Injury Prevention

May 2023

Aerial | Conditioning | Wellbeing | All

Turn Up the Heat on Your Warm Up to Avoid Injury

Turn Up the Heat on Your Warm Up to Avoid Injury

Aerial training isnt the easiest hobby to have! It's fun, exciting and creatively fulfilling. But it can hurt a bit. And whilst flexibility and strength aren't a requirement to start, it does help, and these are things you'll need to work on!  When you get to the point that you're good enough to practise your skills out of class - in open training sessions, its helpful to know how to plan your own warm up to prevent injury. So we've enlisted the help of Pieta Ruck Keene who runs Mind in Motion and has extensive experience in Circus and Movement to help! 

Here are some things to keep in mind to help you avoid injury:
Training should start before you enter the building. On your way to Flying Fantastic ask yourself what will a successful training session look like today? What will it look like in a month? A year? Write this in a notebook or your training diary. Roughly map out what you would like to do in your session today. Tracking your progress keeps you motivated and reminds you how far you have come. 

The journey to train is also a chance to practise to mentally break the skill into stages and really see each of those steps individually. This imagery training enables us to properly understand the skill that we are perfecting and it takes advantage of the predictive way the brain works. When we do a specific action -like cutting a lemon or even imagining cutting a lemon, our brain responds to ready us to eat a sour fruit, starting with producing more saliva. When we start to imagine a movement, our neurons start to fire, to ready our body for that movement, they travel along neural pathways essential for learning and mastering a skill. We mentally carve a path that will be reinforced with physical practice later in our session.
Once you are in the space, take a moment to check in with yourself. All you need to do is spend a minute noticing your body and everything that you are feeling right now. To be fully aware of our bodies, we need to be attuned and listening to them. If you have some muscle soreness from a previous training session, some self massage, or rolling (with a roller or these very portable Franklin balls) will encourage recovery. It may be that you normally use foam rolling as a post workout exercise but this study shows that it can be very effective as a part of the warm up when combined with dynamic stretching.


While you are rolling or massaging you may decide to choose a focus word for your session. This is a word associated with a quality that you would like to improve on, it should bring you motivation, focus and help set an intention for your session. It could be anything from "flowing" to "feet." I used to write my word on my hand so that I'd be reminded of it throughout my session.  
Now you are ready for your physical warm up. The goal here is to raise  tissue temperature, increase heart rate and to ease our large muscle groups into movement. Our bodies are like butter, they move more easily with warmth. The goal is to get to a level where you are a little breathless and talking is more difficult than usual. Perhaps have a jog up and down the stairs five times, run around the space, or skip for 5 minutes. 

Then you can move into dynamic stretching which increases blood flow to muscles, further reducing risk of injury. Static stretching is unhelpful in a warm up. Imagine your muscle is a rope with a series of knots tied in it, static stretching serves to pull those knots tighter. When training for aerials our muscles need to be strong enough to have control through their full range of motion. I love a 3m long band for shoulder, spine and hip resistance work. Put on some music and improvise a flowing sequence of movements. Think of skills from your apparatus, think of moving your spine, shoulders and hips in all of their directions, try things on one leg, rolling on the floor, upside down and connected to the wall.  
Then move into some floor conditioning. Pistol squats; lunges; horizontal pull and push; vertical pull and push; dish, arch and side lying; balance; rotation; and inversions are all skills that an aerialist needs to be competent at. These are the dominant movement patterns used in the air. I recommend incorporating these movements into a flow sequence because aerial is all about routines and transitioning smoothly from one move to another. Throughout your sequence play around with changing tempo, levels, direction, shapes and movement style. 

One last thing before you get on the equipment is to work through your floorials. This is a word for drills that can be trained on the floor. Elements of movements that you are having difficulty with in the air can be thought through on a mat. The body shapes, the timing, and understanding where you need to be in space. Can you break the trick into its constituent parts? This helps you to really understand the skill, to know it physically and mentally before trying it at height, using all your strength    
In summary, a warm up can be as short as 10 minutes. It ideally includes:
- Walking through difficult movements in your mind
- Picking a focus word
- Raising your heart rate
- Moving through large joint movements
- Incorporating active flexibility 
- Hitting the positions that you will be using in your session and drilling difficult skills on the ground.   

Join Pieta for Aerial Pilates in Union Street on Wednesdays at 12.30pm. 

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