The Anatomy of the Hip 

Not all hips are created equal, and this creates quite a challenge for dancers and dance teachers. Within one class of 20 students there will be a wide-ranging selection of turnout range, spinal mobility and hip control, which makes it very hard to train all students to their full potential, while keeping everyone safe. It is important for all dancers to understand about the basic anatomy of the hip, but also to know how their own hips differ from anatomical 'normal'. There is a huge range of variation in the placement and angle of the hip socket (acetabulum) and femoral head which can influence the base line of turnout capacity, however, do not be too quick to blame your bones! Most people are not using anywhere near their full available range of motion. To learn more about specifically testing individual dancers' hips please check out our Level One Dance Teacher and Therapist Training Course.

Understanding how all the muscles of the hip work together to support our movement and control in different ranges is also important. Keep in mind that most anatomy books discuss the function of muscles for normal humans, not the extreme ranges and control required for todays dancer. Many muscles change their function in different ranges. For example; Piriformis, one of the Deep External Rotators, can actually internally rotate the femur above 90 degrees. The videos below outline the basic muscular anatomy around the hip, as it pertains to a dancer. For more information on training the hip correctly, check out the Training Turnout Resources below. 

Many dancers grip with their Gluteals in first and fifth position, instead of using their Deep External Rotators to control the rotation. This results in excessive tension in the outside of the hip, which in turn can cause snapping hip syndrome and other hip injuries.

There are six Deep External Rotators which are the true turnout muscles. Each one works in a slightly different way to control turnout at the hip. Over 90 degrees, the external rotators begin to lose their biomechanical advantage, and so other muscles such as the Psoas Major and Sartorius must come in to play to help support the leg en l’air.

The Psoas Major is very important in supporting the lifted leg en l'air, however, if the lumbar spine is unstable, the Psoas Major may attempt to stabilise the spine and become statically contracted where it attaches to the front of the spine. In this situation the TFL and Rectus Femoris must be recruited to lift the leg, often resulting in overuse issues and a painful hip.

The deep adductors, are essential muscles in controlling stability of the standing leg. If these are weak or injured, then a lot more load is transferred to the lateral hip (TFL and Gluteus Medius and Minimus) which will get very tight. It is essential to train these deep adductors as postural muscles, by using long slow contractions, to get the slow twitch muscle fibres activated.

Training Turnout Resources

If you are looking to delve deeper into this topic, check out the following programs:

  • Tips for Turnout: This ‘Tips for Turnout Guide’ is a great starting point for anyone wanting to learn more about how to maximise turnout safely, and is the first resource in our Training Turnout Series. It gives you tips on improving your range, developing control of your standing leg and specific ways to increase the height of your développé devant.
  • Training Turnout: Deepen your exploration of the anatomy of the dancers’ hip with this unique Training Turnout eBook. As the second resource in our Training Turnout series this program is a great follow on from our Tips for Turnout Program. Learn how to assess and understand the structure of your own hips, strengthen standing leg turnout and turnout en fondu as well as develop extraordinary control in your adage.
  • Training Turnout in Tiny Dancers: If you are dance teacher, this is the perfect continued education course for you. In this systematic and comprehensive approach to training turnout in tiny dancers, Lisa and Beverly provide dance teachers with direct techniques to use in class to safely develop optimal range and control of motion in all dance students. This program begins by establishing strength and control in parallel, before adding on the control of rotation, which is hugely important in the long term health of dancers’ hips. Using elements of fun and creative play to bring scientific and detailed training programs into dance schools is a unique and effective way to help thousands of young students worldwide.
  • Level One Dance Teacher and Therapist Training: This unique course covers a multitude of assessment and treatment techniques to individualise a dancers training. With special focusses on Postural Control, Core Stability, Flexibility, Basic Classical Technique, The Dancers Hip, Allegro, Spinal Mobility and Arabesques, it is suitable for anyone working closely with dancers. 
  • Anatomy Posters: These A3 posters are a great addition to the studio, to make it easy for teachers to explain the anatomy behind the movement to dance students. With clear anatomical images and descriptions of how each muscle works in a dancer, they are an essential tool for training intelligent dancers.