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Conquering the Micro-Bend

5 Tips to Beautiful Legs in the Air


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Have you ever caught a glimpse of yourself inverting on the silks in the studio mirror or reviewed a training video and thought “Aaargh!, why are my knees not straight? They totally felt like they were straight!”

If so, you may have been experiencing the dreaded and oh-so-common aerialists ‘Micro-bend.’

A Micro-bend is typically defined as an unintentional bend in the leg as it is different from intentional bending based on muscular engagement. Although generally caused by muscular tightness or weaknesses in the body, it is possible with awareness, knowledge and dedication, to rid yourself (and your camera roll) of the dreaded micro-bend for good!

Conquer the Micro-bend: 5 Tips to Beautiful Legs In the Air (and on the ground)!


1. Engage Your Quads 

Your coach may have told you this already and it is true. One of the primary functions of the quadriceps is knee extension. By pulling up and engaging the quads you can help the knees to straighten fully and create a long straight leg line.

Try this exercise to help engage the quads:

  • Either hanging from stall bars/pull up bar/Trapeze bar or hanging from the silks (double wrap to save the grip!) extend your legs in front of you and point your toes so they are just off the ground.
  • Externally rotate In the hips so that the heels face each other and engage the quads so that the knees straighten as much as possible. Inhale and as you exhale lift your right leg to 90 degrees (or as high as you can without the knee bending). Inhale, bring the right leg down.
  • Exhale, bring the left leg up to 90 degrees (still externally rotating in the hips), inhale, bring the left leg down.
  • Repeat 5 x each leg.



2.  Push Through the Backs of the Knees

In order to achieve the straightest and most beautiful leg line possible not only do you need to engage the quadriceps but you need to learn to push through the back of the knee to gain those extra millimeters that will help to achieve your maximum extension.

Whether you are lying on your couch, watering the garden or conditioning in aerial class you can practice this ‘extra’ level of engagement just about anywhere.

Try this exercise at home:

  • Sit on carpet or a Yoga mat with your legs extended straight out in front of you, neutral spine and hands by your sides.
  • Inhale and flex your feet and slightly bend your knees up towards the ceiling.

  • Exhale and straighten the knees, point the toes and try to lift the heels off the floor as you push the knees towards the floor.

  • Hold for 5 seconds and repeat for a total of 10 x.


3. Borrow Ballet Basics

Ballet dancers in general have gorgeous legs and feet and this is because they spend sooo much time at the barre (not THAT kind of bar!) bending and straightening their knees as well as articulating though the ankles and feet with almost every movement.

You don’t have to take daily 90 minute class to reap the rewards of Ballet dancer legs (although if you can, we highly recommend it!), instead, try this exercise at home or at your studio:

  • Place your left hand on the back of a chair for support and turn sideways, placing your right hand on your right hip
  • Externally rote your hips and turn your feet out (heels together) to a gentle first position.
  • Brushing the floor with your right foot, stay turned out and point your toe directly in front of your left heel (hips even!).
  •  Lift your right foot 45 degrees off the floor maintaining your straight knee and pointed toe.

  • Slightly bend the right knee and then straighten it as much as possible making sure that your supporting knee does not bend.

  • Repeat 10x before lowering the right foot to the floor and returning to first position.
  • Repeat on the other side.


4. Stretch Your Hamstrings

Micro-bend in the knee can also be caused by tightness in the calves and hamstrings. Be sure that you spend adequate time stretching both during class and in your every day life. Cross-train with Yoga and flexibility classes, work on active flexibility techniques and PNF Stretching to lengthen, loosen and strengthen the muscles.

5. Release ‘Back-of-the-knee’ Tension

Some aerialists may experience a restriction in the back of the knee when extending their legs which can cause a micro-bend. According to the author and dance physiotherapist Lisa Howell there is a small muscle called ‘Popliteus’ in the back of the knee that can block extension range if it is too tight. She doesn’t recommend students to massage out this area themselves as there are a lot of delicate nerves and blood vessels in the back of the knee; “However if you consult a qualified physical therapist or massage therapist” says Howell “Then they should know how to release some of the tension in this muscle.” Dr Howell has experienced extraordinary results in leg straightening and lengthening with many dance students by doing this.

For a visual tutorial and demonstration of the exercises listed above check out this short video Rachel filmed for you on conquering the micro-bend:

Watch the video tutorial for ‘Conquer the Micro-bend: 5 Tips to Beautiful Legs in the Air’ here


Have a wonderful rest of your week!

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