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Shoulder Stability: Six Essential Exercises For Aerialists


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It is imperative that you take care of your shoulders as an aerialist in order to avoid injury and to prolong your enjoyment of this beautiful art form. Adding just a few minutes of shoulder conditioning to your aerial warm up can help you strengthen the smaller muscles around your shoulders and help you avoid unnecessary pain and injury.

The shoulder is an extremely complex joint made up of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm) as well as the associated muscles, ligaments and tendons.

The humerus loosely attaches to the scapula in a ball and socket type of joint that allows the arm to rotate in a circular manner or to hinge up and away from the body. The joint must be mobile enough to do a wide range of dynamic movements (think throwing a baseball), but also stable enough to lift heavy objects and push and pull. This compromise between mobility and stability opens up the door for a large number of shoulder issues.

When most people think of the muscles of the shoulder, they probably think of the deltoids (anterior/front, middle, and posterior/rear) and the traps. While these are the biggest muscles of the shoulder and the ones that give that area of the body its shape, there are in fact many smaller muscles that are just as crucial to shoulder movement and health.

The Rhomboids and levator scapulae are muscles in the upper back that if left untrained allow the shoulder to slump forward and rotate inward. The muscles of the Rotator Cuff are the supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus, and trees minor, all of which contribute to the stability of the shoulder. Often in our aerial training, these muscles get overlooked while we concentrate on developing our strength with inverts and pull-ups, which are important but don’t help develop those small ‘assisting’ muscles needed to keep our shoulders safe.

Try adding these Three shoulder stability exercises (using a Theraband) that focus on the Rotator Cuff as well as the middle and lower trapezius into your aerial warm up on a regular basis:

  • Shoulder Hinge with band  2 x 10 sets
  • Straight arm over head extension  2 x 10 sets
  • Straight arm sideways extension 2 x 10 sets

You can also utilize the ‘stretchiness’ of your aerial silk to work your shoulders. Try these three shoulder strengthening exercises (great for scapula engagement and strengthening of ‘assisting’ muscles) the next time you rig your silks or have a spare few minutes in class.

  • Straight arm horizontal pulses  2 X 10 sets
  • Straight arm Low V pulses 2 X 10 sets
  • Straight Arm High V pulses 2 x 10 sets

Be sure to make time in your workout schedule (whether at the ‘normie’ gym, at home or at your aerial studio) to strengthen your shoulders outside of your normal aerial workout on the apparatus. Your shoulders, as well as your health and happiness as an aerialist depend upon it!

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