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Straighten Your Damned Supporting Leg

Yes, YOU, Dear Dangler! Do you work in foot knots with a soft knee? Quit it. Straighten your damned supporting leg, and watch your work get STRONGER, with bonus fabulousness!

What’s the Big Deal?

Aside from looking sad and shriveled, a bent knee sucks the power out of your leg and makes it SO much harder to haul your butt around. Remember the “boneless two year old” experiment? Same principle. Tight, lifted limbs are easier to work with, and pinchy bits become less pinchy. So, make like a Rockette already!

bent knee

Lift Your Kneecap!

It’s not a difficult fix, but it IS tough to make it a regular thing if you’re a habitual knee-bender. Tighten the muscles on the front of the thigh (quadriceps) until you feel the knee cap (patella) lift. Your leg is now straight! You can also try pretending that you don’t have knees, or practice actively pushing through your supporting leg. **For all you hyper-mobile joint folks (do your knees bend backwards?), that’s a whole other post. **

For the record, this applies to all circus disciplines, not just aerial work. If you’re standing on a leg and it’s supposed to be straight, liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiift! If you are battling a very sticky habit of “soggy knees,” consider taking an occasional ballet class; nothing cures bent walkers faster than watching them in a mirror! A militant French ballet teacher with a stick doesn’t hurt either (actually, it does hurt…).

straight leg edit


Look how fancy! If you do this ONE THING, your work will make a HUGE leap forwards!!!! If saggy baggy knees are plaguing you, make a commitment to yourself to crank ’em up – what a difference it will make! 🙂 Love and pull-ups, Laura


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8 comments on “Straighten Your Damned Supporting Leg”

  1. Mel V. Reply

    In ballet there’s a concept of ‘rising up out of your shoes’ that is similar. The idea is that when you engage your core and your leg muscles and bring everything into line, your body weight *goes away*. I visualize my weight as hanging somewhere way below me like a pendulum (also a useful visualization for not falling over!), or hovering somewhere around my navel. Either way, my body weight isn’t resting on my feet any more. The same thing seems to really help in foot locks. Engage those knees the same way you engage your shoulders! It’s really tiring until you get used to it, but it’s so, so, so helpful.

    • Lewitwer Reply

      I love the ‘rising up out of your shoes’ concept – it puts me into a “lifted” position from head to toe. Interestingly, I’ve found that using that phrase with students who have never studied ballet results in them raising one hip as they seek a literal interpretation rather than a feeling (that’s where the “lift the knee cap” came into play – it’s more literal). I think I’m going to try to get back to some of the ballet concepts with my students who have studied dance – you just can’t beat that ballerina alignment! 🙂

      • Mel V. Reply

        I wish my classes drew on ballet concepts more. Maybe more advanced classes do, or it’s just my learning style, but I think ten minutes of barre work and discussion of extension and line would be a great addition to time spent in the air. Something to add to the list in the event I ever become a teacher!

        (My current studio drives me batty by teaching battements as part of warmup… but not tendus! How in the world do you expect people to do nice, high, straight-legged kicks if you don’t teach them how to extend and straighten their legs on the ground first? This is not an instinctual movement!)

  2. Shanti Reply

    What about us hyper-mobile types? It’s not just my knees that bend backwards. My elbows do too, and I seriously struggle with both.

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Shanti – I’m working on a blog post now! It really is a whole other ballgame. Finding “straight” is tough when your body naturally bypasses it! Stay tuned. 🙂

  3. Lifeofsyn Reply

    Now that we know what to do with our knees, I’d love to see a post about what to do with our hands to make everything come together.

    Thanks for blogging! I absolutely love reading all your posts!

  4. Libby Reply

    I’ve realized that for years I unconsciously avoided fully and actively straightening my knees, especially when keeping a strong pointed toe, because I will reliably get a calf or foot cramp by the end of class, even with extra stretching. I’ve mostly cut down on the cramps in the last few months through some magical combination of electrolytes and placebo, but I still have a big mental block on keeping that extension. Any tips?

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Cramps are the WORST! Start with a solid straight leg, and as much of a point as you can manage without misery. A strong “laser leg” is powered by the thigh, butt, and core muscles; focusing too much on the lower leg without the muscle powerhouse of the core can actually contribute to calf cramps, so it’s worth seeing if that helps. Good luck! Keep hydrating! A few of my students swear by epsom salts and acupuncture, too. 🙂

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