Aerial 101: A Guide to Aerial Silks

What are Aerial Silks?

Inspired by circus performers using silk sheets, the athletes involved in this exercise preform spectacular and scenic movements. It is also the height at which everything happens makes everything even more spectacular: from 12 to 30 feet from the ground. Falls, turns, acrobatics and shapes drawn with the body makes for a unique hybrid between athletic practice and dance.

History

This practice comes from Andre Simard. Simard, who has specialized in researching and developing acrobatic exercises for the Cirque du Soleil since 1987, is already universally credited for having turned circus athletes into real performers. Indeed, he invited them to focus not only on facial expressions, but also on body movements. This allowed them to express deep themes and feelings to their viewers in a spectacular and impressive way.

 

Regardless, Aerial Silks owes a lot to Cirque du Soleil. Its diffusion is largely due to Isabelle Vauelle and Isabelle Chasse, two artists that during a show of Cirque du Soleil preformed incredible exercises, using the same fabrics that are naturally associated with this practice today.

Myths

  • It is not necessary to have a particular body type. There are many courses for beginners, and the discipline easily adapts to levels of physical preparation.

  • It is not necessary to have a good initial level of upper body strength. Being trained certainly helps, and for this reason, those who climb or train regularly with weightlifting will have an easier start.

  • It is not a discipline reserved for women. The number of female athletes exceeds, by far, male ones, but this does not mean the Aerial Silks is an exclusively female discipline.

  • You don’t have to be exceptionally flexible.  What is really important is to be aware of one’s abilities and limits.

Training

Aerial Silks is a complete discipline, as you use arms and legs to climb, while the core – with particular attention to the abdominal belt – is necessary to maintain stability during the numerous poses, reversals and falls.  Therefore, the recommended gym workout, outside the practice of Aerial Silks, is strongly focused of weightlifting and functional training.  Training of the antagonist muscles is fundamental for the rapid changes of direction in Aerial Silks.  These movements require explosiveness to muscle power and maintain stability in mid-air in highly unstable surfaces.  Functional training is in fact characterized by multi-articular movements, which are performed on different planes and axes. These movements highly stimulate the core.

Benefits

  • First, it is an excellent physical exercise. The use of the muscles of the arms and legs contributes significantly to weight loss

  • Just like yoga, aerial silks is a great way to increase your body’s flexibility.

  • This discipline naturally leads to improving concentration skills. It is extraordinarily important to maintain very high attention at every stage of airtightness. At the same time, the ability to control one’s emotions is positively influenced.

  • Finally, there are those who have reported, not without enthusiasm, a real change in mindset. Aerial silks pushes you to overcome your limits radically changing your conception of what you are capable of.

Components of Aerial Training

Strength

  • Strength is defined as the ability of an individual to exert a muscular contraction or force against a resistance in a single maximal effort. Muscle strength is important for the most fundamental movements and positioning. However, it is of utmost importance for the aerialist since most of the time they will be lifting their whole-body weight through space.  Therefore, knowing which muscles to use and how to develop strength is important.

  1.  Static Strength

    • This is used when you try to move an immovable object, carry a heavy object or hold a position on a piece of aerial equipment.

    • The muscles do not change length (isometric contraction)

  2. Explosive Strength

    • Used when exerting a force in a short fast burst.

    • This is similar to power.

    • For example, throwing a ball, or executing an aerial spin or drop.

  3. Dynamic Strength

    • Repeatedly applying force, over a long period of time.

    • Similar to muscle endurance.

    • For example, when performing reps in conditioning, climbing a silk or performing an aerial routine.

  • Strength training: to develop the strength needed for aerial you will need to carry out regular conditioning sessions. These include anything from a quick set of press-ups and ab crunches at home, or round of pull-ups and leg raises on your pull-up bar.

Flexibility

  • Flexibility is defined as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint and its surrounding muscles during a passive movement. There are different forms of flexibility training.

  • Dynamic Flexibility is the ability to preform movements within a full range of motion at a joint. An example is performing leg swings, as if kicking an imaginary ball. Dynamic flexibility is more movement specific than other forms of flexibility.

  • Static Active Flexibility is the ability to stretch an antagonist muscle using only the tension in the agonist muscle. An example would be a lying hamstring stretch, using no assistance from a stretch strap. The straight leg is raised as high as possible by contracting the hip flexors and quadriceps muscles (antagonist muscles), thus starching the hamstrings (antagonist muscles).

  • Static Passive Flexibility is the ability to hold a stretch using assistance from an outside force. An example would be the same lying hamstring stretch, using assistance from a strap.  This assistance allows the hips flexors and quadriceps muscles to only minimally activate.

  • Flexibility training is your body’s capacity to stretch and flex and tends to be genetically inherited, but with correct strengthening exercises muscle flexibility can be developed. Gradually extending the amount that tendons, ligaments and muscles can stretch will improve flexibility.

Stamina

  • Stamina (or endurance) is defined as the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort. I.E. the effort needed to continue through an aerial routine, which combines both muscular and cardiovascular endurance (aerobic fitness). It also enhances performance since those with more stamina will be better able to perform with good technique. Stamina also helps decrease recovery time and delays the onset of fatigue (an important factor in preventing injury). Dancing, swimming, running, gym workouts or cycling are all forms of exercise you might choose that will compliment your aerial training.

Technique and Good Form

  • Good form: it is important for aerialists to hold themselves correctly. This can be tricky since most of the time you are upside down and hanging in various strange positions and shapes! Practice good standing posture and then see if you can practice good hanging posture.

  • Other things to remember for general good aerial form are the following.

  • Pointed toes

  • Legs straight

  • Arms reaching

  • Ballet hands

  • Knees together

  • Head up

  • Good technique: technique includes developing things such a co-ordination, agility, balance, possible tolerance to pain and poise so that you execute your moves gracefully and effortlessly. Some tricks require a lot of technique. These are the tricks that require the body to learn how to hold or lift itself in certain ways that it probably has never done before. This takes time, patience  and dedication. The body may need to develop new muscles or ways of moving, as well as build up pain tolerance.

  • Work on technique repeatedly to develop good habits.

  • Check your shapes in the mirror so you are aware of what you are doing.

  • Get feedback from a teacher

  • Make sure you are not developing bad technique.

Over training: Remember training to be an aerialist is more like training to be an athlete – it’s incredible stuff you are getting your body to do! Increase your awareness and combine training sessions with good nutrition and rest

 

*excerpts derived from skylabstudio.com and technogym.com

Copyright 2020 Catalystt Wellness Coaching LLC