The story behind “Training for Acro” Method
“When I started practising standing tricks I was surprised by how fast I learned the new tricks.”
I had come across AcroYoga many times before I started practising it in the park with my friends in May 2014. My first year of practice was mostly inspired by my friends and the videos I found online. After a couple of weeks, I went to a couple of beginners’ classes to learn more poses and transitions. The input given by the teachers was both excellent and this could have saved us much of the time spent on a trial and error learning process in our self-taught sessions.
A year later I signed up to a “Dutch Acro” style workshop and I really enjoyed the standing tricks as it was very different from “basing while laying your back” style. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to do all the lifts and pops, not to mention holding the flyers in different positions.
I was blown away by my body’s potential and I started wondering how come. The answer came quickly when I was told that I am quite a strong base. I replied that since my childhood I had been training my body for different activities or sports. Using the techniques they shown me, I was able to transfer my skills and do some nice tricks on the first try and, believe me, that feeling was really awesome and I was very very happy.
From that moment on I started focusing more on training my body for Partner Acrobatics, as I wanted to do more and more. I realised that Weightlifting is of huge importance, as in acro you lift your partner over your head most of the time, so my goal was to lift more and more weight.
In the same time I started incorporating more and more flexibility exercises to complement all the strength work, especially for my shoulder range of motion and my hip mobility, as these two joints can make a huge difference in Acro.
Imagine not being able to be stable when you travel down in a squat; you won’t be able to get under your flyer during tempo lifts or will have difficulties raising your arms over your head. You might be able to reach up by arching your back, but, when you’re loaded with your flyer’s weight, this will become a problem.You’re most likely going to end up injuring your lower back and you know that’s not a good thing.
In 2016 I started what’s today “Training for Acro” and basically it’s what the name says – the training you need to do for acrobatics. I am referring to the physical training done with your bodyweight, either at the gym or just using partner exercises.
My goal is to help people to get stronger and more flexible for acrobatics. At the same time, I pay a lot of attention to the coordination you need when doing acrobatics. Each one of these three elements is important as you can compensate for less coordination with some strength, but you can’t “muscle” tricks up forever. You will need to learn to coordinate your limbs accordingly, improve your range of motion and align your body properly for the trick so you don’t waste energy.
From my experience, I can say that the fastest and safest way to learn acrobatics is when you already have a certain level of strength and flexibility. Having a decent level at both of these, and being able to coordinate your arms and legs, will make the learning process much faster.
To give you an example, I will talk about floor handstands as the floor is the same every single time – so the only variable it’s you and your skills. First, it’s a solo acrobatic trick that requires some level of upper body and core strength. Second, it requires a good range of motion in the shoulders and ultimately, the ability to coordinate everything in a way that the body will be in balance. Take out the strength element and it will be harder to hold the position, unless the handstand line and the ability to coordinate the body are on point.
It’s also possible to hold a handstand without having great shoulder mobility, but it will be a waste of strength as the handstand line won’t look like a line. If the acrobat lacks coordination, having a good line and a decent level of strength won’t be enough either
Obviously, the biggest problem when you want to do Partner Acrobatics is not the lack of strength or flexibility but not having a partner to practice with. After that, not having a space to train. Training your body for acrobatics will provide you with a solution to both of those problems, as people will ask to train acro with you, knowing that you are strong and can hold them up no matter what, for example. This is also valid for the flyers, as being strong, having a good level of flexibility and good coordination are the perfect ingredients that make a good flyer.
If you’re already a good acrobat, the “Training for Acro” method will help you take your acro tricks to the next level and avoid injuries. At some point, your body will need some maintenance work so you can continue training hard tricks over and over again, without developing muscle imbalances that will eventually lead to injuries.
Even the best circus performers who used to be world champions in their discipline still have a daily routine of exercises that they do in order to maintain their skills, get better and prevent “over-use” type of injuries.
In conclusion, everyone can benefit from the “Training for Acro” method, regardless of the acro level or previous training experience. The exercises are designed to support the acro practice, not to interfere with it. You can use it in your non-acro days to get stronger, during acro practice to improve your range of motion, or to help you coordinate better for the trick you’re working on.