Your guide to cross-training as an aerialist
One of the most common questions our aerial instructors get from students is “what can I work on outside of the studio to get better at aerial?!” The truth is that everything helps! Cross-training and diversifying your fitness regimen can enhance anyone’s aerial practice to build strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, grace, and overall body awareness.
So while it can be tempting to stick to aerial as your only mode of exercise, mixing up your fitness regimen can make you an even better aerialist, while preventing injuries from using the same muscle groups over and over.
When deciding what to supplement your aerial practice with, identifying your own opportunities for improvement in aerial is a great place to start. Luckily, there are many options to choose from!
Strength training is the best for building overall strength, body awareness and joint stability, as well as power, endurance, and stamina. Generally speaking, aerial requires a lot of upper body strength, leaving the legs and glutes largely neglected. Aerial also involves a lot of pulling movements. Tailoring your strength training to focus on pushing and building lower body strength can help maintain physiological balance to prevent injury. Plus, we’ve all been in those classes where someone brand new to aerial climbs to the top of the silks their very first class. Many times that is because the superhuman student already has a solid foundation in overall strength.
Dance can help with grace, coordination, body awareness, flexibility, and lower body strength. Ballet is especially helpful for cultivating long, graceful lines, and for gaining the strength to get rid of that pesky micro-bend in the knees (and our Inversion Method course is perfect for that too). If you’ve ever struggled with what to do with your body when given the opportunity to create in the air, cultivating a dance practice on the ground can give you the confidence and tools to dance in the air.
Barre workouts are also helpful for accessing the deep core, and for learning how to isolate, manipulate, and tuck the pelvis. Barre helps strengthen your muscles without bulking up and improves your posture. The micro-movements of a barre workout target your core, legs, and glutes, with the added benefit of creating beautiful lines.
HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts help to build endurance, strength, and overall cardiovascular health so that you can stay up in the air for longer sequences before getting winded.
Rock climbing (both indoor and outdoor) improves upper body pulling strength, lower body strength, flexibility, power, coordination, and grip strength. Learning to rock climb also involves learning how to favor pushing with your legs overusing your arms too much to climb. An added bonus is that rock climbing can help you get used to being high above the ground.
Pilates, which was originally called “control-ogy,” is wonderful for accessing all aspects of your core, and for learning proper alignment and technique to protect your spine and pelvis. Pilates will teach you to have a strong hollow body position as the base for controlling all other movements. Pilates is especially excellent for training those elusive straight leg inversions!
Hand-balancing is Jill’s go-to training strategy for activating those pushing muscles and for improving balance, shoulder and core strength. Plus, once you get better at it, hand-balancing is always an impressive party trick that you can do anywhere.
Running is an option to improve cardiovascular health. Jogging or running slowly for a long amount of time helps to develop slow-twitch muscle fibers and endurance. Sprinting for a short period develops fast-twitch muscle fibers for more powerful movements. Running also doesn’t require anything besides good running shoes and stretches of space!
Swimming is a low-impact option to improve cardiovascular health and endurance. Swimming is also excellent for building strong shoulders and a strong core. If you have joint issues and the thought of running makes you a little sick, swimming may be the cardio for you!
Spinning or cycling is also a lower-impact cardiovascular health option, which trains both slow and fast-twitch muscle fibers in the legs.
Yoga is wonderful for preventing injury, gaining flexibility, and for building stability and a sense of balance. Yoga can be a more spiritual practice to connect with the breath and quiet the mind, which can come in handy to get “in the zone” when doing a new aerial drop for the first time! Cultivating a mindfulness practice is always beneficial for remaining in the moment and mindful when in the air.
These are a few out of MANY options to mix up your routine and help take your aerial practice to the next level. By developing overall fitness and targeting your unique aerial challenges while on the ground, you can build the tools necessary to move well in the air!
P.S. Jill wrote a book all about at-home exercises that can help improve your game in the air! Check out Aerial Physique FIT. This 5 star-rated training guide is available on Amazon and we have a digital version available in our online shop!
" I'm an aerial instructor and performer and I love having this as a resource for both myself and my students. This is the next best thing to actually having Jill to train with in person, as it is thoroughly infused with her confident & kind teaching style all the way through. I especially appreciate how clearly Jill explains technique tips to help the reader understand the important components and concepts of each exercise." -Kathleen