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Weightlifting for Aerial & Pole -- The 20 Minute Upper Body Workout

Why You Should Be Weight Training (Part 1)

Corrective Exercises for Pectoral and Latissimus Dorsi Over Development.

A lot of us know the side benefit to pole and aerial arts is the strength training and many of us do not feel the need to go to the gym to lift. But chances are we really should be weightlifting.

General benefits of weight training:

1. More muscle equals more calories burned. Muscles use fuel; fuel is calories, the more muscle and more fuel.

2. Stronger tendons, ligaments and joint areas.

3. Everyday activities are less of a burden.

4. Improves bone density.

Because you are a Rockstar Poler or Aerialist you Most Likely have Muscle Imbalances

In aerial arts, rock-climbing, pole, any upper-body-intense sport, the body often gets overdeveloped in certain muscle groups due to repeat movement. We are going to focus today on the major upper body imbalances that happen in aerial arts, pole and even crossfit.

  • Over developed lats and chest, which pull on the less strong rhomboids, traps and lavator scapula. The pain goes up the back between the shoulder blades, sometimes under the shoulder blade, and up into the neck.

This imbalance is so common in aerial arts and upper-body-intense sports. Sometimes the problem may be related to poor engagement. I know I harp on it all the time but take a look the previous post on Scapular Retraction. Often this imbalance has to do with over training and as you get tired you begin relying on your larger muscle groups. Everyone loses good form as they tire. I speak from experience I have gone through an extreme case of over training and coming back to balance.

How to Fix This Imbalance

Stop training and take a break, go see a doctor who can pinpoint the problem and start doing corrective work. Get massage work, chiropractic, or PT.

I have been through this; I am a personal trainer and I worked with a chiropractor, massage therapists, physical therapists and with these experts I developed a weight lifting workout designed for aerial arts to especially target the underdeveloped muscles and to stay away from the overdeveloped.

Here is the Plan

  • Stop doing push-ups and pull-ups (Contrary to all popular workouts, do not do more push-ups and pull-ups. Every time you climb, hold yourself up and out, handstand or invert you are using pecs and lats. You are already doing push-ups and pull-ups. I am not talking to the people who take two classes a week. I am talking to the people who are at the gym or studio every night and are overtraining.)

  • Stretch your lats and pecs. That will be another post down the road on how to do this effectively.

  • Cut back on your workouts for a while and cross train, like hiking or running, or cycling. Maybe take a stretch class.

The Workout

All exercises are 3 sets of 12 reps. You should be struggling to get between 10 to 12 reps. When your weights are heavy enough, you should barely make it to twelve, that means you are creating new muscle fiber, and building muscles in the less developed areas.


Rows are the most important exercise you can do to counter the imbalance. Always do rows when you weight lift. You can do free weights or a cable pull machine. Think about pulling the shoulder blades together.

Triceps Extensions

Lots of ways to do them, extensions, or overhead extensions are great places to start. Keep the core engaged, soften the knees and watch for elbows in line with the shoulders.

Bent Arm Lateral Raise aka Chicken wings

Bring the weights at the center of your chest and lift the elbow out to shoulder height and then back to center.

Shoulder Raises

Make this more about scapular retraction and then lifting up.

Other recommendations – any arm raises to work the delts. I will do a post on shoulder stability exercises in the near future.