Flying in My Elmora Dress
When I tell my friends I do aerial silks, the first thing they usually say is “I could never do that. I don’t have the arm or upper body strength.” I’ll admit my arm and core muscles are now super strong, but before my first aerials class I had no idea how to develop the strength I’d need to accomplish my goal – the exhilarating high of doing aerial silks dance and acrobatics. Eventually I got there, and if I can do it, anyone can. Here are some beginner strengthening tips I learned along the way:
While push ups may seem obvious, many of us have a tendency to place our hands far apart and flare our elbows out, which doesn't build the tricep strength you need for aerials as quickly. Instead, place your hands directly below your shoulders facing forward and keep your elbows near to your body as you bend your arms. This will work the triceps and you'll quickly see the payoff in your aerial abilities. Using this push up form may feel harder than what you're used to. If you have trouble lowering all the way down and coming up, feel free to drop your knees the whole time or on the way up.
Sketches by me, btw.
Working on a pull up bar will help your aerial skills, and aerials will improve your pull ups in return. It's a symbiotic relationship. If you can't pull yourself up yet (very normal!), jump up and lower yourself down in a slow, controlled motion. I know that achieving a pull up feels impossible, but I'll say it again: If I can do it, anyone can.
This sequence is all about working the positions you'll eventually want to hold in the air. With your hands and feet off the ground, bring your knees to your chest for your ball (see illustration below). Straighten your legs, similar to a yoga boat pose, for your "V". Lay back into a hollow body and repeat. Try this ten times in a row.
Similar to the yoga pose, but with up-down repetitions. Start lying flat, then raise your legs and body (minus the shoulders) to a vertical position. You may need to support your back with your hands when you first try this. Eventually it will feel easy enough that you'll be leaving your hands flat on the ground without realizing it. Try going up and down a few times in a row, keeping your movements as controlled as possible. For an added challenge, don't let your feet completely touch the ground in between.
Taking even 10 to 15 minutes out of the day to work on these exercises will go a long way -- And fast! As someone without much of a dance or gymnastics background and an extremely full schedule, these exercises made a huge difference for me. They're also great to practice on a vacation or other hiatus so that you don't feel quite as rusty when you return to class. Feeling strong and able to do something out of the ordinary will give you a boost of confidence. These simple workouts will help speed up your progress as an aerial beginner and add to that powerful feeling that you can do something you never thought you could. Now go fly like the superhero we all know you are!
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