Category Archives: Exercises

Exercises for Strong, Sexy Knees – Rehab ‘Em Right!

Hello Dear Danglers! Some of you are dealing with wonky knees, and I came across a few resources you might find useful. We always think of keeping our upper bodies pain & injury-free, but knees are pretty helpful too. 😉 Enjoy! Love and Pull-ups, Laura

 

PS – these are also great if you’re having trouble getting legs straight in any crocheted position on fabrics!

 

Build a Better Knee – Runners World

3 Exercises to Cure Your Knee Pain

 

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Hands UP! Essential Hand Warm-Up for Aerial & Circus Training

Hello Dear Danglers! So. You’ve warmed up your shoulders, you’ve stretched out your hamstrings, you’ve sat in a straddle for half an hour chatting with your classmate Jane about last nights episode of “The Vampire Diaries”. Great! BUT – have you warmed up the part of your body that will get the most use in the next hour? Have you warmed up your hands?

When we think “warm up”, we think of the big muscles of the chest, back, abs, legs, etc. But the small muscles of the hand need some lovin’ too! Especially in the early days, you may find yourself waking up with “claw hands”, or soreness in the finger joints. Totally normal! This is inflammation in the joints, otherwise known as arthritis. Now, before you freak out, know that this soreness is usually temporary, and doesn’t meaningfully affect training. But a good hand warm-up can go a long way towards steering you away from chronic hand issues down the line, and prepares your hands for the important work of, you know, gripping the apparatus to keep you alive. 😉

Below is my hand warm-up that I do before training and performance. It ain’t fancy, just takes my hands through their expected range of motion and gets those joints lubed up before I abuse them. I hope you find it useful! Do you have any hand exercises that you love? Share them in the comments below! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

 

 

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How to Get a Smokin’ Hot Hip Key PICTURE Update!

Hello Dear Danglers! Ask and ye shall receive! Here are photos illustrating the three steps to a glorious hip key – enjoy! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

(excerpted from “The Secret to a Sexy Hip Key”)

The 3 Parts of a Sexy Hip Key

I’m not going to go deeply into the physical mechanics of a hip key – your instructor can take you through that. But I WILL let you in on some secrets to make it smokin’ hot!

 

 

1. Red lipstick. OH – and a solid first position I like to call, “Look at your butt.” First, make sure your elbows are glued to your waist. Let’s say I’m keying right. I bring my fabric to the right side of my body (as if I were inverting). I then bring my right leg straight forward, my left leg back. Now, look at your butt – there should be a fabric on it. Legs should be straight here (bent legs = Poopy Technique).

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Sassy librarian hair. AND a very wide straddle! After the fabric is on your butt & you scissor it between your legs, you should do the biggest, most indelicate straddle you possibly can. Your legs should be even, and straight out in front of you. DON’T allow one leg to go higher than the other – you should look as if you’re sitting on the floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Stilettos. Tap the taut (“live”) fabric with the left foot as you key over. Leg too low to tap? You’ve got Droopy Drawer Syndrome – your butt’s not high enough!

 

 

Many thanks to the stunning and gorgeous Ashley Ortiz (who I totally ambushed with these photos – heh heh).

 

 

  

 

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The Secret to a Sexy Hip Key

Heh heh heh – I DO love watching my Dear Danglers first attempts at hip keys – ya’ll are hilarious! I say that with lots of love. 🙂 There’s a whole lotta flailing going on up there! What to do? “To nail your key, hit all three!”

The 3 Parts of a Sexy Hip Key

I’m not going to go deeply into the physical mechanics of a hip key – your instructor can take you through that. But I WILL let you in on some secrets to make it smokin’ hot!

1. Red lipstick. OH – and a solid first position I like to call, “Look at your butt.” First, make sure your elbows are glued to your waist. Let’s say I’m keying right. I bring my fabric to the right side of my body (as if I were inverting). I then bring my right leg straight forward, my left leg back. Now, look at your butt – there should be a fabric on it. Legs should be straight here (bent legs = Poopy Technique).

2. Sassy librarian hair. AND a very wide straddle! After the fabric is on your butt & you scissor it between your legs, you should do the biggest, most indelicate straddle you possibly can. Your legs should be even, and straight out in front of you. DON’T allow one leg to go higher than the other – you should look as if you’re sitting on the floor.

3. Stilettos. Tap the taut (“live”) fabric with the left foot as you key over. Leg too low to tap? You’ve got Droopy Drawer Syndrome – your butt’s not high enough!

 

Troubleshooting

1. You’ve got to walk before you can fly, Grasshopper! In-the-air hip keys require a solid inversion/back straddle. Not in the cards for you yet? Practice the position by wrapping it on the ground.

2. In step two, make sure you’re not dropping one leg in an effort to haul the other one over! Not only is it unproductive, but it’s spastic (in an ugly way, not a charming French-Canadian circus school kind of way).

3. Shallow straddle – In step two, that wild, indelicate straddle should scoot the fabric all the way to the upper thigh. Don’t be shy, girl! Hint: if the fabric keeps winding up around your knees, straddle for all you’re worth!

4. SPEED KEY! I’m sad to say that your commitment to speed is no substitute for proper, sexy form. Also? No matter how fast you go, I still see you. Slow down, speed demon.

5. Not enough of an invert – rolling too early. If you’re not able to tap the fabric with the far leg as it kicks over, you’re not in a good position (good = fabric tail falling squarely over the lower back). Fun fix? Instead of rolling to the side to complete the key, invert straight back to train yourself to get your hips up high enough. Once that becomes easy-peasy, add the key to the side back in.

6. Terrifyingly bent legs. No. No no no no no. NO. Shut. that. down. Work for straight legs every time.

 

Well, that’s all I have to say about that. Hope it wasn’t too confusing!Maybe I’ll post a demo pic or two when I get back.  I’m off to Wheel Weekend in Chicago! I’m super excited, and super nervous. Just hoping not to embarass myself too badly! I’ll report back! Love and pull-ups, Laura

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Get to the Point! Fast Fixes for Fabulous Feet

First, Dear Danglers, I cannot tell you how many weird foot fetish websites came up while I was researching more exercises for this blog post. Also hilarious? That “how to get my boyfriend to suck my toes” repeatedly came up as a google search option. Apparently, we collectively think a lot about feet and the many, many deviant things we can do with them. But what do I want you to do with yours? POINT THEM, Dear Dangler! Here is my humble contribution to foot fetish communities around the globe. You are welcome. 😉

 

Point #1 – Don’t Sickle. EVER.

“Sickling” refers to allowing the big toe to curve inward when you point your foot. True confession? I have a tendency to work with a slight sickle, and oh my – it is not pretty. Let’s fix that – pronto!

 

Point #2 – Yoga Point? Also No.

A few years ago, I noticed that my yogi students had a tendency to forget that they had digits when they pointed their feet, resulting in a demi-point with splayed toes. Sexy. A good point extends the toes, but does not curl them. Do you do this?

 

Point #3 – Banish “Boy Point”

OK – I’m about to bring the tough love here. I do not care *why* you might have boy point (gymnastics, no ballet, the fact that you are in fact a boy, etc), and I will not apologize for calling it “boy point” as that’s what it’s commonly called in the industry. I know some boys with gorgeous feet that I would absolutely kill for, and this problem certainly isn’t limited to the men-folk! But, regardless of why you are not achieving a flat point, it breaks the line of the leg and needs attention PRONTO. Let’s fix it!

 

Stay Tuned…

As you can see, after several severely sprained ankles, my point isn’t what it was in my dance days, so I’ll be working on a better point too! Stay tuned for more info on how to make a pretty good point into a glorious one! Now, here’e one just for the fetishists. Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

Yeah, baby.

 

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Fix Those Ugly Lines – Ballet Beginnings For Better Aerial Extension

OK, true confession? I saw video of myself rehearsing last week and nearly wept. Time for an Aerial Extension Intervention, stat!

 Frequent Offenders

When we talk about “lines”, we’re referring to the extended alignment of the body. Some danglers have glorious lines, some of us have to chant, dance, and make ritual sacrifices to get our legs over our heads. Whichever camp you’re in, the rules are the same (unless you are deliberately distorting the line for choreography’s sake):

  • Straight legs
  • Pointed toes
  • Long, lengthened arms and torso
  • Lifted chest (when in doubt, boobies out!)

This is a small list, but it should get us pointed (ha – get it?) in the right direction.

 

(Not So) Fast Fixes

Alas, the road to lovely lines is a bumpy one (somebody stop me!). Gorgeous lines take a while to cultivate, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! They are non-negotiable in aerial work, and worth every minute you spend with your trusty theraband. As you’re watching your videos, pay special attention to bent knees, sickled feet, a back that would rival Golum’s, etc. Spotting some ugly bits? Try this:

  • Bent knees – straighten your leg (duh). But often, what feels straight is still bent, so think about lifting your kneecap with your quadricep (front of the thigh) muscles, or “pretending you don’t have knees” as one delightful dangler recently suggested. Still bent? Work the exercises in the video below in front of a mirror.
  • Sickled feet – think about winging your pointed foot outward. Using a theraband can help you train and feel these muscles (again, video). I’ve always found it helpful to think about “energy out the feet” or “out the leg”.
  • Chicken wing arms – ya’ll, chicken wings are for Friday night happy hour, not aerial work. There is never a time when chicken wings are pretty, so extend extend extend, or tuck your elbow into your side when a bent arm is called for.
  • Quasimodo back – when in doubt, BOOBIES OUT! Tilting your charms slightly towards the ceiling (or floor, depending on your orientation) will keep the back long instead of rounded.

 

The video below shows some excellent exercises for improving your aerial lines. A strap or theraband works well for the leg stretch exercise if you can’t get your ankle comfortably into your hands, and you can probably skip the tendus if you want. We’ll look at more specific fixes for each Extension Violation in the future, but this will give you a great start. Your lines could ALWAYS be better whether you’re a beginner or a pro, so get going! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

 

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Quick and Dirty Warm-Up for Aerial Warriors

 

Aerial warm-ups were the hot topic this week in the blog-o-sphere. What are the essentials for a good warm-up? (chocolate, red wine, Vampire Diaries) Do you really even NEED a warm-up? (yes)  How long should it last? (depends) What should it include? (again, depends) What should you wear? (tiara) These are the pressing questions of our times, people! Come with me.

Why Warm Up, Anyway?

Well, you can certainly skip it if pulled muscles, ruptured discs, and spontaneous combustion sound like a good time to you. BUT, if you’re someone who would prefer to reduce the risk of injury (and spontaneous combustion), you would to well to do some sort of warm up before you work in the air – it will lube up your joints, get blood flowing to your muscles, and (most importantly) alert you to “creaky” areas you’ll need to be aware of during your training.

 

What to Include in a Proper Aerial Warm Up

Depends. Warming up for a show where you’re about to ask your muscles to go at full throttle for 6 minutes is really different from a warm-up before an aerial class, where you’re likely to do an aerial warm-up and progress more slowly through your moves. Today, I’ll focus on the latter. A good pre-class warm-up includes:

  1. Raising your core body temperature. If I don’t see a glisten of sweat on your brow, you’re probably not as warm as you need to be. Jumping jacks, jogging in place, or this clip from “The Vampire Diaries” will all raise your temperature.
  2. Taking your body through it’s range of motion. Arm/shoulder/neck circles, rolling your spine up and down, shaking out fingers and wrists, up-dog, down-dog, electric slide, you get the picture.

That’s it! Notice I did NOT say “stretching” – click here to find out why.

 

Why It’s Not My Job to Make Sure Your Body is Ready for Training

WHAT?! But I’m the teacher! This can’t be right! Oh, but it is, Dear Dangler. Your body is your responsability, and you know it better than I ever will! My warmup will be wildly different from your warmup, and Jane’s warmup, and Lucy’s warmup – see where I’m going here? As a physical person, you must get to know what YOUR body needs, and not rely on someone else to tell you. If you’re not sure how to get started, here’s a warm-up from Altitude Aerials that I like – it’s a good place to start. You can also ask your instructor for tips on what you should do before your class begins (even if your coach includes a floor warmup, because remember – one size does NOT fit all in this case). It’s your body – love it, protect it, and get to know it, because if it wears out, where are you going to live? Love and pull-ups, Laura

Click here for my version of the aerial warmup!  

 

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Aerial Yoga – It’s A Whole New Down-Dog

Hey peeps! ImaginAerial is livin’ la vida loca down here in Chatanooga, TN for SETC. Sooooo, guest blogger Michelle Dortignac schools us on the benefits of aerial yoga for us dangly-type folks. Enjoy! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

Michelle says:

With the increasing popularity of all things “aerial,” a new type of fitness class has emerged on the scene – Aerial Yoga.  At first, it may appear that Aerial Yoga is simply a basic “aerial hammock” class, which leads many aerialists to overlook adding these unique Yoga classes to their training routine. 

But, look again and aerial performers will find the numerous benefits Aerial Yoga has to offer.

No matter what the style, when a person practices Yoga, they consciously and purposely activate their parasympathetic nervous system.  The parasympathetic nervous system is the part of us that deactivates the fight-flight-freeze instinct.  In other words, the practice of Yoga is the practice of actively relaxing

How on Earth could the practice of “actively relaxing” benefit an athlete who is searching to get stronger and more flexible?  Let’s take a look:

 1) PRACTICING ACTIVATION OF THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM COMES IN HANDY IN ANY STRESSFUL SITUATION, LIKE WHEN YOU ARE SAY, 30 FEET IN THE AIR.

Let’s face it – everyone has a natural fear of heights.  The higher you go, the stronger the fear kicks in.  And when you add on the pressure most people feel when performing in front of an audience while trying to remember choreography and avoid any costume malfunctions…  Even though its fun, performing aerial acrobatics can also be quite stressful. 

A good Aerial Yoga class trains students how to actively relax while moving around on an aerial apparatus.  Obviously, this would be handy for aerialists of any level. 

In addition, if practiced regularly, Aerial Yoga helps students readjust their idea of what is a “neutral” stress level.  Many of us have adapted over time to an elevated level of stress, leaving us no longer aware of what neutral feels like.  If you can reset your stress level to zero before you walk into the gig, you’re already one step ahead.

2)  LEARNING HOW TO “ACTIVELY RELAX” WILL BRING A QUALITY OF GRACE TO YOUR PERFORMANCES.

Perhaps you’ve noticed when a person is in that state of “fight-flight-freeze,” their movements are quite jerky, not smooth.

So, if you can learn how to be relaxed (in your mind) while still being active, you will take the jerkiness out of your movements and find more fluidity.  You will be able to transition easily between moving quickly, moving slowly, and pausing.  From the audience’s point of view, you will look like you have more control of your body, and that you have grace.  Check it out.  The next time you go to an aerial show, take note of which performers look more professional, and why.   

3)  ACTIVATING THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM HELPS US LET GO OF WEIRD POSTURAL HABITS WHICH GET IN THE WAY OF LOOKING GOOD AND FEELING GOOD.

Our fight-flight-freeze instinct activates certain muscles that would help us fight, flight and freeze – namely, it elevates our shoulders to protect the neck, rounds the shoulders forward and tucks the tailbone to protect our vital organs, slides our heads forward to assist with running, and tenses our thighs/hip flexors to either curl us into a ball shape, or to ground our legs for running and fighting.

For many of us, living with an elevated stress level causes those muscles to stay chronically tight, pulling our spine, neck and limbs out of natural alignment.  When we return our bodies into a more natural alignment, those visual “lines” we strive for in performance begin to emerge.

In addition, some of the muscles that stay chronically tight through living with an elevated stress level are also used to climb, invert, lock into a hip hang, etc.  Those muscles can easily and quickly get over-used, making it harder to develop strength, and sadly, easier to sustain an injury.  If we can return our bodies to their natural alignment, it is much easier for us to sculpt our body into the desired shape of an aerial performer.

MICHELLE DORTIGNAC is the founder of Unnata® Aerial Yoga, and has been teaching Unnata Aerial Yoga since January, 2006.  For more information on the style and where to find classes, visit:  http://www.AerialYoga.com

 

Incredible Inverts – How to Get A Straight-Legged Straddle Without All That Swearing

 

Miss Hannah Risner's Perfect Invert

Sweet heavens, ya’ll better be glad I don’t use a Swear Jar during class – you’d be broke and I’d be a millionaire. What move is most swear-worthy? When do I hear the grunts, groans, and colorful metaphors galore?  Whether you call them inverts, straddle-backs, or demented flying monkey swings, it’s tough to get that crisp, tight, straight-legged straddle we’re aiming for – slightly bent legs, droopy tushies, and funky feet can make it feel like we’ll never get there. Take heart, Dear Danglers – help is on the way!

 

Anatomy of a Sassy Straddle

There are several “pillars” of aerial work – pull-ups being one, inverts being another. A crummy invert sets the stage for sloppy work (and makes your butt look heavy – NOOOOOOOOO!), so it’s worth putting in the time and effort it takes to execute clean, snappy straddles. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • strong upper body position to start – arms are either bent with elbows to your waist & hands between the boobies, or straight overhead (much more difficult).
  • clean “take-off” – legs sweep cleanly around the fabric. DO NOT kick your fabric out of the way – it doesn’t look nearly as ninja-fabulous as you might think, just spastic.
  • quick tap of the legs together, then a strong fan outwards and overhead – no pause or tempo (beat-back) – this is a Very Bad Habit. Don’t make me get my taser.
  • straight legs (bent “frog” legs are acceptable when beginning, or when used as an artistic choice)
  • high, elevated derriere (no droopy drawers or saggy assets!)

 

How to Get There – Aerial Straddle Training Tips

  • Beginners – you’re ready to start training inversions when you can hold yourself reliably with bent arms on the fabric. At first, it’s kind of a get-into-your-straddle-any-way-you-can situation. Remember – don’t flail or be spastic – not sexy. Keep working, you’ll get it.
  • If you think your hamstring flexibility (or lack of) is messing with your position, work consistently on stretching them out.
  • Mixed level/advanced – now, we WORK. Get into your full straddle position. Lower down SLOOOOOOOWLY, keeping your legs straight, and bending your arms back to your starting position. Again. Again. Again (you get the picture). By reverse training your inverts, you’ll not only strengthen the essential muscles, but you’ll get a grea idea of exactly when your “ugly moment” is happening so you can be aware of it.
  • Tip: think “energy out the toes” – you have to engage the whole leg, and everything radiates outwards from your core. Think about laser beams shooting out of your feet (hum the theme from “Star Wars”, it helps).
  • Now – EVERY time you train, add 5-10+ straddles into your conditioning, switching sides every 5 reps. Come down and do a little straddle dance – you’ve earned it. May I suggest the song “Rump Shaker”? Werk it out.

And that’s how we do it! How are you doing on the 30 day straddle challenge? If you haven’t started, what are you waiting for? Are you gaining inches? Lemme hear you! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

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21 Days Of Pull-Ups!

Why do we care about pull-ups? Because they’re the single most important conditioning exercise for aerial work (click here & I’ll tell you why). A few rules: 1) don’t hurt yourself. Work hard, but be mindful of pushing to injury. 2) Use a chair underneath you to assist as necessary, helping you to complete the full range of motion. 3) be exceedlingly conscious of maintaining proper form: lats engaged (shoulders pulled down and away from the ears), joints in line. If you experience anything more than normal muscle soreness and fatigue, stop immediately and consult a medical professional.

Now. Who says girls don’t do pull-ups? GET BUSY.

 


 

Day 1 – Regular forward grip, hands a little wider than shoulders. 10 reps.


Day 2 – Chin-ups. Palms facing you, directly in front of the shoulders. 10 reps.


Day 3 – Palms facing in (if your pull-up bar allows this). 10 reps.


Day 4 – Halfsies – from totally straight arms, pull half way up. 10 reps.


Day 5 – Halfsies – from half-way up, pull up the rest of the way. 10 reps.


Day 6 – Rest.


Day 7 – Regular pull-ups. 10 reps.


Day 8 – Slooooooooooooooooooooow pull-ups. 3 reps.


Day 9 – Chin-ups. 10 reps.


Day 10 – Sloooooooooooow descent – from the top of the pull-up, lower down very slowly. 5 reps.


Day 11 – Rest.


Day 12 – Palms facing in. 10 reps.


Day 13 – Wide grip pull-ups. 10 reps.


Day 14 – Stand under bar, facing side. Palms facing in. Pull-up, bringing head to one side of the bar, then the other. 10 reps.


Day 15 – Halfsies – chin ups, straight arms to half way up. 12 reps.


Day 16 – Halfsies – chin ups, half way up to the top. 12 reps.


Day 17 – Rest.


Day 18 – Regular pull-ups. 12 reps.


Day 19 – Regular chin-ups. 12 reps.


Day 20 – Palms facing in. 12 reps.


Day 21 – One-armed chin-ups. Palm facing you, grip your wrist with your other hand for additional support. 1 rep each side. Don’t hurt yourself.

 

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