By Anna Kondaurov, Contributing Blogger
Do you find yourself inspired by the strength and grace of aerial performers as they weightlessly move through the air? I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to run away and join the circus to learn aerial fitness secrets. Although aerial does involve specialized equipment such as silks, lyra or a trapeze rig, there are many conditioning exercises that can be done from the comfort of your own home. Try adding these moves to your workout routine to train just like a circus star.
If you want to eventually learn how to flip your body upside down, you need to start strengthening your hip flexors. Aerialists depend on hip flexor muscles to lift and control their legs in the air. First, sit with your legs out in front of you. Lightly place your fingertips on the floor to help you balance. Lift both legs off the floor as far as you can while keeping them tightly pressed together and your toes pointed. Make sure you are not relying on your hands to raise your legs up to get the most out of this workout!
Another important skill that aerialists train is the ability to pull yourself up using your upper body strength. Don’t worry if you cannot do a pull up yet – my pull up game was a complete zero when I first started! To try a sphinx crawl, lay down on your stomach and lift your legs behind you. Place your palms and forearms flat on the ground and use them to pull yourself forward. I recommend putting a towel or piece of fabric underneath your stomach to avoid “floor burn”.
I do this as a warmup before each aerial session to warm up and engage my core muscles. Lay flat on the ground with your legs straight in front of you. Lift one leg at a time as high as you can and reach for your toes with the opposing arm (if you lift your left leg use your right arm etc.). Try your best to keep your legs as straight as possible and avoid arching your back – your lower back should be touching the floor.
Cow Cat poses are great at improving and maintaining spine flexibility. Get on your hands and knees and slowly arch your back while keeping your gaze on the ceiling. Reverse this motion and round your spine and shoulders towards the ceiling, while you gaze towards the floor. Keep your breath slow and controlled and try to sync your inhalations and exhalations with each movement. For example, if you arch your spine breath in and if you round your spine breath out.
Practicing flexibility is important for proper form and to avoid injury. Like the Cow Cats, the cobra stretch also works to mobilize your spine. Start by lying on the floor face down with your hands underneath your shoulders. Press your upper body as far up as feels comfortable while keeping your legs straight. Hold this pose for about 30 seconds.
If you feel like taking on a challenge, try mountain climbers to strengthen your shoulders and core. Start in a plank position. Keep your back and legs as straight as you can and bring one forearm down to the ground while keeping the other one straight. Push the bent arm back up and repeat this movement with the other arm. You can modify this exercise by keeping your knees on the floor.
You don’t need to be able to do the splits to train like an aerialist! Try the stag stretch for a beautiful pose that also increases your hip mobility. Bend one knee out in front of you while extending the other leg behind you. If you want to add an arm and shoulder stretch, try bending your back leg and hooking it with your elbow. Bring your other elbow towards the ceiling and try to touch your back with your hand. Try holding this pose for about 30 seconds. Remember that flexibility takes time and consistency!
Hopefully this tutorial has encouraged you to pursue your aerial dreams. Aerial has helped me feel confident and creative in a way that no other fitness routine has. Wherever you are in your fitness journey, aerial can meet you at your level and take you to new heights. Trust the process and you might just find yourself flying soon!