I realized too late that I mis-titled my last hip circle post, because in it I didn’t really offer a progression for training hip circles at all and instead just got really excited about analyzing stuff, and in the one before that I just melted into math and spinning and yay!!! Here’s an actual training progression with NO MATH. Super swear.
NB: This progression is demonstrated on lyra because that’s what was hanging in the gym and even though I have pulleys that make changing apparatuses take one literal minute, I am a lazy brat and didn’t feel like it. (You guyyyyys, the lyra is 40 poooouuuuuunds….) There are a very few minor differences, which I’ll mention along the way, but everything here applies to trapeze and everything in the last post applies to lyra.
Step 1: Minor Bitching.
If you’ve trained with me irl you know that I believe that aerial work should be neither painful nor scary, within reason. This means that bruises/burns from regular training shouldn’t be so bad that they last for days and keep you grounded, and students should feel nothing worse than apprehension and excitement before attempting a new skill. Both pain and fear are indicators that a skill is being attempted without adequate facility on the apparatus, out of sequence in a responsible training progression, or with substandard knowledge of how the skill itself works. Pain and fear shouldn’t be a source of shame, however: they’re just another useful tool in our bag of training tricks that tells us how we should proceed.
If you’re afraid of hip circles or if they tear the crap out of your forearms/hips, don’t worry! I’m here for helping! I address proper bar placement right at the beginning of the last hip circle post though, so I won’t address it here. If you’re unsure or if you’re still tearing your hips apart, go back and take a look-see.
Step 2: Clothesline
Do a pull over mount on the bar and stay piked so you look like a paira pants flopped over a clothesline. With your legs straight and your arms overhead, pull your legs to your chest and your chest to your legs. Try to put your nipples on your knees and lick your shins. Make sure you keep your abs engaged or the lyra/trapeze will try to cut your in half because they are giant bullies. If your hips can’t take it, do this in hammock or in a fabric loop first.
Just, you know what, just disregard the blindfold. Don’t make it weird.
Hanging upside down like the clothesline pants before, bend your knees and grab your legs behind your thighs. (I know some folks perform these without grabbing the thighs, but I feel better having beginners hold on.) I prefer to grip my two hamstring tendons, but where you put your hands is all personal preference. Find a place where your grip feels the tightest. Maybe ask a friend to try to pull you out of the sky. For science.
From here, bend and straighten your legs. Experience some rocking. Readjust your hip placement on the bar if the lyra bites you. The point of this drill is to find the un-painy sweet spot on your hips, so squiggle around until you find that happy place for the bar (Not your pelvis. Not your pubic bone.).
Before we get to the fill skill, we must learn and practice an escape. Almost every trick has an escape: what to do if something goes horribly wrong and you miss a catch, slip, become a wet noodle, or have to bail. In the case of hip circles, there are several options:
- Do not let go under any circumstances whatsoever. Hold your legs like someone’s trying to take them from you and deal with the bar/bone scraping. If you fail to complete a rotation, you will just swing back and forth until you come to a stop under the bar in clothesline.You might have a bruise. You will be fine. You will feel silly.
- Do a quick hand switch from the backs of the knees to the bar right as your chest starts to come up to 9 o’clock. This is the escape shown in the vid below. I’m recommending it at this point in the progression because I see a couple common tendencies for students who are just starting to work hip circles: When they feel they don’t have enough momentum to complete a full rotation, they get scared and let go without knowing where to go, and/or they’re taken off guard by the momentum once they’re able to generate it and lose their grip on the backs of their thighs.
- Stop the rotation in catcher’s. I won’t address this here, but I might do a future post on catcher’s stuff/reverses/etc. Also, catcher’s isn’t really a thing on lyra.
Now that everybody knows what to do if things get out of hand (SO TO SPEAK, HAR HAR), we can turn up the gas. Repeat step 3, but now think about straightening your legs up toward the ceiling. You want to straighten them ON THE WAY UP, not on the way down. The former gives you momentum for a front hip circle (somersault) and the latter gives you momentum for a back hip circle (backward somersault). The latter isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just not the skill we’re working. The objective of this drill is to feel what generates momentum and what doesn’t. It’s like a swing, but you’re upside down so it feels nothing like a swing. But it’s like a swing.
This is my favorite little trick. Take a piece or tape or whatever: I used that weird spongy prewrap stuff cause I had it lying around for some reason. Put it across the lyra or between the trapeze ropes about 2ish feet above the bar. Repeat step 5, but now your goal is to catch the tape with your toes and tear it off the lyra on your way down like you’ve won a race! Fun! This is just to give you a physical reference that forces you to straighten your legs before what your brain thinks is right. You brain is wrong. Win the race.
You guys, there are a ton of steps.
Hooray, you got the tape! Now you have some idea of how to generate momentum by yourself so that you can do one million rotations and not just three ever slower ones as you use up momentum from the initial dive. Let’s talk about the dive! Start in a belly balance/bird/hip balance with hands still on the bar on either side of the hips. Transfer your hands from the bar to the backs of your thighs as you fold into a pike. This part is scary for some, particularly when diving from the fully extended bird, so teaching your body where it’s going from a more comfortable (for your feelings, not for you body) position is really helpful later.
Repeat step 7, but this time take the arms fully off the bar and find a balance in bird before you fold into the pike. Coaches, this is a good time to keep an arm hovering above the student’s heels. If the student tilts too far, you can spot them just enough to keep them from face-planting while still making them responsible for controlling the movement.
Next, repeat the dive again this time taking the hands over head after balancing in bird. Don’t try to kick yet, just work on getting used to feeling extended for longer than your brain thinks is okay. Coach spotting becomes inappropriate at this step, because duh, you wouldn’t be able to tuck your legs in! If your coach feels you need more time in step 8 before working without the spot, YOU DO WHAT (S)HE SAYS.
“Now I’m ready to try the full rotation, right???”
Because, see, the sucky things about hip circles are getting the kick and the bar placement right. We’ve only worked on both from under the bar up to now, so once your chest comes over the bar it’s uncharted territory. Find a stick. It can be a stick-stick or a broom handle or a pull up bar or a small weight bench bar or a dowel rod or a garden hose or whatever. Mine is the plastic thing from inside a bolt of fabric. Sit on the floor and put the stick on that sweet spot on your hips between your pubic bone and iliac crests. Put your elbows on the stick smashing it down onto your belly, grab the backs of your thighs, and flex your abs. Here’s where you get to play with where exactly you should grab your legs. The stick should be trapped as tightly as possible between your flexed abs and your elbows. I’m happiest when the bar is at the tip of my elbows, but your anatomy might demand different placement. You can ask a friend to try to pull the stick away from you: do not let them take iiiiiiit!
K, now roll! The stick should not move AT ALL! Squeeze! Kegal!!!
Still holding the stick, start sitting and straighten your legs to balance in yoga boat. Try to lower your legs to the floor, but DON’T LET GO OF THE STICK. This will be impossible! What should happen, is your legs will pull your entire body down to the floor and you’ll end in a pike. Do this until you feel zero movement of the stick.
NOW you get to work on the kick! On the floor. With a stick. Start as before. This time, roll back onto your shoulders and as you roll back forward, stab your toes out at the wall-STAB!!! You will land in a seated pike. Repeat. Remember from my last hyper-analytical post that you should be stabbing your feet at the wall so that when your legs straighten they are parallel to the floor. If you stab your legs so hard toward the wall that your butt scootches forward a little bit, someone should buy you ice creams!
NOW go try it on a lyra/trapeze! Start with just one rotation. Do it clean. Do it clean 10 times. Then start training doubles. Do 10 doubles clean. Make them consistent and count every rotation. Refer back to Dat Torque and Hip Circle Progressions For Fun And Profit once you’re consistently doing two or three rotations to further tweak the skill (like learning to make each rotation faster than the one before it). Then, DO ONE MILLION HIP CIRCLES!!!
Btw, I realize now that I did not mention any lyra/trapeze differences. Basically, mash the stick harder on lyra because the bar will want to creep toward your wrists taking your internal organs with it. Yaaaay!