Exercises for an Aerial Body

Exercises for an aerial body and flexibility

I had a comment a while ago from Ailsa asking about stretching and conditioning for aerial. She said…You seem to be super fit and flexible, so I would love some of your workouts. I know a lot of it would be done during aerial class, but if you do any stretching or strength sessions at home I’d be really interested in that.

Let me preface this by saying when I started aerial two years ago I had no upper body strength and ZERO flexibility…I could not even touch my toes without a lot of straining. So, if you look at these pictures and think you can’t do this stuff, YOU CAN, it just takes some work.

CARDIO // The best all around workout for aerial is climbing. It works your arms, legs, core, and butt. Climb up and down and few times and you’ll definitely be out of breath. I climb silks, but obviously most people don’t have access to that, so climbing a rope at the gym or one hung from a tree in your backyard will work just as well. I found these videos of a chick doing a bunch of different climbs that might be helpful.

TONE YOUR ARMS // I couldn’t do a pull-up at all when I started aerial classes. Even if you can’t pull up (YET!) just do a little jump and hold yourself up there for as long as possible. Iron Gym pull-up bars are awesome, but since they don’t fit on my door frame I have a $20 tension bar and it works great.

Exercises for an aerial body and flexibility

ROCK HARD ABS // While you’re up there holding that pull-up, try lifting your legs in a pike (first photo) or a V. You’ll work your abs even more if you try it on monkey rings at the park and swing your legs up over your head into a straddle. If straight legs is difficult begin by pulling your knees up first and then straightening your legs. Go up and down as many times as you can without touching for floor. That one definitely takes some practice!

ROCK HARDER ABS // Another great ab workout is planking. Put your feet up on the wall, forearms on the ground, straight back, suck those abs in an hold it! Then try and lift one left at a time or start with your hands on the ground and lift your right left and left arm and then switch and do the other side.

BEAUTIFUL BACK // Doing handstands against a wall is great to tone your back. Try an upside down push-up or taking one leg off the wall and holding it. If you want more back flexibility start lowering your butt toward the wall or lower your legs into scorpion.

STRETCHING // I’ve never been able to do the splits in my life, but after stretching like this for a year I got them! I generally stretch at night in front of the TV, holding each pose for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. This is not yoga where you want to push yourself like crazy. Holding these poses can get very intense and even painful, so ease into it and back-off if it gets too uncomfortable. I hated my first yin yoga class, but after a few weeks it became really relieving and comfortable to relax into the poses and just chill out.

Exercises for an aerial body and flexibility

DRAGON // Make it even more uncomfortable by moving both hands to the inside of your bent leg and lowering yourself to the ground. THIS will get you your splits!

Exercises for an aerial body and flexibility

PIGEON // Again, if this feels comfy, lower yourself to the ground, sort of laying on to of your bent leg.

Then reach back and grab your leg. I like to do this first with my right arm and then with my left as you get a different stretch from turning to each side.

Exercises for an aerial body and flexibility

COBRA // Take it easy on this one and maybe even start with your forearms on the ground. You’ll find after sitting like this for 5 minutes it’s very uncomfortable to straighten your back, so go slow.

Exercises for an aerial body and flexibility

So that gives you a general idea of my workout and how I get all muscly and bendy. Thank you to Irina for taking the pics! Feel free to post questions in the comments, I’m happy to answer them!

* And just a disclaimer. I know aerial, I know how I went from an unflexible weakling to a bendy aerialist. What works for me may not work for you. You can definitely hurt yourself overdoing these exercises and stretches, so take it slow and listen to your body. There is a definite difference between an intense stretch and bad pain.

Interested in buying your own aerial equipment? I’m sharing everything I use and where I buy it here >>>


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  1. says

    Very cool post! I started doing yoga more regularly and over the past couple of months it’s really made a difference. It’s amazing what your body will do when you let it… :)

    (p.s. Love your blog!!)

    • says

      Arms and shoulders – the tricks get a million times easier the more upper body strength you have. Next would be core muscles and then legs. Flexibility makes everything look pretty.

  2. says

    Fantastic, thanks Sarah! It’s actually really cool to see how much work you put into it all – it doesn’t just happen.

    I’m thinking the stretches in front of the TV will have to start soon – I’m nowhere near as flexible as I used to be!

  3. says

    Just discovered your blog! love! I am a runner always looking for ways to improve my flexibility and there are a couple of moves here I didn’t know, so thank-you!

    looking forward to noseying around the rest of your blog :)

  4. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this!
    I have been doing your streching for almost a week now and feel so much better!
    One of my goals for 2012 is to be able to do the splits. :)
    so thank you, I actually printed of this post for reference when I am working out. :)

  5. Raena says

    I’m going to print this out right now! I just started an aerial class and it’s so inspiring to see someone else go from not being able to do a pullup and splits to being a “bendy aerialist” :) Thank you!

  6. says

    I just took my first silks class today, and I think I’m already hooked! Definitely going to take notes of these exercises, because my whole body is killling me already, and my arms feel like jelly!

    (p.s. been reading your blog forever, and completely love it!)

  7. Lorelai says

    I just discovered your blog today. It caught my imagination right away, because I’ve always dreamed of running away and joining…well not the circus, but maybe a theatre group or music group or something that travels around performing.

    Ever since I took a pole dance class, I’ve wanted to try aerial silks (the pole dance studio also offers that). I also want to improve my overall fitness level this summer, then keep it up in September when I start my final year of school.

    I’m definitely going to try some of these ideas. They look like all around good-for-you things to do, and they also look fun. (Running and doing some girly-pushups and so on, is fine and it’s effective in making me feel energetic and productive, but I wouldn’t describe it as fun.)

  8. Linsey C. says

    Hi, I stumbled upon your blog, and these exercises look like they might help me. I am 22 and since I started working at my desk job 2-3 years ago, my muscles have really stiffened and I am not as flexible as I was in high school. Because of my job I have also developed back aches and tendinitis, so I was wondering if you think these would benefit me? I am 135 pounds, and would also like to tone up. Your blog is inspiring!

    • says

      Hey Linsey! I don’t know much about tendinitis, but these stretches will definitely feel good after sitting at a desk all day. I worked a desk job for 7 years and it made me feel stiff and achy all the time. I got in the habit of stretching every night while watching TV and it helped so much.

  9. Molly says

    I stumbled upon your blog (and this post, specifically) while searching for “workouts for aerialists.” Fitting, I suppose! I just started aerial classes 6 weeks ago, and while I have some flexibility from being a former dancer, I have NO upper body strength. It is great to know you started that way as well! I can’t wait until I can do my first pull-up! Thanks for your tips!

  10. Faith says

    Just what i was looking for. Just started a basic aerial yoga class, but would like to move forward to the more advanced work. This will help me get ready. Thank you

  11. says

    These are all really awesome! I’ve been looking for some stretches to do before/ after workouts and bed time. I’m trying to gain a bit more flexibility since I work a desk job. So, thank you. :)

  12. says

    Great blog and website! I always love looking for new workout ideas or unique variations of the current conditioning exercises i perform after practice. In the pigeon pose, after I stretch my back leg, I love to go right into my splits because my then my legs are pretty warm. In terms of stretching, this sequence is by far my favorite. Thanks for sharing your details!

  13. Cheryl says

    Thank you for posting this! I have never been flexible and this gives me hope. I’ve taken several aerial classes and lots of pole classes but I often feel like this Amazon freak (I’m really tall) who lumbers around. I’ve never had really great upper body strength either. You are inspiring and deserve lots of self satisfaction for creating such awesome body changes for yourself =)

  14. says

    So, I liked this post a couple of months ago, but now have made a resolution to get back into the splits! Let’s see how long it takes :) thanks for the inspiration!!

  15. Cat says

    Ooh, these are fantastic. I’m three weeks into a gentle aerials class, and I’m going to start incorporating this stuff into my daily-ish routine. Thanks!

  16. Linda says

    Thanks for your exercises. I started areils classes last Nov. And could not do a single pull up yet even climb the silk. At age 45 its slow but I can do bolth now. I have time to work on my areils at home during the week but because I have young kids, can’t get to my classes any more than once a week. I was wondering if you recommend any books that could help me to get areil steps down in my head? Every week we seem to move to new skills and it takes me a while to get them straight in my head.
    I’m glad I found your blog, its encouraging to hear others on their areil journey.

  17. Lauren says

    Love the post and your blog, but your link to the various climbing video isn’t working!! Could you please update? Thank you!

  18. Bridget says

    Any extra tips for getting your ‘toe splits’ ( toes on one foot pushing hoop out in front with other leg extended back into a split) down? Mine look horrible! Haha

    • Sarah Morgan says

      Hey Bridget – To have a really good split in the air you’ll need to get your oversplits. Mine don’t look that great either :) Keep stretching every day – you’ll get there!

  19. says

    absolutely loved this article. thank you so much for posting it!!! Just the push I needed today! Please check out my blog – more fashion though there is one aerial post tucked in there too. love Ruthie Darling

  20. Alisha says

    Thanks for this excellent article! I typically don’t comment on Internet stuffs, but I thought you should know this is exactly what I was looking to read! I’m currently transitioning from a 6 day a week program in the gym (sounds excruciating but I love the challenge!) to aerial silks. I’ve been hesitant to shuffle my gym workouts inbetween my 4x a week aerial because I don’t want to overtrain! But doing aerial alone I’m not being challenged enough. I’ve totally been unsure which muscle groups to work at the gym as supplemental exercise and which to leave alone. Of coarse I have to experiment with my personal balance, but this has been super helpful! Some of the information seems a little obvious now that I read it, but it’s comforting to know someone else’s point of view in the process of shaping my thoughts. Thanks again!

  21. Aimie says

    Hi There,

    Love the article, but I was wondering if there is anything else you can recommend to do at home to build my core? I do plenty of ab work etc, but for the life of me, when ever I am up the silks I cannot seem to manage my inverted straddle! I am pretty sure it is my core letting me down,



  1. […] aerialist / circus freak has some awesome exercises to build up your body for such a feat as this. Check it out. I’ve been stealing her exercises. Because she wants me to, I’m pretty sure of it. […]