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Programming for De-Conditioned Clients

How do I teach aerial or pole to out of shape clients? This is one of the most asked questions we get from instructors. I wanted to create trainings that had progressive teaching method and material that was applicable to the average client walking into a yoga studio, gym, aerial arts or pole studio. This client could be very fit; he or she could participant in other sports or workout regularly. Or this new client may not be regularly exercising or has not exercised in a long time; in the world of fitness we define this client as the de-conditioned client. This client comes in all body types, ages, and mindsets.

Before we go further let's recognize that this client has made the hard step of showing up at your class as a means of exploring a physical activity that inspires them to get healthy. If they are not regular exercisers, coming to a fitness class is big change. A great instructor should have some tools in her bag that can help this client have a great class experience that keeps them coming back for more.

Understanding The De-Conditioned Client

I wanted to list a few background points on this client. These same points could apply to any new client walking in the door. Very few clients walk into an aerial or pole class and have the strength, body awareness and mind body connection to understand the modalities of aerial. Understanding some of the hurdles this client may face can help you be a better instructor.

Major Points


Always teach with compassion. It takes guts to walk into a pole or aerial class. People have many assumptions when they walk into a studio and many people feel way out of their comfort zone. It probably took them months or even years of thinking about coming to class to actually show up for class. Help this student feel welcome, answer questions, discuss concerns or fears, explain that they do not have to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. This student may also be fighting a serious inner battle. They may not believe in themselves or thier body and the last thing they need is to feel unsuccessful at class.


For women especially, building the upper body and core required to perform aerial arts movement is a hard task. Unfortunately, this is also what stops students from moving forward in class. If students are not taught with progression and method strength gains can be painful and slow. If students do not feel stronger within a few weeks of class they will feel discouraged and stop coming to class. It's a fine line to walk, the out of shape client will likely struggle with basic strength. Let's face it we all know pole and aerial are difficult because of the strength demands, but we also live in a society that wants instant gratification. Aerial and pole is a journey, a long journey. If you can teach effective strength training, you will help your clients get stronger faster.

Body Awareness

Body awareness and strength work together. Body awareness is defined as understanding our body and body movement in space. When a client does not know how to engage muscles or struggles to understand how to execute a movement this can come down to body awareness. It may also be not knowing what muscles to activate or the timing of this activation in a chain of movement. The client may not have any experience with aerial movement, dance or even yoga. They will have to train the body and mind connection from a brand new place. This will take time and practice.

Classroom Tips for the De-Conditioned Client

Here are some of the best ideas to keep in mind when working with out of shape clients. Aerial and pole require serious upper body and core strength and the movements are mutli-joint, complicated and often requiring muscle engagement sequencing. People watch professional aerialists and polers perform and like any professional in a sport, the pros make it look easy. Connecting students to the idea that perfecting any skill or sport takes hours and hours of practice can make your life easier as an instructor.

Teach Strength Training and Conditioning

Learn the most effective strength training options with the apparatus and without the apparatus. Incorporate strength training into every class you teach, particularly the beginning classes. Students need strength training order to progress to more difficult movement.

Modify Moves

A great instructor will learn how to modify harder moves so that many levels of fitness can work on the movement. Modifications can also help prevent injury from overdoing a movement that the body is not ready to performm.

Remind Students Aerial Arts and Pole are New Movement.

Explain to students this is brand new movement to the body and the mind. Practicing the movement is what creates muscle memory and mind body connection. I have had to ask frustrated students to compare aerial to gymnastics. Do you think you could move like an Olympic gymnast in two classes? Reality check.

Encourage Students to Come to Class More Than Once a Week

Strength training is most effective when done two to three times a week. The same goes for learning aerial, just like other sports the more time you spend teaching your body the movement patterns and building strength for those patterns, the more successful you will be with aerial.

Teach with Progression

Teach basic movement patterns first and build a foundation that students can return to when learning harder movement. Beginning with the basics allows student to understand the mechanics of a movement, to build strength progressively, prevent injury, to allow time to connect the mind and body in the movement an learn correct form and muscle engagement.

Next week I will post more in-depth info on teaching tips for aerial hoop for deconditioned clients.