Focus on Form: Straight Leg Turnout

This week, we’re focusing on a classic seat series: standing straight leg turnout. You can think of it as the one where you stand at the barre raising one of your legs to the side to really ignite the side of your seat!

This position looks and seems like it should be just simple – but it’s really anything but. Rather, it’s highly nuanced, and the slightest adjustment to your stance can make the biggest difference in your overall burn. Not only that, but it is relatively easy to “coast” in this position, that is, follow along without thinking too hard about the muscle you should be working or what your instructor is saying, leaving you saying “huh, that wasn’t too bad!”. While you might feel temporary triumph in that thought, we are sorry to tell you that if you’re ever thinking that at the barre…you might not be doing something right or trying as hard as you should be! 🙂 You should not ever plateau, and never make it out of the studio without the shakes!


Speaking of the shakes, let’s get back to our straight leg turnout position. Let’s begin by looking at what this position is targeting: the side of your seat and outer thigh (think: saddlebag eliminator!). After repeated focus on the side of your seat with a position like this, the beautiful muscle “indentation” is created on the side of your seat – defining and trimming it in. And frankly, that’s a big part of why we love the barre so! Another fabulous benefit of this series is that since you are standing upright, less of your weight is being placed on the barre, which means that your standing leg is bearing the brunt of your body’s weight. While it may feel tough in class (and result in a burning, shaking standing leg – that’s normal!), this is simply the BEST! Why? You’re strengthening and toning your standing thigh (can you say, bonus work?!) and the weight-bearing exercise is fantastic for building and maintaining your bone density. Plus – you’re working one side of your seat and your other thigh…meaning collectively the largest muscle groups in your body are being engaged. That means big time calories burned while you’re working, and big time payoff later – the more lean muscle you can build in your largest muscle groups, the higher your metabolism will be!

But…we digress. Back to the topic and how best to maximize your burn (read: results!) in this position.

Standing Straight Leg Turnout

Focus on:

  • 011Softening your standing knee  (not locking it) – it’s not good to stand locked into the joint for very long
  • Keeping both your hip bones pointed straight ahead of you (look down to check yourself!)
  • Standing tall and proud with your shoulders over your hips (avoid leaning forward or over the barre) – use your mirrors to help with this one!
  • Tucking, tucking, tucking. We can’t stress this enough in this position! It is absolutely essential that you tuck under (squeeze your seat muscles to elongate your spine, pull your abs in to erase any arch in your back. You should never feel any work or stress in your lower back – if you do, it’s a clear sign that your positioning is off. Find yourself in a mirror and direct your eyes to your lower back – if you see any arch there, you’re not properly tucked. The importance of tucking is not only to protect your lower back but also to really maximize the benefit for your seat: seat work (regardless of the position) is a constant “battle” between the tuck and the squeeze to move your leg. Since they’re battling in opposite directions, your leg should hardly be moving, whether we are pulsing, up-up-holding, circling, etc.
  • Keeping your leg somewhere around 4 o’clock – 5 o’clock on the clock (or 7 o’clock – 8 o’clock, depending which leg we’re working). You don’t want your leg directly to your side, as you will not be able to get proper height out of your leg, nor isolate the proper part of your seat, and you also do not want your leg behind you – it’s almost impossible to have your leg behind you and be tucked under, so it’s almost guaranteed you’ll feel the work in your back (and you can’t isolate the side of your seat).
  • Pulling away from the barre – always think shift your weight to the instep of your standing foot, shifting your weight toward your working leg. These slight adjustments will help alleviate your standing leg just a little bit – helping you keep your focus of your working seat.
  • 125Straightening through your working knee (or think extend through your toe or flex through your heel) – and we mean, as much as possible. You should actually feel the difference between a passively straight leg and a truly extended leg – not only will it more deeply engage your seat, but it will also engage additional muscles in your leg – from your thigh to your calf.
  • Generating all movement from the side of your seat: and you really do need to think about this one…the entire time. It does take some time to get the hang of seat work, and sending your mind to the muscle. When we say “pulse” or “circle”, think of the side of your seat squeezing to move your leg as you intend – not just moving your leg. Honestly, this takes some serious concentration, especially as your body gets tired – it’s so easy to think about everything that is hurting rather than keep your mind on the muscle you should be squeezing. Constantly re-engage, bringing your mind back to the muscle to get the most benefit.
  • Always working up: you’ll want to bring your leg up to the highest height you can get it while maintaining your posture, of course, and never let it go lower than that point. It’s worth repeating – you are going to keep your leg as high as possible (with your posture!!) to really engage the side of your seat and then only work up from there – pulse up, circle up, etc. Your “rebound” point, or lowest point you’ll allow your leg to come to will actually be the highest height you can maintain in a static hold. Hence both the difficulty and glorious benefit of our seat work. Your seat should be engaged and working hard from the moment you set up the position until the final “10”!

As always, if anything ever seems unclear or you’re unsure in class whether you are doing something correctly – simply ask your instructor! Whether it’s for a simple check of posture or you’re downright convinced you’re not feeling it where you should be – we would be so happy to help you figure it out! xoxo


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