Turnout—a combination of rotational flexibility and the strength to properly hold that rotation—is fundamental to barre. Before you get frustrated that your feet do not turn out as much as the person next to you, remember that not everyone (actually, hardly anyone) is born with 180-degree rotation . Keep reading for the dos and don’ts of improving your turnout.

Do cross train

Turnout requires a rotation that starts at the head of your femur and continues down the chain all the way to your feet. It starts at your hips, but requires a lot more than just hip flexibility.

Turning out correctly requires a great deal of core strength. Both the muscles in the front and the back of the midsection need to be strong in order to lift your body weight out of your hips. Think about how much lighter on your feet you feel when you engage your core… go ahead, try it! Now think about how much less pressure is being put on your hip joints with the core engaged and how much easier is it for you to externally rotate from the tops of your femurs.

But wait…. There’s more!

Do turn in

Turning out properly also requires strength and balance in the adductors and abductors. Focus on strengthening the muscles of both your inner and outer thighs and your glutes to create a well rounded foundation.

Once again, it comes down to moderation and balance. If all of your movement involves turning out, the rotational muscles that are responsible for that action will get over-trained and tight. In addition to practicing yoga to stretch these muscles, it’s just as important to exercise the muscles that turn in every now and then. Pilates or Gyrotonics are good exercise choices to encourage turn in without much impact on the joints

 

Don’t try to walk or stand with a turned out stance during daily activities

Some people are naturally inclined to walk with their feet turned out, and some are not. Forcing yourself to walk with your feet outward all the time will not improve your rotation. In fact, it can actually lead to ankle, knee and hip pain.

Don’t force your turnout to the point of discomfort or pain.

Just remember that pushing your turnout isn’t the same as forcing it. Never turn out to the point that your hips, knees and ankles aren’t aligned in plié, your hips are tucked under, your feet are rolled in or your back is swayed or there is any pain or pulling in the hips.

Not only will you risk acute injury to your hips, knees and ankles, but eventually you will create lasting imbalances that can have serious impact you posture.

 

DO remember that more isn’t always better! Be mindful of your body and its limits and listen to what it tells you!