My Aerial Sling/Silks background
At the beginning of aerial silks/ aerial sling journey I was able to obtain my bent arm straddle within a few months of starting. I was so proud of my progress. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had a background in cheerleading or if I had a great fundamentals aerial instructor.
Once I moved up to Intermediate Silks 1 class the prepped and encouraged you to get a straight leg straddle. We conditioned for it and in order to continue through the curriculum you had to test out. Once the skills you had to demonstrate that you could perform with proficiency was a straight leg straddle. This didn’t include straight arms, you were still allowed to hold a shoulder-lockoff. Straight arm straddles weren’t expected until you reached Intermediate Silks 2.
I moved cities and then couldn’t consistently practice aerial silks and with such lapses in my training, you guess it. I lost my straddle. I was so discouraged and sometimes couldn’t even bring myself to go to class because I felt so weak. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First lets explore what is a straddle?
What is a aerial silks straddle?
In the Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts a straddle-up technique is to “hold on the to the apparatus (silk) with both arms bend, elbows tucked in next to the body and shoulders engaged. Bending and the knees and hips, bring the legs in abduction to create a diamond shape. Keeping the arms next to the body, lean back and extend the elbows to bring the hips up to the hands. To finish, gently open the chest, bringing the scapelae into retraction as the spine straightens, extends the knees, and maintain flexion at the hips to sustain the inverted position”.
Muscles needed to perform a straddle from aerial silks
The main muscles that are used in straddle are the following: triceps, latissimus dorsi, biceps, iliopsoas, gluteus medius, hamstrings, transversus abdomis, rectus abdominus, trapezius and tenso fasciae latae. Using the Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts I pin pointed each individual muscle used to perform the straddle correctly.
One of the first things this books explain is that proximal stability is need to basically perform all movements in aerial. Proximal stability “describes the stabilization that must occur at the proximal joints and muscles so that those more distal can move more efficiently”. Basically if your core is engaged, the muscles close to your core can move the body parts farther away from your core better and with less energy.
The book says that the center of our body is the core and where all movements should start. Core stabilization is so important to transfer forces efficiently from the should and hips back to your center.
3 Basics Types of Exercise
So, after watching many many videos of me performing a straddle I deduced that my core was extremely weak and no matter how much I tried there was no way for me to do a straddle if my core wasn’t able to stay stable. That’s were Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low cam it. This books is a thorough and in-depth review of a systematic approach to gymnastic and bodyweight strength. Now, this book isn’t exclusively written for aerial artists but rather those athletes who participate in calistenthics (such as us aerialists). I won’t go into specific detail but Overcoming Gravity is a highly recommended book. It goes into thoroughly planning your workout and how to set your goals and progressions to achieve your fitness goals. It delves deeply into physiology and strength techniques along with how often you train and prevent injuries.
According to Overcoming Gravity the basics of exercises your muscles fall into 3 groups
- Concentric exercises
- Isometric exercises
- Eccentric exercises
These exercises are done with the full range of motion of the muscles. A good example of this is performing a push-up.
These are also names “static positions”. The muscles stay the same length. So holding the push up position or a plank is a good example of this.
This exercise is slow controlled movement where muscles lengthen throughout the entire repetition. Example of this is slowly lowering from the end of a push up all the way down to the beginning
Applying this knowledge helps you determine what exercises you’ll do with what body part. For example if you not strong enough to do the concentric movement, you can do the eccentric exercises for a certain amount of seconds until you get strong enough to the the concentric version. I used isometric exercises to strengthen he endurance of my muscles.
Muscle groups and exercises for them
Using the information from the Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts I made a list of all the parts of the body that are needed for a straddle-up and then found exercises that I could use to strengthen or improve their endurance.
Transversus abdominis & rectus abdeominis: Hollow body position, planks, side planks, forearm plans, side forearm planks, tick tock, v-ups & forearm headstand
Core & Legs
Gluteus, iliopsoas, teens fasciae late hamstrings: L-sits, and scissor kicks down
- Biceps: Push ups
- Triceps: seated dipsBiceps: Push ups
- Traps & lats: using a pull bar I’d do knees to chest and knees to tricep
Importance of Activation Exercises
Last but not least, before training I would make sure to perform activation exercises. These exercises are important because they encourage your brain to fire the muscles that you want to during an aerial training session rather than it using other muscles that’s its more accustomed to use in order to compensate.
My training outline
Using all the information gathered from those books I was able to assess what I felt weak in what I was already doing well. So what I noticed at first was that my triceps were lacking in strength so I built up their strength by using eccentric exercises. Because my core was weak and many times gave out during my aerial training sessions, I made sure to do condition my core using plenty of isometric exercises. I also noticed that upon inverting I was likely to disengage so I practiced head/fore arm plans stands. The other thing I need to train was my shoulder and back to able to hold an engaged position so that I could invert. And finally I need to strengthen my hip flexors to lift my legs and lats to help tip my hips and pull it up towards the ceiling.
The way to get a straight leg straddle is highly dependent on a case by case basis. But with the a good understanding and basic knowledge of how you’re body works and how to strengthen it, everybody can work their way up to a gorgeous straight leg straddle and beyond!
If you’re more of a visual person I’ve posted a video version of this blog post to youtube!
Until next time!
Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts by Emily Scherb DPT
Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low
Aerial Physique FIT by Jill Franklin
Portable frame at the end is the X-Pole A frame
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