Runners' Legs Versus Dancers' Legs

Close-up ballerina's legs in pointes on the black

Dancers and runners are both skilled when it comes to athletics. Their training has allowed them to improve strength, endurance and balance, which helps them go the distance whether on the track or on stage. Dancers and runners may be similar in athletic ability, but they do not have similar physiques, especially when it comes to their toned legs. Though they may share some properties, the legs of dancers and runners differ due to the functions they perform.

Good Definition

Because dancers and runners both go through rigorous training, they both have very strong and well-defined legs. However, when you look closely, you will see small differences. For example, dancers' legs are usually more curved in appearance, with very compact muscles, while runners tend to have very straight legs with toned glutes and quadriceps. In addition, dancers' hips are usually wider than that of runners due to their training in turnout.

Different Development

Runners rely on their quads and hamstrings to do most of the work to push themselves forward at fast speeds. Therefore, the quads and hamstrings are more developed than the other leg muscles. The glutes may also be more developed than that of a dancer's, should the runner be a sprinter. Sprinters rely on the glutes to allow them a full range of motion from the hips. Dancers have more developed hip flexor muscles than runners because of their need and ability to frequently extend their legs in various directions. Their need to have wide hip turnout results in having a deeper hip socket, stronger ligaments and a wider range of movement of the pelvis.

Strength Versus Endurance

Both dancers and runners have strong legs. However, they are strong in different ways. Runners have practiced energy conservation by contracting the thighs and glutes with each stride, making it easier for them to save some energy: Because each leg gets a break as the other pushes forward, runners have experience channeling quick bursts of strength to move quickly, all while using as little energy as possible. Conversely, dancers hold positions during training for long periods of time. They do not have many rest periods. Therefore, they are less prone to fatigue when required to sustain effort over time.

Flex and Bend

Generally speaking, dancers are more flexible than runners. Flexibility in a dancer's legs is extremely beneficial during routines that involve leaps, kicks and spins. If the muscles surrounding the hip are tight, it will inhibit the dancer's ability to perform while utilizing hip rotators. Their ability to be flexible is an asset to dancers as their dance routines require them to move quickly to change direction and assume various positions. Proper and frequent stretching helps dancers reach turnout and flexibility potential as their external hip rotators are activated. Runners experience more tension in their legs and hips due to the fact that they simply move in a straight path and don't adhere to stretching routines as rigorous as a dancer's.