The rotation of the leg at its maximum capacity is one of the most desired skills in the dance world. Numerous types of dance, especially ballet, require that the dancer can lift and extend the leg in a fluid, balanced and powerful way. The ability to execute this movement and bring it to its greatest openness can be developed using techniques based on the anatomical principles of the body.
Basic principles to improve leg rotation
There are two things that must be understood before starting work to improve leg rotation:
- The rotation of the leg really is a rotation of the femur head that is in the femoral cavity. The opening of the movement depends on the joint that connects the femur head with the coxal orchard of the hip, and the musculature and tissues found in that area. The rotation happens in that joint, and its extension capacity depends in large part on the elasticity of the musculature and tissues that support the movement.
- Each person has a specific ability to develop flexibility and strength in this movement. The size, shape and opening of the femur head and the coxal bone determine how much rotational power a person has. The level of elasticity in the musculature and in the tissues that cover these parts also influences the power of rotation and opening that a dancer can reach. That is, some people are more likely to achieve greater openness due to their anatomy.
However, this does not mean that a dancer cannot increase his rotational power in the leg. This capacity can be developed with methods that follow the anatomical principles and respect the limits dictated by the anatomy of each individual. Each dancer needs an approach that takes into account the reality of their body (their bones, muscles and tissues).
The ability to improve leg rotation should not be forced; it must be gradual and receptive.
Common mistakes when executing leg rotation
There are very common errors in the execution of leg rotation that inhibit its flexibility and strength. Before, many dance teachers instructed their students in ways that went against anatomical principles. They focused on muscle strength only. For example, it was very common to encourage students to squeeze the buttocks or strengthen the quadriceps to try to achieve greater openness.
Unfortunately, these ineffective practices have left traces in the training of many dancers. Before you start improving your leg rotation, it is essential that you identify habits in your technique that could limit your rotational power in the leg, such as the following.
Excessive muscle tension in the hips
Excessive muscle tension that arises due to improper muscular coordination decreases the freedom of motion in the joints that connect the pelvis and leg. The most powerful external rotator of the hip is the gluteus maximus muscle. This muscle not only serves to rotate, but also to extend the hips.
If you rely heavily on this muscle to rotate your leg, then you will have less rotation. The solution is to awaken the support of the internal muscles, such as the sartorius.
Problems in body alignment
The rotation of the joint that connects the femur head with the coxal bone is limited when the body alignment is out of balance. For example, when the pelvis leans forward too much, the rotational capacity of this joint is reduced and compressed.
This rotational capacity is also affected when the center is not sufficiently high. In this case the joint tends to compress more against the leg, causing more force to be rotated. On the other hand, if the spindles tighten back, the entire body alignment goes out of balance, and the leg opening is limited.
Lack of rotation in the hip joints
Dancers often think they are turning their legs when, in fact, what they are doing is twisting their pelvis. It is necessary to develop a deep anatomical awareness that helps identify in an experiential way the joint that needs to be activated in the rotation.
Inability to maintain rotation while dancing
Sometimes dancers have a lot of mobility in the hip joint, but fail to maintain rotation when they dance in space. This problem arises because of the lack of muscular strength and confusion in the coordination of the muscles that participate in this movement.
Too much tension in the leg muscles
The leg muscles that participate in external rotation need to develop their maximum capacity to lengthen and shorten in an elastic manner. If you focus only on the action of shortening, then unnecessary tensions will build up. The exhibition and technical exercises that include touch can help to release these tensions.
Forcing the legs rotation causes serious problems in body alignment that could cause injuries. The knees and feet may become too crooked. This, in turn, could cause the pelvis to lean forward. This imbalance causes tension in the muscles and ligaments of these parts of the body. When this happens, the body tries to compensate for the imbalance by adopting bad habits that will in no way support the power of rotation.
5 tips to improve leg rotation
Fortunately, today many dance workouts incorporate in their techniques the anatomical knowledge that allows developing the power of leg rotation in a healthy way.
Here are some of the strategies that you can start practicing to improve this important dance skill.
Focus on what your body needs
There are two basic aspects in training to improve leg rotation.
The first is to develop your rotation capacity. For this you have to pay attention to the femur head and the coxal bone, and train the joint that joins both. It is also necessary to develop the elasticity of the muscles and tissues that are in that area and that participate in the rotation.
The other aspects of training should focus on developing muscular strength in the center of the body to sustain the rotation and motion of the leg. It is your turn to discover which aspect of these two needs more attention in your training. Once you are clear, focus only on one of the two aspects
Visualize the joints and internal muscles
Study well the joints that connect the legs and pelvis, and the internal muscles that participate in the rotation. Look at anatomical illustrations of those parts of the body and record in your mind a clear image about their shapes and location. Pay special attention to the joint that joins the femur head with the coxal bone.
Keep a clear image in your mint of those body parts when you are practicing your leg rotation exercises. Feel the movement in the hip joints. If you practice with a clear picture of the joints and muscles that move, you will gradually increase your rotational power.
Strengthen the muscles of your center
Practice exercises that strengthen the iliopsoas muscle, the abdominal muscles, and the external and internal rotator muscles of the hips. This is essential so that you can sustain the rotation of the leg and make the movement with a quality of lightness. Pilates exercises are excellent for supporting this process.
Develop awareness about the pelvic floor
It is essential that you know your pelvis at a deep level. Practice exercises that raise your awareness about the deep inner space of your pelvis. Somatic movement techniques such as Bartenieff Foundations, Ideokinesis and liberation technique are excellent.