In the spotlight this week is an at-home edition brought to you by Aerial Physique Master Trainer and pro aerialist/dancer Christine Wunderlich.
Are you straining to stretch your legs? Struggling to straighten your knees? Scrambling to hold your balance? Do you cringe when you see yourself micro-bending in videos when you totally thought your legs were straight?
We're here to help you work on activating your legs and master your micro-bend! They can take the form of a loose leg in a split, a micro-bend in a straddle inversion, or a floppy looking Windmill.
Can you spot the difference between a fully straight pulled-up leg and a loose leg with a micro- bend? A micro-bend is when the leg muscles are not fully engaged and the knee-cap is not pulled up by the quadriceps. This small flexion gives the leg a bent or loose look. In a fully straighten leg, the quadriceps and other leg muscles fully activate and pull the knee-cap towards the hip. Doing so creates a strong and elongated line with the added benefit of stability.
See below for at-home exercises that will help to strengthen, lengthen and kiss micro-bends goodbye!
Exercise 1: Sitting Knee Engagement Sitting on the ground with good posture, legs in front. Engage your quadriceps muscles to pull-up your knee-caps. They should move slightly towards you. Keep your hamstrings long & the back of your knees pressed into the ground. Squeeze your legs together for extra engagement. Practice engagement & relaxation of your knees while sitting, holding a few seconds in the straight engaged position. Repeat 10 -20X
Exercise 2: Point & Flex Sitting on the ground with good posture, legs in front. Engage your legs & active your knees. Hold this leg activation, as you point and flex your feet. Don’t let your knees relax as your feet move! This can be challenging & may require several attempts to complete multiple Point & Flex without relaxing the knees. Great training for stamina against micro-bending. Repeat 8 X
Exercise 3: Plié & Relevé in Parallel With parallel legs, squeeze your legs together & bend your knees to Plié. Then straightening your legs, activate to stretch your legs. For the Relevé, keep active legs & press down in the balls of your feet & lift your heels. You should have a floating feeling. Keep your legs active & knee-caps pulling up, as your lower your heels with control. Repeat 8 X
Exercise 4: Plié & Relevé Turned Out in 1st Position In Ballet, dancers often use turned-out positions. The most basic is First Position where heels are together & toes are pointed out to the side, the leg in lateral rotation. First position do the same Plié and Relevé motion as the previous exercise. As you bend make sure your knees are in alignment with the direction of your feet. This requires more activation of muscles in your legs and booty! Squeeze the legs together as you straighten & relevé. Balance turned out can be harder, so you can hold on to a chair or wall to help find your balance. Repeat 8 X
Exercise 5: Tendu in Parallel In your standing parallel position, activate your legs and squeeze them together and pull up your knees. Tendu forward by pressing your foot into the floor & sliding it forward. Make sure to point your foot at the end extension! Keeping your knees active while doing a Tendu is challenging! X 4 Right Leg + X 4 Left Leg
Exercise 6: Tendu a la Seconde This is a very fancy French way of saying, leg extension sideways. Start turned out in Ballet First Position. Stretch & activate your legs, then brush the foot into the ground to extend the leg sideways. Point your foot! Squeeze your legs together to close. X 4 Right Leg + X 4 Left Leg
Exercise 7: Fondu & Mirco Bends Start in Ballet First Position, extend the leg forward (Tendu Devant) & lift the toes off the ground. Both legs should be stretched and active. Fondu by bending both legs at the same time & bring the toe to the standing ankle. Stretch both legs simultaneously. Repeat x 4. Then Micro Bends: Bend just the leg in the air, while holding balance on a straight standing leg. Use the power in your quadriceps to fully straighten your leg every time. Repeat x 8 Fondu X 4 + Mirco Bend X 8 Repeat Both Legs.
Exercise 8: Fondu & Mirco Bends a la Seconde This is the same bend & stretch exercise but with the leg extending side. Use all your leg muscles to hold the leg rotation (Think: knee points to the ceiling rather than to the wall in front of you). Fondu can be challenging also for the balance. Use a chair or wall to help but challenge yourself to let go and find your balance! Fondu X 4 + Mirco Bend X 8 Repeat Both Legs.
Exercise 9: Retiré Balances on a Yoga Block This exercise is an excellent way to work on Active Standing Balances. The concept seems very simple but the Yoga block brings extra challenges. In Retiré parallel, with your toe lightly touching the side of your knee, keep an active leg & pulled- up the knee. If your knee relaxes, fight to engage it again. Aim: Hold 30 – 60 seconds.
Exercise 10: BONUS CHALLENGE Retiré Balances on a Yoga Block with Relevé Take your Active Standing Balances to the next level by adding a Relevé! In your Retiré position, lift your heel off the yoga block & balance on the ball of your foot. The foam yoga block makes this more challenging!! If your full leg is not active this will be extremely difficult, so it is a good test for that naughty micro-bend! Longer balances will take practice! Aim: Hold 30 – 60 seconds.
CONGRATULATIONS!! Ballet Basics: For Straight & Active Legs completed!! Time for a Celebratory Dance Party!! Well done!! If Ballet is new to you, awesome job! Ballet can be a fun and challenging way to add some cross-training to your aerial practice while at home and a great way to diversify your skills. Learning something new is one of the best ways to grow as an artist and a human. It’s a new year, we'd like to encourage you to challenge yourself to grow! If you found this helpful we'd love to hear from you! Reach out to us on the 'gram @wunder.aerialdance & @aerialphysique.
With encouragement, 💙 Christine & Jill