“If I gain muscle in my legs, that’s just more weight to haul up the rope.”
It’s a sentiment that I’ve heard from many aerialists, all of them women. Unfortunately, it was something that I somewhat believed myself, too. I’ve seen the light; I’m sold on full body weightlifting, and here’s what I have to say about it.
It’s true: aerial circus uses a lot of arm strength and significant core strength, while your legs are pretty much along for the ride. So why train them?
More muscle means a higher resting metabolic rate (meaning the amount of calories you burn just to exist). It also means that as you exercise you burn more calories because your muscles need fuel. So letting our biggest muscles atrophy is the worst thing that we could do to our metabolisms, and if our metabolisms slow down it’s going to get harder and harder to keep looking good in that spandex.
Crosstrain, Prevent Injuries, and Let Your Shoulders Recover
I’ve heard many aerial teachers preach about cross training, but they always seem to suggest ground acrobatics and cardio. I’ve never heard anyone suggest, “learn to deadlift” or “heavy squats and lunges.” Well, I’m saying it now! Learning how to use your legs properly and effectively will help your overall co-ordination and fitness, and it could save you from back and leg injuries from your everyday civilian life.
Speaking of injuries, shoulder injuries and hamstring injuries are common amongst aerialists. Many of these shoulder injuries are due to overtraining. While it’s easy to blame hamstring injuries on improper warm-up or over stretching, proper strength training could be the key to preventing them.
My Introduction to Weight Training
In January of this year I launched myself headfirst into the program at Ripple Effect Training and Conditioning. In 8 weeks I gained 1.8 kg overall...but a DXA scan showed that I gained 2.1 kg in lean body mass! That meant that I lost 0.3 kg of pure, useless fat, and replaced it with glorious muscle. It also meant that my bodyfat percentage decreased by 1.4 percentage points!
Has my aerial skill suffered?
Not at all! Things like climbing without feet don’t seem any harder even though I’m almost 4 lbs heavier. One of the most powerful rope acts that I’ve done so far was created in the months after this. Best of all, deadlifts have strengthened my grip.