. 1). Blommaert Ballet School recommends this informative and factual paper to all dancers as it not only discusses the muscles involved but gives a comprehensive understanding of the bones and structure of the hip joint and the factors that affect turnout. Please see the reference below and have a read!
For those interested in the use of imagery in dance practice, Blommaert Ballet School suggest investing time in the work of Eric Franklin (2012; 2014; 2019).
Pett, J., & Pett, S. (2011). 4 things you didn’t know about deep hip external rotator muscles overload. Retrieved from https://sportsinjury.online/deep-hip-rotator-overload/
Franklin, E. (2012). Dynamic alignment through imagery (2nd ed.). Human Kinetics.
Franklin, E. (2014). Dance imagery for technique and performance (2nd ed.). Human Kinetics.
Franklin, E. (2019). Conditioning for dance: Training for whole-body coordination and efficiency (2nd ed.). Human Kinetics.
Wilmerding, V., Krasnow, D., & the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS). (2011). Turnout for dancers: Hip anatomy and factors affecting turnout. https://iadms.org/media/3597/iadms-resource-paper-turnout-anatomy.pdf
Denise Horsley MSc - Blommaert Ballet School Dance Science Advisor