This is going to be one of those posts where we level set on expectations, and I write more than you probably want to read. And then I give you some workouts. So if you aren't interested in the explanation, you can skip to the workouts...though I'd highly recommend reading it all! But I'm biased ;)
Why this is a Challenge
A lot of students ask me what they can do at home (without any equipment - aerial or workout) to get stronger for aerial. I love and hate this question. I love it because it shows the dedication a student has - they want to get better, they want to train more, and they are taking initiative. I hate it though because my answer is typically not the one they are looking for. There are two parts that make this a kicker. The first is what students mean when they say "get stronger," and the second is the "without equipment" part.
See the thing is, when most students say they want to get stronger, they are talking about big feats of strength: getting a pull up, getting a straight arm inversion, heck even getting a bent arm hang! Students typically aren’t talking about accessory work that will make them more well rounded, prevent injury, keep their muscles healthy, etc.
The problem with these strength gains, is that it is REALLY hard to get there without any equipment. And yes. I know accessory work will make you stronger. But is it going to get you a pull up when you can't even do a bent arm hang? Doubt it will on it's own.
For strength moves as aerialists, we predominantly use our back, shoulders, and biceps in a pulling motion. These upper body pulling muscles get worked when we are pulling something downward or toward our trunk. Or the flip side - when we are pulling ourselves upward or forward. That is the function of those muscles and exactly how we work them in aerial. But, there are not a lot of ways to do these motions substantially without equipment.
That is the part I really hate to tell everyone. When you want big strength gains to the upper body pulling muscles, you pretty much need equipment. But all is not lost. There are still some worthwhile things we can do.
Work our opposing muscle groups Because upper body pulling is so important for most of our aerial skills, we often times neglect other parts of our body. This creates imbalances which has a whole host of issues that come with it. It can lead to injury, dysfunction, and hold back our potential. Since we do a lot of pulling in aerial, we will need to balance out with some pushing exercises. Also, because we primarily focus on upper body, we want to add in some leg exercises as well. This is great news for at home work outs because it's a little easier to work these opposing muscle groups with just body weight. Partially because of their job and partially a function of people's current strength level.
Work muscles that are important but not usually worked directly There are a lot of muscles we use in aerial that don't always get targeted in aerial classes. That is because with limited time you need to work the things that are most important, so sometimes we don't work everything directly. Priorities. But this is a GREAT thing to work at home, and you'll find strengthening these muscles will make everything a little bit easier. So let's look at some of these muscles.
Adductors - you engage your adductors any time you're squeezing your legs together. Having strong adductors is particularly useful for the scissor position in hipkey, and any sort of...crotch squeeze like for seat belt in fabric/rope.
Abductors - these muscles work to pull your legs apart. Think straddle invert.
Posterior chain - the muscles that run along our backside, and here I'm specifically talking about your hamstrings and glutes. We rely on these heavily to get a good knee hook or knee hang.
Toe point - to make us pretty aerial butterflies
Forearms - ok so your forearms are probably constantly sore from gripping all the time, but we don't always work them directly in class. If you're new to aerial it can be really helpful to do some targeted forearm work.
Abs - this is probably the muscle group out of this list that classes focus on the most, but it's an easy one to do at home, so why not!
Work on preventative maintenance As dedicated athletes, our muscles get overworked and under healed! This is where we can do some preventative maintenance to increase flexibility in the muscles, work on range of motion, and get our muscles nice and happy. One of the big ones here is shoulders, and fortunately there is no shortage of exercises to prehab your shoulders! Another I've recently discovered (because it's given me issues!!) is the feet and calves. Often times we'll sickle our foot to help grip the fabric or rope, and doing this repeatedly without strengthening that area can cause problems - for me it's caused nerve issues and cramping!
The Work Outs
Alright. I'll stop with the talky talky and give you the work outs! I made the exercises so that they require no equipment with the exception of a broom, which you should have!
You should NOT do all of these at once, and you don't even need to stay in one category. Just pick and choose 3 - 5 exercises based on what your body needs and how much time you have. As always, the prescribed workouts will be notated as sets x reps or sets x (rep range). The videos to the right show the exercises.
Opposing Muscle Groups
Push Ups (scale to knees or a bench if needed) 3 x (5 - 10) 1 min rest
Handstands (hold against a wall, walks against a wall, or free standing) 3 x 30s 1 min rest
Walking lunges 3 x 10 on each leg 30 - 60s rest
Pulse Squat (banded if you have one!) 3 x 15 30 - 60s rest
Scissor Lifts (Ankle weight bonus!) 3 x 20 each side Rest 30s
Table Top Fire Hydrants 3 x 20 each side Rest 30s
Table Top Pulses 3 x 20 each side Rest 30s
Broomstick Forearm Curls 3 x 10 each side Rest 30 - 60s
Calf Raises 3 x 10 each side Rest 30s
Roll Down - Sit Up 3 x 12 Rest 30s
Nerve Flossing 2 min each leg
Roll out feet with lacrosse ball 2 min each foot
Clasp and lift 3 x 10 reps + iso hold Rest 30s
Kneeling Arm Raises 3 x 10 reps + iso hold Rest 30s
Prone Dowel Lifts 3 x 10 reps + iso hold Rest 30s
I really hope this gives y'all some ideas of things you can do at home. Even though these exercises won't give you huge gainz on the order of front levers, you will find all sorts of benefits. Your muscles will be happier and healthier, and you'll be much better rounded.
Happy home workouts!
Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for working with a trained coach! You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Vital Movement from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of Vital Movement.