Article By Alex Dial of Share It Fitness
The word “acrobatic” can be quite daunting. It conjures up images of tightly muscled gymnasts soaring expertly through the air in defiance of gravity, or perhaps of martial arts masters kicking and rolling effortlessly around one another. The truth is, “acrobatic” simply means “to be skilled in feats of balance and agility.” Almost any activity requires balance and agility, therefore, acrobatic skill or conditioning can be a useful addition to any physical fitness program. So even if you don’t plan on executing barrel turns or cartwheels (but why WOULDN’T you?) it’s a sound idea to introduce a few basic acrobatic conditioning techniques into your regimen.
A background concept: Hollow-body.
Hollow body is what the Pilates instructors are talking about when they tell you to pull in your navel. To achieve this lower back neutrality, lets get into a supine (on your back) position on the floor.
Naturally enough, there’ll be a gap between your low back and the ground, due to the curve of your lumbar spine. Lets now draw your belly button inward and slightly rock your pelvis up. The gap should disappear. This is a neutral spine position, vertebrae nicely stacked, and is the basis for many balance and abdominally-focused exercises.
Acro Exercise #1: V-ups.
A V-up is like a combination of a sit-up and a leg-lift. First, make sure you’re parked on your back on something comfortable. A hardwood floor may be a bit too hard, while a pillow may rob you of your stability. Assume hollow-body and bring your thighs together, pointing your toes. Guys, point those toes! Lift your legs as one off the floor, just a few inches. Now, bring your arms back straight over your head, maintaining hollow-body, and lift your shoulders clear, just a few inches. So here you are in starting position, like a really flat V. Now lift your legs straight up, together, and bring your hands toward your pointed toes. If you hold this, you’ll be balanced right on your butt, and nothing else. Now ease back down to starting position. Do these much more slowly than a typical sit-up, focusing on the squeeze. This is a nice variant of traditional sit-ups.
Acro Exercise #2: The Bridge
The Bridge is a great exercise to complement any ab workout. Try it after the V-up for a nice stretch-and-strengthen combination. To perform a Bridge. Start supine, then slide your feet up until they’re flat on the floor, your knees bent. Make sure your heels are flat. Place your hands on either side of your head, palms down, and when you’re ready, press yourself up into the backbend. Try to keep your knees in as close as is comfortable, and straighten your legs slowly. Press heavily through your flat palms and concentrate on opening your shoulders through the chest. Lean into your chest, taking weight off of your legs little by little. The Bridge is a wonderful exercise for low back pain and also for anyone with a weak core in general. Do NOT do the Bridge if you have had low back surgery, or are suffering from compressed and painful discs, or a broken spine.
Acro Exercise #3 The Tuck-Jump
The Tuck-Jump is similar to the Squat jump, except this jump factors in some explosive training for the lower abs, while increasing vertical jumping height.
Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your arms straight up over your head. This is called Set Position. Do not arch your back. Now to prepare for the jump, swing your arms down to the ground as you bend your knees, sinking into your arches, then leap upward and (this is important) SWING your arms UP, driving your body off the ground. At the height of your leap, tuck your knees to your chest momentarily, and then release them to return to Set Position.
Perform these exercises in sets, like you would any other. The first time you do them, take it easy. These are dynamic, full-body movements and they take practice to master. Expect a pinch or stumble while you’re first practicing them, and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask.