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What NOT To Do Before Aerial Class: Warm-ups, The Prequel


Chelsea in “Luminarium”

Oh sweet heavens, I am so jet lagged. London + toddler + 7 hour flight home = drool. So, it’s another shorty, ya’ll! Here we go.

I often arrive to torture teach classes, and find the studio strewn with folks frantically stretching as if Cirque du Soleil was holding contortion auditions in twenty minutes. Here’s this week’s quickie: don’t deeply stretch a muscle, and then ask it to maximally contract; save your deep stretching for after class – not before. Why? Well, it’s like your favorite pair of jeans. After you wash them, they’re pretty tight, so you stretch them out by wearing them around. But after a while, they’re too stretched out, and you’ve got saggy-baggy-elephant butt – so sad! It takes some work (and some quarters) to get them “contracted” again, just like your muscles. Muscles are noticeably weaker right after you stretch! Warm your muscles, take them through their range of motion, have a fun torture session, THEN make like Gumby and stretch deeply.

Lookin’ for some more details? Tune in next week for Warm Up Booty Camp 101 and we’ll go over all the goods! Love and pull-ups, Laura


UPDATE: Here’s a great article on this very thing from the NY Times!


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11 comments on “What NOT To Do Before Aerial Class: Warm-ups, The Prequel”

  1. Mary Reply

    WOW! This could be part of the reason I do not have good stamina! I stretch deeply for about 20-30 minutes (yes, like I am auditioning for cirque contortion, guilty as charged)…. OK, I am going to take your advice!!! What a gold mine you have created here. Thank you!

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Thanks Mary!!! 🙂 I think you’ll find a big difference in strength if you save the deep stretching for after your session.

  2. CircusofHumaniT Reply

    Hi Laura! Thanks for the reminders. Do you have any tips for how to make a good back therapy tool out of two tennis balls and tape? What tape to use? Any cutting of balls involved here? 🙂

  3. Jen Reply

    I actually agree for basic class when learning new ticks, but when prepping / training for a performance I like to stretch as much as possible het thos beautiful splits and backbends in the splits (even better) and at some point you need to know how much strength you have when fully stretch out. I know after my deep stretches I can not straddle up to save my life…after a rest though I am good to go up up up, it just not right after chest stands.

  4. Lisa Elliott Reply

    I’m familiar with the research (and general concept) you’re referring to, and there’s a ton of controversy over what the data means for different populations. We’re even redefining what stretching itself means (it’s about re-mapping neurological limitations, not longer tissues). My 45 minute (or so) warm-up includes ROM work that both “warms” soft tissues and wakes up my neuro-muscular system to support complex and demanding movements in the air. I almost always “stretch” to get to my base-line splits, shoulder mobility and straddle length (etc.) before working my hardest aerial routines (mostly PNF and resistance). Passive stretching is pretty much out, except for exploring existing ROM, but almost never for developing the neurological pathways for greater ROM. I suspect we’re on the same page, but I’d hate to see any torn hamstrings from hitting those splits without refreshing the last 5-10% of length in controlled movement. Studies show that loss of strength from pre-training stretching (passive only) is about 5% and loss of power is about 2.8%. I think it’s worth it. Thanks for hitting on a very cool topic!

    • Lewitwer Reply

      We agree, Lisa! The point is this: work anticipated ROM before class/performance (this includes straddles, splits, shoulder mobility, back, etc), work to INCREASE ROM after. What irks me is seeing students stretching – and only stretching – prior to warming the muscles & joints, etc. and thinking that’s a warm-up. If I don’t see a little sweat at the end of a warm-up, I don’t consider myself warm!

  5. George Reply

    What would the procedure be for a performance? Is there an optimum duration of time to have between really warming up your splits and backbends beforehand that won’t affect your strength?

    • Lewitwer Reply

      George – warming your splits & backbend shouldn’t affect your strength at all. 🙂 My general rule of thumb is warm pre-show/class, work to increase flexibility after. The whole purpose of a warm up is to prepare your body for what you’re about to ask it to do – NOT to see gains in ROM – that’s great to work on after the class or show. Hope that helps!

  6. Lillie Reply

    Wow I never knew this! I can’t even imagine how much this will make a difference in my next class.
    P.S.- thanks to your response to my request for a post on overcoming mental blocks I have now successfully gotten my in-air kipkey down AND can do a whole bunch of cool new tricks! You’re the best!!!!!! <3

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