Updated: Apr 3, 2019
If you participate in aerial arts or pole, you absolutely know how much core it takes to perform at even a beginning level. I liken the core work required for aerial arts to Pilates on crack; basically we are aiming for the abs of a male gymnast. I am not talking appearance, but functional strength. Many six packs out there in the world are for show and not function. The rectus abdominis, the six-pack muscles, are semi-useful but not as important for aerial arts as the transverse abdominis (low abs), obliques and lower back. The entire muscle girdle around the middle is called the core.
Also do not feel bad if you cannot get a six-pack. Some of it has to do with genetics, and honestly it is very, very hard for women because we are built to have curves and softness on our bodies. But I am here to discuss how to get a stronger more functional core.
When we train our abs for a sport, the best way to train is with the sport. Functional strength means having the right muscles fire at the correct time to help us perform a movement. We can do crunches all day, but that is only working the rectus abdominis and when inverting, all the other core muscles need to activate and work together.
The Biggest Mistakes with Core Work
Not training all the muscles
Not training specifically for function (movements in your sport that require core)
Not wanting to do the work required
I want to address the ADHD affect. Some students want the next hardest move before they have accomplished the five steps before. They do not have patience to build the strength or train in a method that will help them reach the next move. They want it now. Of course, the core is one of the many things that will impede progress, because time is needed to create strength. When we learn new moves and sequences we are creating muscle memory and teaching our body movement patterns. These things do not happen overnight, respect the body and let the body and mind connect at the correct pace. Now, many students get this and want to work properly into moves. Building the core is key to being an aerial or pole powerhouse.
Totally Core Workout for Aerial Arts
These are some suggested core moves. We used an aerial yoga hammock and the pole.
Obliques - Twisting Roll-ups
The Twisting roll-up is awesome for working the oblique muscles. The floor movement simulates inverting and working with your obliques in an upside down position. Begin with the knees bent, feet on the floor, lift from the low core ( hidden tranverse move) and once the booty is lifted twist the legs to the right and left, activating the obliques, then roll slowly back to the floor. The knees may be bent the entire time, especially if this is new movement.Try not to use the quads or hip flexors to perform this exercise. Start with ten on each side.
Transverse Abdominis - Sacrum Wrap Single Leg Extension
The trasverse abdominis is a very tricky muscle to work, it is deep and takes time to learn to activate. Begin in a sacrum wrap from a tuck position, lengthen the legs to straight up. Lower one leg slowly, using the low core, then slowly switch the legs. Again watch the quads and hip flexors, they will try to do this. Start with ten switches.
Rectus Abdominus - Hanging Roll-ups
The hanging roll-up actually works the whole core, but the focus comes onto the rectus abdominis and the traverse abdominis. This is a true movement you will find in aerial arts and pole. This exercise is training functional strength and one of the best core moves.
Begin in a sacrum wrap and lower ( with the legs straddled - so the panels catch on the inside of the thigh and you do not fall on your head). If you do not know this move, consider taking an aerial yoga class to learn properly. Hanging in the inversion, bring the arms by your side and roll-up lifting the upper torso toward the ceiling. Use the rectus and transverse to roll smoothly and with control. Try eight to ten to begin.
Low Back - Locust Extensions
The low back muscles need to be built up just as much as the front core. Begin in a hip hang, using a reverse boxer grip on the fabric. If you do not know this movement, consider taking an yoga class first. Lift with the low back ( the hamstrings and glutes will work too) and come up to a locust pose. Lift and lower to strengthen the low back. Start with 8 reps.