Exercises to Increase Ballet Flexibility in the Fifth Position

The butterfly stretch is a staple in ballet classes for a reason -- it opens your hips for flexibility in any position.
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To increase your flexibility in fifth position, you have to increase your turnout overall -- you wont get a better fifth position by standing in it for hours. According to the Mayo Clinic, you need to stretch at least three times per week to just maintain your flexibility, so stretch more often if you want to increase it. Focus on rotating your entire leg in the socket instead of just getting your feet horizontal, as this can injure your knees or ankles.

Seated Stretch

Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Start with your knees and ankles touching, toes flexed but parallel and facing the ceiling. Your back should be straight and aligned over your sits bones. Let your legs roll open so your flexed toes head toward the floor, your knees face outward and your hips rotate. Your heels should touch so your feet and legs look like you are in first position, just while sitting down.

Separate your thumb from your fingers. Starting at your hips, use your hands to rotate your legs further by grabbing the inside flesh with your thumb and pushing the outside flesh under with your other fingers. Do not press down on your knee or ankle joints. Once your legs are rotated as much as you can without causing pain, take 1-pound bags of beans or rice and lay them over your thighs and calves to keep them in position. Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds at a time.

Frog Stretch

Start the frog stretch by lying on your stomach. You can either prop yourself up on your elbows or lie down fully, resting your cheek on the floor. Bend your knees and push the soles of your feet together. Gently push your feet toward the floor. Your legs should make a diamond shape behind you, resembling frog legs.

If your hips are very tight, your feet may be as high as 2 feet off the ground, but the goal is to eventually have them touch the floor. You can add bags of beans or rice to this stretch, too, by draping them over your calves to help you increase your flexibility more quickly. The Mayo Clinic says you shouldn’t feel pain in a stretch -- only push your legs to the point at which you feel a moderate stretching sensation.

Walking Stretch

Practice isolating the hip muscles you need for fifth position with this slightly awkward walk. Stand normally, balancing on one leg with the other foot parallel, just an inch or so off the floor. Flex the foot of your free leg and rotate your leg from the hip so your foot ideally turns 90 degrees, or as much as you can, toward the outside of your body. Hold your turned-out leg in the air for a few seconds before setting it down.

Look at your turned-out foot on the floor and see how your turnout is. Step your other foot the same way, swinging it through parallel and then turning it out. See if you can turn out just a bit more with each step. According to the Mayo Clinic, adding gentle movement like this to your stretching can relax your ligaments and muscles, warming them so they can become more flexible. Do not lock your knees during the walking stretch -- keep your knees slightly bent.


You may have done this stretch in your childhood ballet class, but if you haven’t done it since you were a kid your flexibility may be suffering. Sitting on the floor, press the soles of your feet together and bend your knees. If you are just starting out, your knees may be as much as a foot off the floor. Relax your hips and legs to try to get your knees to touch the floor -- don’t forget to breathe.

It may take months to get there if you are new to stretching, so be patient and never push your knees down with your hands. Gently move your knees up and down, like a butterfly’s wings, to make the stretch easier.

If you are flexible enough to touch your knees to the floor, you can stretch your hips further by bending your upper body forward. Your end goal is to touch your nose to your toes, but start by walking your fingers forward past your feet until you feel a stretch.

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