Health & Body

Ask Deb: Can Forcing Turnout Create Bowlegs?

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I know that forcing myself to turn out will hurt my ankles and knees, but can it cause my leg to become bow-shaped, too? I ask, because I didn't have bowlegs before I took ballet classes, but after a few years, my calf shape has changed, and lately my teacher is telling me that I use the wrong muscle to turn out. Are the two problems connected?


First, I want to put your mind at ease—you didn't create the bowing of your legs by turning out incorrectly. Bowlegs are a structural issue. People are genetically predisposed to having bowlegs.

What I glean from your teacher telling you that you're using the wrong muscles to turn out is that you're likely rotating the foot more than the hip can tolerate. This may create some tibial torsion or outward rotation of the shinbone, and create some knee and ankle problems, but it won't create bowlegs.

You didn't mention whether you have hyperextended knees. If you do, and are allowing yourself to drop back into your hyperextension, then your legs will look bowed. This is what I most commonly see when a dancer tells me they are bowlegged. If that is the reason for your bowlegs, then the correction is to stop going into hyperextension when standing. In the air, you can hyperextend the knees without being concerned.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

Got a question for Deb? E-mail askdeb@dancemedia.com, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

To work with Deb Vogel in person, check out her summer workshop, A Dance Teacher's Retreat to Tuscany!

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