Beginner Aerial FAQ

Commonly Asked Beginner’s Questions

How strong do I need to be to begin training aerials?

The quick answer–you don’t need any amount of upper body strength to begin training aerials–that said the stronger you are, the easier it will be for you to progress quickly.

Most aerial instructors assume that new students coming in have never tried anything like aerials in their life, and are not used to lifting/pushing/pulling their own body weight. Many will start you in a sling (a set of fabrics with a knot tied in the bottom) to get you used to the feel of fabric before making you support your own body weight.

I’m really excited for my first class! What should I do to prepare?

Anything physical that you can do, including cardio, will help to get you in shape for your first lesson. Aerial work really targets the upper body and core however, so putting more of your focus on those areas will be a boon to your training in the long run.

For core work hollow body holds or leg lifts will help you, and for upper body pull ups are hands down the most helpful training you can do. If you can’t do pull ups, try horizontal rows! It’s really important to make sure that every exercise you do you’re doing with proper form and engagement to prevent injury. Check out the good folks at /r/bodyweightfitness for beginner bodyweight fitness programs to compliment your aerial practice.

I’m afraid of heights, but I really want to try aerials! Help!

Never fear! Pretty much every aerial instructor starts their students doing everything from the ground, while they learn the wraps and techniques for any given trick. From there instructors will usually ask you to try the trick you’ve been practicing from a climb as you’re ready. Then two climbs, etc.

Every aerial instructor’s number one concern is your safety. If their number one concern seems to be something else, you should probably find a new instructor.

Even if you start out with a fear of heights, you may soon find that you’re climbing to the top of the silks because you feel confident there. More than a few aerialists are scared of heights, but because so much prep goes into training they feel comfortable in the air on their apparatus because they’re one hundred percent in control, whereas even ladders may still make them queasy.

I’m worried that I’ll be terrible at aerials.

It’s entirely true that you may come out of your first class having done everything totally wrong. Does that mean you’re terrible at aerials? Absolutely not!

There are a few things to keep in mind when you start aerials (and never forget them) and whenever you’re feeling frustrated.

1. Learning aerials is incredibly hard. A skilled aerialist will make everything they do look easy–that’s their job. However that can make it confusing for you the student, because everything feels hard. That’s just how it is. If aerials were easy, they wouldn’t be so amazing to watch and you wouldn’t need to come to class.

2. Aerial class is not a contest. Yes, the former gymnast next to you may have a perfect straddle, and you’re just barely hitting 90°, but who cares? Everyone has different strengths, and learns at a different pace. Some people are stronger, some people are bendier, some have the ability to see a trick once and do it. If one person has all those things as a beginner? Lucky them, but it doesn’t reflect on you. If you find you’re just not getting something in class, and are getting frustrated ask your instructor if you can move on and come back to it later. Many studios will have an open gym time which is great for practicing those nemesis tricks.

3. The most important thing to get out of an aerials class is accomplishing your own goals!  It doesn’t matter what those goals are–to just have fun, to get strong, to learn skills for a performance–just remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, and set reasonable expectations for yourself.

What should I wear/bring to my first class?

For attire there are a few things you definitely want:

1. You want tight fitting stretchy pants that will cover the backs of your knees. Leggings or footless tights are a great option.

2. You want a shirt that will cover your midriff without riding up, or that you can tuck in.

3. Don’t wear a belt, or any jewelry that could possibly catch on or tear the fabric. No big earrings, no spiky rings, zippers etc. Take off your dangly pendant and tape over any spiky piercings you can’t remove.

4. You can’t wear shoes to do aerials so your footwear doesn’t matter as long as you take it off.

5. Bring lots of water, and make sure to drink it in class. You might also want to bring a protein-rich treat for after class to help build muscle.

I just had my first class and now I feel like I have the flu and can’t lift my arms.

It’s possible that you may have the flu, but feeling like you just got run over by a truck is a common side effect of your first aerial class.*

For most of us, our first aerial class is a level of physicality that we’re not used to experiencing, and that morning-after response is your body freaking out over it. But don’t worry. Take some anti-inflammatory meds (ibuprofin, advil, aleeve), and drink lots of water to flush out any toxins. Treat yourself to a hot bath, and if you can, try to gently stretch out any parts that are sore.

*This has been confirmed by someone who has both been hit by a truck, and been a beginner aerialist.

I just had my first class and I’m really excited! What should I do in-between now and my next class?

You’ll want to follow the advice above and start working your upper body and core. Check out /r/bodyweightfitness for good starting programs. You’ll also want to begin stretching on a regular basis. Practice the stretches you’ve learned in class, or go to a yoga class.

If you do start adding exercises and stretching to your regimen it’s really important to make sure that every exercise you do you’re doing with proper form and engagement to prevent injury. Also, make sure that you don’t over-stretch as that can lead to injury.

Where can I find a studio near me?

Reddit user nebulawanderer put together this awesome map with a bunch of aerial studios on it! Because aerials is inherently risky though, do your own research–check out their webpage or go to their studio to make sure you’ve got a good one. They should have specialized insurance, plenty of crash mats under their students, and should be happy to talk to you about their rigging and teaching qualifications.

I just saw silks on youtube and I really want to get a pair!

Aerials is risky business and downright dangerous when trained improperly, so back up a few steps and find a good studio to train at before you do anything else! One of the worst things an aerialist can do is invest in home rigging before they’re ready. We have seen many newer aerialists injure themselves practicing at home, or simply forming bad habits from self-teaching.