My Journey to Aerial Inversions

July 2023

Aerial | Conditioning | All

Inverts are a cornerstone of aerial practice as they allow aerialists to hang not from their hands, but from their legs, opening up a world of possibilities. There’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to get upside down despite regular training. Following my personal struggles with inverts I researched the theory behind them which I now share with my students in my Nail Your Invert classes in Flying Fantastic Peckham on Tuesday evenings.

When I began my journey in learning to invert I believed my inability to invert was due to a lack of muscular strength. Through practically researching inversions I very quickly realised two things: 

Firstly, I did not actually know anything about the technique behind inversions. I knew what an inversion looked like and was simply attempting to imitate the move. 

Secondly, whenever I attempted an inversion my mind would go blank. It would feel as if I was up against a brick-wall and I already believed I was going to fail. 

When I started researching inverts I could already complete a standing straddle and pike inversion on the hoop but not a seated hoop inversion or a mid-air silk inversion. Soon into my journey, I realised that I jump into my inverts from the floor, meaning that I was using the wrong muscle groups to invert, channelling power through my legs, which are near useless when inverting in the air. 

Muscle and mental agility.

I then realised that I needed to research the muscles necessary for inversion and create a regime that specifically targeted those muscles. Franklin’s 2017 book Aerial Physique Fit lists the latissimus dorsi, iliopsoas, the abdominus (made up of the rectus abdominus, transversus abdominus and obliquus) and the trapezius as key to inversion and also provides various exercises to target each different muscle and it was from here that I created my base training exercises.

Beyond the physical limitations, there are the mental. Mental blocks may manifest in different ways, from avoidance, to embarrassment and frustration (Meline, 2018). When I would attempt an inversion previously I would be telling myself: ‘you can’t do this’, ‘you’re just going to fail so why try’. This put me in a negative mind-set and meant I was already anticipating failure. With this in mind, I changed how I approached my inverts mentally. I began telling myself ‘You can do this’, ‘You are strong’ or ‘You will get this’. This reaffirmed my strength but realistically managed expectations in a positive way – reinforcing the need to practice without instant results. If you aim too high too quickly you set yourself up for disappointment. Researching inversions proved to me just how much of a longer-term goal inverts are and that they will need continuous work, rather than something that will occur overnight. 

Exercises for invert specific muscle groups: 

  1. Postive Self Talk! (Your brain is a muscle which should be exercised, be nice and set realistic expectations for yourself!)
  2. Pilates 100
  3. Straddle Roll over
  4. Criss Cross
  5. Shoulder shrugs
  6. Pull ups

Exercises 2-6 are all detailed in Franklin’s 2017 book Aerial Physique Fit - which was the basis for my training plan. I have not gone into great detail on these exercises or my blog would turn back into an essay. To view examples of these, simply google the exercises above, there are plenty of great videos online showing the movement in full. 

Recommended inversion progression:

Standing Invert with bent arms: While ultimately we want to eradicate jumping from our invert practice if that allows you to get upside down initially then go for it! Just be aware of the fact that you are jumping so you can work to slowly eradicate the jump. If you are working on inverting without jumping you want to slowly pull up into your short arms and then begin bringing the legs over the head. 

Seated tuck inversion, also known as a seated hoop inversion: The principle is the same as with a standing tuck inversion. However, this is a more difficult and advanced version as you cannot push off using your leg muscles.

Invert in the air: There are so many levels to your mid air invert. When you first start getting upside down you might find you are scrabbling with your feet. Well done on getting upside down in the air! Now we can work on getting it stronger and more consistent.

The next level is bent arms and bent legs, then bent arms and straight legs, then straight arms and straight legs! These are all a continuation of the above practices and you will only get stronger as you continue on your journey! 

Come join Jemima to Nail Your Invert on Tuesday nights in Peckham from 6pm - 7.15pm.

References: Franklin, J. (2017) Aerial Physique Fit. Aerial Physique LLC. Los Angeles (BUY HERE)