By Wren Schaefer
Trapeze Enthusiast, AIReal Yoga Instructor & Office Goddess
To me, the upside-down pike is one of the most fundamental skills in trapeze (that most people want to skip over). It sets you up for greater strength and understanding of how to use your body around the trapeze! The trapeze is a strong apparatus, which means we have to be strong.
So, here are some ways to help build your strength at home.
Using a Pull Up Bar:
1. Shoulder Shrugs (2 sets of 10)
Hold on with your thumbs around the bar. Release your shoulder blades out of their sockets and reengage them. Most people want to bend their arms and do a little pull up because they want to be strong! Don't worry, my friends, we'll get there. This is solely to work the muscle to keep your shoulders engaged. So, you aren't dead weight hanging from a bar. That would make everything much more difficult.
Modification - 2 sets of 5.
2. Leg Lifts (3 sets of 10)
Keeping your shoulders engaged, hang completely straight from the bar. Engage your core, keep your body tight. Then lift your legs, piking at the waist. Try to pick a spot in front of you and see if you can continue to reach your toes to that mark. Point your toes! This makes it look prettier, but also helps keep your legs engaged. Eventually, the goal is to hang straight and lift your toes to the bar that you are holding on to, bringing you into a hanging pike. This is the goal, but we all have to start somewhere!
Modification - Keep your legs in a tuck position.
3. Pull Ups (3 sets of 5)
If you're thinking, "Pull ups are hard!" You are right. Pull ups are difficult, but you can do them and trapeze is one of the best ways to do that. What's more motivating to pull your body up over a bar, than knowing you can do a fun, new trick?! Try to keep your shoulders back and down and your elbows tucked in. Keep your legs in a tuck with your tailbone curled under.
Modification - On stall bars, climb up the rungs, get into the final position of the pull up with your chin over the bar, your elbows bent, but keep your legs straight. Then, slowly lower yourself down. And repeat!
4. Plank (Hold 30 sec, rest/downward dog, repeat 3 times)
The plank is everywhere! It is a fundamental yoga posture, a start point for any pushup, and a fun way to hang out with your dog (because they lick your face). Find a mirror and make sure you are in alignment. Look at your hands, spread your fingers wide and place weight between your 1st & 2nd finger knuckle. Stack your shoulders over your wrists. If you are hyper mobile, slightly bend your elbows. Start in a table top position and extend one leg out at a time. Tuck your toes, reach your heels back. Curl your tailbone under. Draw your navel in and up. Press the floor away from you and think about lengthening your spine. Who knew there was so many things to do in a plank?
Modification - Keep your knees on the ground.
5. Shoulder Taps (3 sets of 10)
The only thing more fun than a plank, is a moving plank! Stay in the plank position and steadily shift your weight onto your right palm so you can tap your right shoulder with your left hand. Then shift your weight over to your left palm, so you can tap your left shoulder with your right hand. And repeat! This will get you shoulders working! Make sure you keep in mind your alignment, it is so important! It is much better for your body to be in a supportive position working, then to be in a potentially dangerous position.
Modification - Come into a table top position with your palms under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
6. Tuck Ups (3 sets of 5)
Slow and controlled is the name of this game. Lie on your back with your arms extended straight up over your head. Draw your shoulders back and down activate your core tuck your pelvis under so that there is no space between your lower back and the floor. Tuck your knees into your chest and keep your toes pointed touching the floor. Keep your heels as close to your bum as possible and slowly try to bring your knees up to your nose. If you get to a point where your knees cannot go up any higher, come back down and repeat. Try to use as little momentum as possible and keep looking at your knees. This will build the strength to get your hips up over your head and work on your strong core!
7. Plow Holds (5 sets)
Before we fly, we must learn to flap our cute, baby wings. Similarly, it is helpful to hold an upside down pike on the floor before we do it hanging from a trapeze bar. Lie on your back and draw your shoulders back and down. Activate your core, tuck your pelvis under, so that there is no space between your lower back and the floor, just like the tuck ups. Then extend your legs straight up to the ceiling. Place your palms on the floor and slowly bring your hips up and your toes reaching towards the floor behind you. Bring your hands to your hips for support, or you can work on reaching your hands above you, as if you were grabbing a bar and finding the balance between bringing your hips back and reaching your toes forward. Keep your head slightly tucked and don't move your head around. This can cause injury to your neck.
I have to go on a little bit about how important stretching is! With the trapeze, it is more important than ever to make sure your shoulders are strong and stretched. Take it from Trigg (my dad). He did pull ups my whole life with little stretching, and now he can't straighten his arms over his head. Supple shoulders, happy body!
8. Forward Fold with Interlaced Hands (hold one minute both sides)
I've learned from my mentor, my boss and the amazing AIReal Yoga founder, Carmen Curtis, about the wonderful benefits of the forward fold. So, why not throw in a shoulder stretch with it. Start standing with your arms over your head and dive forward leading with your chest. Release into a forward fold, keeping your knees bent. Interlace your hands behind your back or use a strap if it is difficult to clasp your hands together. Gently tuck your head to your chest and start to pull your arms toward the floor. If you feel okay with this, straighten your legs up, otherwise keep them bent. To come out, bend your arms to your lower back and unclasp your hands. Take a break and then interlace your hands with your opposite thumb in front.
9. Shoulder Stretch on the Floor (2 minutes each side)
This one is hard to explain and doesn't have an official name, but I love it! Lie on your belly with your arms bent at a 45 degree angle (cactus arms). Tent your right hand. Bend your right knee and start to rotate your hip open until your foot comes to the floor. Drop your head down. This should be a big should stretch if you have tight shoulders. Repeat on the opposite side.
10. Shoulder Stretch using Prop (against a wall, table edge, or a hammock! ;)
Everyone needs a buddy sometimes. Let's use a prop! Stand with your feet under your hips and start to hinge forward. Place your hands against your prop. Keep your hands shoulder width distance with arms straight. Drop your head through, reach your tailbone to the sky and drop your belly. This should be a nice way to stretch your shoulders while using the weight of your own head!
Hopefully, this conditioning will help you feel strong and confident in your upside down pike and in yourself! All in all, remember to have fun and enjoy your conditioning. It can help you relieve stress, focus your mind, and prepare you for fun trapeze skills!
The Aerial Studio staff