Weightlifting And Aerial Arts: A Winning Combo

I am approaching the two year mark for my foray into aerial arts, and not only have I stuck with it, I have stepped up my game by taking classes several times weekly. After taking classes at a local aerial studio (www.PinkPoleParty.org) two to three days per week, I recently increased my frequency to four to five days weekly by adding other studios into the mix. Thanks to Classpass, I now have the opportunity to visit facilities all over the Los Angeles area and take classes with other instructors.

I have learned that my body prefers the rigidity of hardware, like lyra and aerial cube, over software like silks and hammocks, so I now confine my aerial activities to lyra, pole flight (a combination of silks and pole), and aerial cube. I am by no means an expert in any of my aerial activities, and I wish I had the incredible flexibility which I see in other aerialists. Yet I think I do decently well, and my upper body strength serves me well whenever I am up in the air.

I honestly think it’s a good idea to experience other studios and other instructors as a means to infuse variety into the regimen. Though I at times think I must be nuts to inflict such challenges on my poor joints and tendons, the overall physical and mental benefits of aerial movements make it all worthwhile. The conditioning aspects of aerial arts have enhanced the v-taper in my back, and have developed my delts nicely. My abdominal muscles are far stronger than they were before I began taking aerial classes, and I am also enjoying enhanced flexibility, balance and coordination from my airborne pursuits.

Weight training is still, and always will be, a staple for me. I faithfully hit the weights five to six days per week, and cannot imagine ever wavering from that schedule. At this point, I truly feel that weightlifting and aerial pursuits complement each other. Bodybuilding imparts strength, aids in preservation of muscle mass, guards against bone loss, and allows me to go into beast mode, while aerial arts provide an outlet for creative expression, challenge my body to become more elongated and flexible, and increase core strength.

If you are in a rut with weight training, why not consider adding aerial arts to your regimen? They are challenging, inspiring, and fun!

A Paired Lyra Routine…With Yours Truly

This is video footage from my second Lyra class, earlier this year. I was given an hour to learn this routine with other partners, and ended up performing the routine with the blonde in this video only once. I think we nailed it pretty well!

Why I Love Lyra (Aerial Hoop)

Crucifix on the lyra...one of my favorite moves

Crucifix on the lyra…one of my favorite moves

I fell in love with the lyra, also known as the aerial hoop, from the moment I first mounted one. I remember not being quite sure if I would enjoy lyra, since I had spent several months experimenting with different aerial disciplines, and was still finding my way among them. Here is a summary of the different aerial arts which I had tried, and my impressions of each one.

Pole – I took two pole classes several years ago, and though I was sore in places I didn’t think I would ever be sore in (mostly groin and lower back), I really didn’t enjoy the movements. In addition, the connotation of pole dancing is indelible in my brain, and I just couldn’t get past the feeling that I was a dirty girl for even taking a couple of classes. Both instructors I got were incredibly self-absorbed, and I found them irritating to no end. I also found it humorous that the students were encouraged to explore their sexual energy in the class, because at no point did I feel sexy. If anything, I felt completely foolish and awkward, and basically counted the minutes until class would be over. Yes, it was that bad for me.

Flying Trapeze – Last summer I signed up for a Groupon deal for a flying trapeze class at TSNY-LA on the Santa Monica Boardwalk, and moments after I did so, I had a split second of panic. I remember thinking, oh crap, what have I gotten myself into? Then I took that class in August 2015, and found the experience exhilarating. Once I was on the trapeze, I truly enjoyed swinging and challenging my body to move in new ways. It was the compromise I was looking for, since I had been unable to find adult gymnastics classes to accommodate my desire to return to the gymnastics moves I had learned as a child. I signed up for two more classes at Richie Gaona’s school because I wanted to gain more experience on the trapeze. Unfortunately, my nerves always got rattled whenever I was up on the board, on deck to fly, because that board was so narrow and so high off the ground. I just couldn’t get over being 20 feet up on the air, leaning far forward into the trapeze, while trusting someone to hold me and keep me from slipping off the board. It began to overshadow the joy of flying, so I gave it up.

Silks – I took one class at Aerial Physique, a nice facility in Brentwood which focuses on silks for its aerial offerings. The instructor was a sweetheart, and the class was fun, but my poor ankles did not enjoy the sensation of being wrapped in fabric as my body weight sank upon them for the foot locks I performed. My elbows and hands screamed in agony over the torsion which occurred when I set up for a trick which required me to grip the massive swaths of fabric. Though I enjoyed the beauty of the apparatus, I didn’t like what the fabric was doing to my poor joints, and I also couldn’t remember the complicated trick sequence the instructor wanted the other student and me to learn. This was the first experience I had with instructors who just assumed that you would pick up all the specific vocabulary for all the tricks you were learning, and it irked me. Why on earth would I know these terms if it was my first time taking silks? Grrrrr.

Static Trapeze – I took a class in static trapeze after falling in love with the lyra, so I expected that I would enjoy the experience. What I discovered was that for as much as I loved being on the lyra, I absolutely hated the static trapeze. The ropes were extremely rough and painful to negotiate during some of the tricks we learned, yet they were flexible enough to make me feel quite unstable while up in the apparatus. I did not enjoy the experience of twisting the rope around my thighs and risking significant rope burn and bruising, and my grip strength was definitely challenged by the gauge of the ropes. I didn’t click with the instructor at all either, so I scratched this apparatus off my list very quickly.

Aerial Cube – Now THIS is a fun apparatus, and I definitely intend to take more classes using this. Imagine an open cube, consisting of bars around which you can wrap your body and hang from. It was like being on the monkey bars at the park, and incredibly fun. The only caveat is that since there is a lot of metal, you are basically in a suspended cage, and if you don’t time certain moves properly, body parts like shins can collide with those bars and leave nasty reminders of your time on the cube.

Aerial Cube:
cube

Lyra – Love at first knee hang. Truly. There is something about the simplicity and symbolism of the perfect circle which has a strong appeal for me. The lyra also seems to be incredibly accommodating to many different body types and sizes, because I have seen people of all shapes and heights manage to wrap their bodies around this sturdy apparatus with more ease than some of the other aerial equipment. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that performing on a lyra is easy! In order to properly mount a lyra (or any other aerial apparatus, for that matter), you must have strong abdominal muscles and decent upper body strength. It took me three classes before I was able to properly do a straddle mount without cheating!

straddle mount

I took my first lyra class at the beginning of May at Aeriform Arts in Hollywood, and am still taking classes, though I have switched for the time being to a facility near my home. I have in fact lost count of how many classes I have taken so far, but it’s been more than a dozen now. Once or twice a week, you will find me swinging from a suspended hoop, enjoying the challenge and not minding the calluses which have taken up permanent residence on the palms of my hands. My back is wider and has more detail as a result of lyra, and my shoulders are also more developed. I don’t mind the fact that my elbows scream from the tendinitis which flares up more often now, nor do I mind the deep ache from my lats which asserts itself if I resume lyra practice full force after a few days of rest. It’s also incredibly empowering to find a new form of creative expression at the half century mark of my life, one which most people my age would be terrified of. I have learned many new tricks, including the Russian splits and Yoga Cat pictured below (no, that isn’t me, but I have performed these moves successfully a number of times).

Russian Splits:

russian splits on lyra

Yoga Cat On Top Strop:

Yoga cat top strop

There is a good reason why the time spent on aerial equipment is referred to as flying, because I really do feel like I am flying when I am in class, free as a bird. I intend to continue this love affair for quite a while!

My Flying Trapeze Experience

I took a flying trapeze class in mid-October at TSNY LA, and absolutely loved the experience. It was the salted caramel pretzel of experiences, frightening and exhilarating and challenging and fun all at the same time. Once I was on the trapeze swing and doing tricks, I felt a complete rush of excitement, but every single time I had to stand on that VERY narrow platform, 20 feet up in the air, the adrenaline would surge through me, and I would feel very nervous. Honestly, standing on the platform was the only negative part of the experience for me! The actual tricks I learned were completely awesome, and I had NO fear while doing them. The competitive spirit in me kicked in, as did my gymnastics background, and I put in 100% effort so that I could kick ass up there. I am proud to say that I did not disappoint myself. In my last trick, I completed a successful catch from a knee hang position on the fly bar, with the catcher on the catch trap (the other bar). What a rush!

Though the experience was supposed to be a bucket list item, I enjoyed the experience so much that I am considering taking regular classes. Call me crazy, but I loved the challenge, and since my body remembered all the childhood tumbles and moves from gymnastics, the kid in me was awakened. Another thing I noticed was that my upper lats were more sore after doing trapeze work than when I hit back day at the gym. I truly enjoyed the new physical challenges and hope that my schedule allows me to fit regular classes in.

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For those of you who want to know more about the flying trapeze, I have copied and pasted the Wikipedia definition here:

The flying trapeze is a specific form of the trapeze in which a performer jumps from a platform with the trapeze so that gravity makes the trapeze swing. Most flying trapeze acts are performed between 20 and 40 feet above the ground.

The performance was invented in 1859 by a Frenchman named Jules Leotard, who connected a bar to some ventilator cords above the swimming pool in his father’s gymnasium in Toulouse, France.

In a traditional flying trapeze act, flyers mount a narrow board (usually by climbing a tall ladder) and take off from the board on the fly bar. The flyer must wait for a call from the catcher to make sure he or she leaves at the correct time. Otherwise, the catcher will not be close enough to the flyer to make a successful catch. The flier then performs one of many aerial tricks and is caught by the catcher, who is swinging from a separate catch bar. Once in the catcher’s hands, the flyer continues to swing and is thrust back toward the fly bar in a maneuver called a “return”. A return could consist of some kind of twist back to the bar, an “angel” (when the catcher holds the flyer by the feet and one arm), or any other trick that a flyer can think of to get back to the bar. Once back to the fly bar, the flyer can return to the board, and another flyer takes a turn.

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Terminology:

Listo/Lista – Ready: Used by the flyer and/or catcher to signify that they are holding the fly bar (for a flyer) or have built enough height in their swing for a catch (for a catcher) and ready to go.

Ready – Used by the catcher to tell the flyer that they should leave the board momentarily. The flyer bends their knees and if executing a one-handed take-off, dips the bar so they can raise it higher when they jump off the board.

Lining Up – Called from the board. When the person working the board for those who have not yet learned to retrieve and serve the bar themselves gives the flyer the fly bar. It really means that the flyer is “lining up” their trick.

Hup – Signal to leave the board and/or the fly bar. Sometimes used by the catcher to tell the flyer to let go after a catch when landing in the net.

First – Usually called by someone pulling safety lines when tricks are being thrown to the net. It is used for front-end tricks to signify getting to the first position.

Final – Also usually called by one pulling safety lines. It is used for front-end tricks to signify getting to the final position.

Gotcha – Some catchers say “Gotcha!” when they catch to signify that they have a good grip on the flyer and that the flyer can let go of the fly bar.

Catch Trap – The trapeze that the catcher swings on.

Fly Bar – The bar the flyer uses.

Apron – The net in front of the catch trap. (The back apron is the net in back of the board.)

Rise/Riser – A narrow board placed on the rungs of the ladder to allow the flyer to take off from a higher point.

Noodle – The long pole used to reach the fly bar when the person working the board cannot reach it normally.

Mount – When the flyer mounts the board after a return.

Return – When the flyer, after a successful catch, manages to return to the fly bar, and often all the way back to the board. In professional shows, the flyers rarely come down from the board.

Grips – Can be gymnastics grips or ones made out of tape. They are used to protect the flyer’s hands.

Chalk – Used by the flyer and catcher to absorb wetness and to reduce sticking to things such as the fly bar.

Force Out – Kicking the legs out at the peak of the flyer’s swing to gain height.

Hollow – Comes right after the force-out. It is basically a neutral position.

Sweep – Comes after “hollow”. Signifies kicking the legs back.

Seven – The last part of a force-out swing. Flyer brings legs in front of them so they will not hit the board.

Cutaway Bar – The bar that the catcher holds when the flyer executes tricks to the catcher such as normal Cutaways and Reverse Knee-Hangs.

Cut (as in Cut Catch) – The flyer is caught in a legs catch and swings out into the apron. On the next swing into the apron, the flyer thrusts their body up, and the catcher lets go of the flyer’s legs and grabs their hands.

Tricks

Below is a list of flying trapeze tricks that can be thrown to a catcher:

Feet Across (a.k.a. “Legs”)
Heels Off
Hocks Off
Splits (Front End/Back End)
Straddle Whip (Front End/Back End)
Whip (Front End/Back End)
Bird’s Nest/Birdie (Front End/Back End)
Shooting Star
Half Turn
Straight Jump
Cut Catch
Uprise Shoot
Forward Over
Forward Under
Double Over
Passing Leap
Piggyback
Pullover Shoot
Reverse Knee Hang
One Knee Hang
Flexus
Somersault
Hocks Salto
Front Hip Circle/Back Hip Circle
Seat Roll/Penny Roll (Full Time/Half Time)
Planche (Front End/Back End)
Pirouette (540)
Layout
One and a half Somersault
Cutaway
Cutaway Half
Cutaway Full
Double Somersault
Double Cutaway
Double Cutaway and a half twist
Double Layout
Full Twisting Double
Double-Double
Triple Somersault
Triple Twisting Double
Full Twisting Triple
Triple Twisting Double
Triple Layout

These are tricks performed bar to bar:

Hocks Off
Splits (Front End/Back End)
Straddle Whip (Front End/Back End)
Whip (Front End/Back End)
Bird’s Nest/Birdie (Front End/Back End)
Half Turn
Straight Jump
Planche (Front End/Back End)
Layout
Double Somersault

These are tricks that can be performed without a catcher:

Salute
Half Turn
Force Out Turn Around
Back Mount
Suicide
Reverse Suicide
Pirouette

Returns:

Half Turn
Flexus
Birdie
Legs (Twist one direction to grab the bar.)
Angel (1 or 2 legs)
Pirouette

TSNY Trapeze Tricks Chart
If you are in the Los Angeles area, and you are interested in taking a flying trapeze class, here are two excellent schools. The first one is the school I went to for my first class, and the second one is the place where I will probably take more classes.

http://losangeles.trapezeschool.com/

http://www.flyingtrapeze.com/