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Category Archives: Training

Artistic Game Changer: Vulnerability

So, this has nothing to do with aerials, but everything to do with life. Since the two are inextricably entwined for me (and perhaps for you too), I thought I’d share it. A beautiful friend sent this to me, and I hope you find it useful. Love and pull-ups, Laura




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VIDEO – How To Do A Handstand

Hey peeps! Watch this great video on how to do a press handstand! You still have to put in your practice, but I love the 3-stage approach. I like to use a wall while working from extended arms – I’m not there yet, but by-golly I will be someday! What tricks and tips do you have for learning handstands? Leave them in the comments below! Love and pull-ups, Laura




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Find Your Inner Superhero – Increasing Strength for Aerial Acrobatics

OK, to be fair, I chose this photo because I really really really liked Anna Paquin’s hair in this movie. BUT, you have to admit that she was kind of a badass. What about you? Are you feeling more Peter Parker than SpiderMan? Less Storm, more drizzle? I hear ya! Let’s get all buff for the new year! … But how?…


Get To Class!

My personal favorite! Nothing trumps aerial training for building the muscles you need for, well, aerial training! Aim for at least one class and 1-2 practice sessions per week and you’ll be dangling pretty faster than you can say, “Flame on!”

Get to the Gym

If you belong to a gym, for heavens sake GO! Once you get there, don’t even waste your time with the piddly weights. We’re looking to gain strength, so you want to work with the heaviest weight you can control with good form for 8-12 reps, cycle repeated 2-3 times. If you can raise the weight again after 12 reps, it’s TOO LIGHT – upgrade, sistah! But first, I want to see you on that pull-up bar or assisted pull-up machine!!! A combination of free weights and machines are good – machines challenge you to lift more weight, but free weights force you to work on stability.


Torture Yourself at Home

No need to haul your tush to the sweat factory – you can get a superty buff bod in the privacy of your own home (and no one will see your bunny-foot pajamas or the sweats with the unfortunate hole). My personal fave for training at home is any one of the new 90-days-of-torture video series out there – p90-X, Insanity, or my favorite (cause it’s cheapest) Supreme 90 Day Challenge. A couple of dumb bells and a stability ball later, and your bod rivals the Terminator! Well, maybe not, but you sure will be sore!


The most important thing for building strength is working to fatigue. More posts on specifics down the line, but here are a few links to get you started, and a video to get you inspired. Love and pull-ups, Laura


PS – What is your superhero name? The color of your shirt + the first object on your right. I’m The Black Coupon! Cower in fear, villains! Leave a comment & tell me what yours is!


Don’t forget to “like” my new Facebook page!

Supreme 90 Day System

The Most Important Exercise in the World

Resource Page for Strength Workouts

Hulu – Health & Wellness (good source for free 30-60 minute televised workouts)


My friends Christian & Jean-Francois of Acrobazia

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Working A Sassier Angle: Get A Better Straddle In 30 Days


 Is your straddle more sad than sassy? Do you celebrate every inch beyond 90 degrees? Take heart, Dear Danglers – help is on the way!

The Anatomy of a Straddle

 When I say “straddle”, I’m referring to the wildly indelicate position we adopt while inverting in the air, stretching our inner thighs, or falling down the stairs. It looks like this in the air…


Miss Hannah Risner's Aerial Straddle


… this while seated….

Miss Hannah's Floor Straddle


… and this while falling down the stairs.


Laura falling down the stairs. In a straddle.


Several factors go into whether your position is wow-worthy, namely:

  • The structure of your hip joint
  • The flexibility of the inner thigh muscles
  • The strength of the gluteal (tushie)muscles
  • How much padding you have in said area
  • How many times you’ve fallen down the stairs (kidding…. mostly)


How to Make It (More) Awesome


  1. Stretch your inner thigh muscles while seated in a straddle. Remember: only go to strong sensation, never to pain! Now, play with the position of your torso – take it forward, over one leg, over the other, etc. Play with flexing & pointing your feet. BE GENTLE – you want to be able to walk tomorrow.
  2. Strengthen your “straddle pulling” muscles. Lie on your back with your legs up a wall. Straddle, and engage the muscles of your tush & outer thigh to puuuuuuuuuuuull your straddle wider. Jump around to get rid of that muscle spasm you just gave yourself. Now, do it away from the wall (for you yoga types, you can also work this from a modified shoulder stand position).
  3. When conditioning in the air, squeeze those same muscles you just used & see if you can get some extra inches – strength matters almost as much as flexibility!

As usual, consistency counts. Take three minutes every day for the next 30 days to work your straddle, and you’ll be thirty days closer to sittin’ pretty like Miss Hannah up there. Happy straddling, peeps! Love and pull-ups , Laura

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Many thanks to the beautiful and always sassy Miss Hannah Risner for posing for photos!


Photos: Laura Witwer

Learning To Spin Without Tossing Your Cookies

ImaginAerial Duo Lyra

ImaginAerial Duo Lyra

I’ve done my share of spinny acts, most often with a bucket offstage in case of “too much of a good thing”. Love web, lyra, single point trap, and other spinning apparatus, but afraid of the up-chuck factor? You should be, it’s very real. Here’s how to get off to a good start, and keep your cookies where they ought to be!
First, some fun info about why we throw up when we get too dizzy. A doctor I met a few years ago in a trapeze workshop had an interesting answer: poison. Apparently, a number of poisons make your head spin and disrupt your orientation, so your body’s natural response is “Aw, hell no! Get that OUT of here!!!” And there you have it – you cast up your accounts and live to see another day. Whether that’s true or not, it can be a real drag to have to sit out half your aerial class with your head between your knees. So here are some things that may help:
  • ginger (my personal fave is the Trader Joe’s crystalized stuff). Eat a bit before class and see what happens!
  • experiment with closing your eyes. This makes me more nauseated, but I know some aerialists who swear by it!
  • fix your eyes on your apparatus. Don’t try to spot the way you would in dance, you’ll look like you’re having a seizure. Just focus on your hoop or rope.
  • If focusing doesn’t help, try this! Blur your focus as much as you can (this one works well for me).
  • start slow and keep at it. The more you spin, the greater your body’s ability to acclimate – don’t give up! Be persistant and think of the pounds you will have lost in a few weeks!


Bottom line? Rome wasn’t built in a day. Spinning the way we do simply isn’t natural, and your body will let you know in a dramatic fashion! You can and will get used to it – just keep a bag handy while you learn. If you’re a spinning apparatus enthusiast, what works for you? Post it in the comments below!  Love and pull-ups, Laura


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Back to Basics – Beginning Pilates Mat Work For The Lower Body

This is a good introduction to basic Pilates mat work for your lower body. What I love about Pilates isn’t just the great core work, but the precision it demands. If you’re having trouble with your inverts or skin-the-cats, or you’re an aerialist who has never taken dance, Pilates is a must. This is also fabulous for all mah circus sistahs who have popped out a baby and aren’t sure where their muscles are anymore (this was me two years ago – found ’em!). Enjoy! Love and pull-ups, Laura



Booty Camp – Aerial Warm-Ups 101

So, here’s a little something you have probably already figured out: the older you get, the more important a good warm-up is. So, unless you’re, you know, eight, here’s an example of what you might need to rotate/roll/squeeze/stretch/thwack/twirl before each and every aerial class.


The Patented Laura Witwer Super-Duper-Ten-Minute-Top-To-Bottom-Pre-Class Warm-Up


  • Neck rolls, look from side to side, and bring your ear towards your shoulder on each side. Pretend you’re in “Flashdance” – it helps.
  • Shoulder shrugs/rolls. Add an eye roll and a “whatever” and it’s like you’re 15 again!
  • Arm circles in both directions, elbow circles, wrist circles.
  • Clasp your hands behind your back and open your chest, clasp your hands in front of you and round your back
  • Roll your spine up and down (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, please send pictures of your interpretation – this could be very funny)
  • Ribcage isolations (side to side, front to back, circles)
  • Hip circles/isolations in all directions – make like Shakira!
  • Gently run in place and do a few jumping jacks to get blood flowing in the legs. Extra points for humming the “Chariots of Fire” theme.
  • Gently stretch hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and calves (a runners lunge, forward bend, & downward facing dog accomplish this pretty well). Did I say you could stop humming?
  • Shake out your body – you’ll look like a freak, but your muscles will love it.
  • If you have any creaky areas, spend some time warming the joints & muscles – show them some love!
  • A couple of push-ups and sit-ups. NOW! 😉


Now, I realize there’s nothing particularly earth-shattering about this warm-up. It’s pretty basic, and those of you who have been working physically for a while now probably have your own thing going; but for those of you who are new to aerial work, this is a good place to start. But know this: many of you are not doing an adequate warm-up. How do I know? Because I can see you. I see everything, I’m a mother.


Do I Really Need to Do This?


Yes. Oh, you want me to explain? In a nutshell, a proper warm-up improves performance by increasing blood flow to sleepy muscles allowing them to contract more efficiently (= more power), lubes your joints with synovial fluid, and  lessens the chance of injury by taking muscles and joints through a controlled range of movement (don’t “surprise” them – they don’t like surprises, and will retaliate by spontaneously combusting or killing you in your sleep hurting a lot. Now, go forth and warm thyselves, mah peeps! And tune in next week when we talk about rigging – just in time to truss ourselves up like a turkey. Love and pull-ups, Laura



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Butt-Whoopin’ Aerial Smackdown: Increasing Aerial Stamina Part 2

Taking a little rest while we rehearsed in El Salvador.

So last week, we covered how to deal with the Dreaded Aerial Popeye. This week, we’re tackling how to get through your aerial act without gasping for air, barfing, crying, wetting your pants, or collapsing (the last four were worst case scenarios… I hope). Suit up, peeps – it’s time for The Laura Witwer Aerial Smackdown!

So I’ve Wet My Pants… Now What?

Just pray no one posts it on YouTube, friend. In the meantime, here are some tips for what to do the next time you find yourself in the air and headed towards Exhaustion-ville.

  • BREATHE!!!! I’ll betcha $10 you’ve been holding your breath.
  • Come down immediately if you feel dizzy or unable to continue safely.
  • Find a resting position and hang out for a minute (trust me – the audience has no idea what’s really happening). Continue when you’ve stopped gasping like a guppie on a countertop.
  • Go to Plan B. If you’re performing a new piece, or dealing with a challenging situation (a cold, altitude, etc.), it helps to have a “Plan B” version of your act in your back pocket. This may include swapping risky or difficult moves for ones you’re extremely comfortable with, or adding in more resting holds if you feel it’s necessary.


Don’t Settle For Depends – Preventing Aerial Exhaustion

  • BREATHE!!!! I’ll say it again! In rehearsal, identify times when you’re holding your breath and correct it.
  • Build rest time into your act. Not only does this allow you to breathe and reorient yourself, but it gives the audience a moment to really SEE what you’re doing. Remember: what feels like resting forever to you is very quick to an audience!
  • Take into account environmental or situational factors that may affect your stamina: altitude (BIG ONE), dry climate, lack of sleep or rest thanks to travel arrangements, illness or injury, an intense show schedule, etc. and do what needs to be done to compensate. PLAN AHEAD!
  • Drink heavily. I mean – stay hydrated! Geez, you people…
  • Make sure you’re getting your cardio in outside of class. Cardio = healthy lungs and ticker!
  • Train train train practice practice practice and come to class, dammit!


That’s it in a nutshell, peeps! It’s a process, both in class and when you’re working on a piece. And keep in mind that any time you begin working on something new, it’s gonna wear your butt out until your body gets used to it. Enjoy building your stamina, and don’t barf in my class. Love and pull-ups, Laura


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Why Is Popeye In My Trapeze Class? 5 Ways to Increase Aerial Stamina ( Part 1)

Miss Christen S works her back arch

What IS she doing? Why is he pounding on his forearms? Is it a new dance? Obscene gesture? Are they flashing gang signs? No! It’s the dreaded AERIAL POPEYE! If you’ve been giving your apparatus some quality time, you’ve probably experienced this delightful sensation, and wondered what you can do about it. Hang on tight – we’re talking aerial stamina!


The Why of Popeye (Hint: It Has Nothing to Do With Spinach)

It’s all about grip, baby! When we are working on new things, or approaching an apparatus for the first time, we naturally over grip. This is not a bad thing – it shows that your intuitive powers of self-preservation are functioning the way they should! (Remind me to tell you about “The Let-Go Guy” some time – he’s responsible for all 40 3 of my grey hairs).

Another cause is a repetitive grip-release pattern in your choreography – too many “grippy” moments too close together equals forearms like a sailor (worthy of a mermaid tattoo!).

OR, you could be dehydrated, or a little low on a vitamin/mineral essential to proper muscle contraction like calcium, manganese, and potassium.


When It Happens, Go To Your Happy Place

But what should you DO when you feel that tell-tale tingling in your forearms?

  1. Immediately assess your safety. Do not pass go or collect $200 – go immediately to a safe rest position on your apparatus, or come to the floor.
  2. Wait it out, relax, and stretch your forearms if you can (if you’re in performance, get creative with this! Spirit fingers!).
  3. Continue if you are safely able, or come down to the floor and go back up when you’re ready.


Popeye Prevention

  1. Train train train train train. Familiarity breeds comfort, which encourages relaxation, which reduces the likelihood of Popeye. It also makes for stronger, more capable muscles.
  2. Pay attention to the moments you are most likely to over-grip and consciously relax your hands as much as you safely can (don’t be droppin’ out of the sky and telling people Laura said to “relax”!).
  3. Stay in the moment. Breathe – it really does make a difference. Take your time.
  4. Drink your water! Electrolyte drinks might be helpful as well (coconut water is great, Gatorade, etc.) if you’re working particularly hard.
  5.  If you’ve been noticing a lot of muscle fatigue during your training, consider taking a trip to the doc to get your bod checked, or making an appointment with a nutritionist to make sure you’re getting what you need in your diet (I wish I could think of a Popeye/spinach joke to make here… but I can’t. Just eat your spinach.).


Join me next week when we tackle Part Deux of this post – how to finish a tough aerial piece without emerging a quivering mass of Jell-O (because nothing looks cooler than barfing or passing out when you’ve finished your act). Love and pull-ups, Laura


Click here to read Aerial Stamina – Part 2!




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