Author Credit: Elise Dominique Gan
From aerial silks to partner stunting, acrobatics can be an intimidating sport to start as an adult. While some forms of acrobatics do require technical training, anyone can improve their strength, agility, coordination and physical conditioning.
As a former gymnast, I remember learning how to tumble as a small child with no fear. Adults are usually more wary of pushing their bodies to learn new skills.
While it can be scary to start acrobatics as an adult, the sport can help increase flexibility which can reduce the risk of injury. Gymnastics can also help with balance and coordination.
A study conducted at the University School of Physical Education in Poznan showed that gymnastics rehabilitation programs could be used to decrease low back pain in older women .
Choosing The Right Type of Acrobatics to Start
In aerial acrobatics such as aerial silks, trapeze, or aerial hoop, there is always concern surrounding safety. In 2016, former Olympian Lisa Skinner fell while performing in a Cirque du Soleil show.
Aerial rigging is the process of setting up the equipment needed for aerial acrobatics. It is unsafe to rig your own equipment without an experienced rigger.
If you are interested in aerial acrobatics, I would suggest looking into classes in the circus arts. Simply do a quick Google search of ‘circus school near me’. These classes are led by experienced aerialists who can teach the craft safely.
Multiple people can be involved in partner stunting. In a two-person stunt, one person is the “base” and one person is the “flyer.” The base can be in a standing or lying position; their role is to lift, move, and support the flyer.
Partner acrobatics can vary in difficulty. When learning partner acrobatics, it is important to build trust with your partner and master the basics before moving onto more difficult skills.
Beginner skills can be practiced at home with mats, but advanced skills should be taught and spotted by an instructor.
In any sort of acrobatics, learning new skills can lead to injury if you are not careful. There are a few, important skills to know to prevent injury.
You should land on the balls of your feet with your knees bent. Landing on your heels can put unnecessary stress on your hips, knees, and ankles.
When falling, try to increase the area of contact with the ground. Landing on your hands or elbows could cause a fracture. If you fall on your side, your muscles will take more of the impact, not your bones.
You should also try to roll forwards or backwards as a means of recovery. Tucking your head to your chest and rolling can reduce impact.
Make sure you stretch before and after every session. Even with these techniques, it is recommended that you use a mat when learning acrobatics. With more difficult skills, make sure you have an experienced coach or spotter.
Skills to learn at home
It is recommended that you learn the skills below in the order written as they build on each other.
Stretch your back, legs, and wrists before attempting a forward roll.
Start by squatting with your hands on the floor. Tuck your head by putting your chin to your chest. Roll forward onto your shoulders with your chin and knees pulled to your chest. Stay in a curled position until you are back to a squatting position.
Stretch your back, legs, wrists, and neck before attempting a backward roll.
Start by squatting. Then, put your hands by your ears with your palms facing up. Roll backward onto your shoulder with your chin tucked just like in the forward roll. When your head touches the ground, put your palms on the ground and push. Your feet should go over your head, and you should land in a squatting position again.
Stretch your back, wrists, and legs before attempting a bridge.
Start lying on the floor with the soles of your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Place your hands by your ears with your palms on the floor. When you’re ready to try a bridge, use your knees and hands to push yourself off the ground.
Stretch your wrists, arms, and shoulders before attempting a handstand. Doing a handstand requires core strength. You can work on your core strength through ab exercises. Read here for full detail on handstand acrobatics.
If you have never done a handstand before, you should start with handstands against a wall as it is the least intimidating to start.
You can start in a squatting position facing away from a flat wall.
Keep your hands on the group has you walk your feet up the wall. Don’t worry if you don’t get a full handstand on your first try! Each session, continue to walk your feet up the wall as much as you can.
Once you have mastered the handstand facing the wall, you can move onto kicking up into a handstand. Doing this in front of a wall can give you support if you fall out of the handstand.
Stand in front of a wall with your arms above your ears. To kick into the handstand, lunge forward and place your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart.
Kick one leg up as you are lunging down. Use that momentum to kick up your other leg. When you successfully kick up into a handstand, you can practice hovering off the wall until you are ready to try it without the wall.
When mastering your handstand, there are a few things that you can focus on:
- Straightening your legs as much as possible to help with balance
- Tightening your abs and pulling your belly button in
- Keeping your fingers spread apart to help push into the floor
- Extending your shoulders as if you’re shrugging or pushing into the floor
- Keeping your head in-between your shoulders
As a college cheerleading coach, I have a lot of students ask me whether it’s possible to start acrobatics as an adult?. I’ve taught students of all body types and activity levels, and I can honestly say that the biggest factor to success in acrobatics is motivation.
It’s important to know how your body works and how hard you can push yourself. It’s okay if your progress is slow; just make sure that you are working hard towards your goals!
If you are concerned about trying these things at home, please look into gymnastic, acrobatic, or circus gyms in your area. They will have certified, experienced coaches that can guide you.