You don't need acrobatic skills to get hooked on the latest aerial classes. Here's how to swing, spring, and soar as you tone absolutely everything.
Maybe it's the boom in boutique gyms or all the Instagram eye candy that aerial yoga has stirred up, but acrobatic-inspired workouts are more plentiful, popular, and accessible than ever. This newest breed of routine incorporates classics like bungee cords, trampolines, and aerial silks in ways that make it easy to go aloft for classes, whatever your starting point.
"The emphasis [in acro workouts] is on movement, strength, and—eventually—grace. With proper instruction, anyone can learn those skills," says Lian Lebret, a cofounder of Body & Pole, an aerial studio in New York City. Plus, the exercise high of going aerial is next-level, so don't be surprised if you're smitten on your first fly. "When we discovered it," Lebret says, "we couldn't wait to share it with the world."
Better yet, such routines speed results as you lose yourself in them. (Just like these fun dance cardio workouts.) "They're an amazing way to cross-train and keep the body guessing so you get stronger in new, surprisingly fun ways," says Joy Keller, the executive editor of Idea Fitness Journal. Ready for take-off? Try any of these three popular acro techniques.
Spring into action.
Bungee workouts are having a moment as everyone is discovering the feeling of defying gravity with stretchy-band-assisted leaps.
The new Spiderbands studio in New York City offers its signature "acro-based cardio workouts," including Spider FlyZone, a full-on aerial version where the signature Spiderbands include a waist belt to act as your spotter for moves like handstands. "It's high-intensity flying cardio with acro and aerial infusions in a fun-filled gravity-defying class," says owner and Spiderbands creator Franci Cohen. At Tough Lotus aerial fitness studio in Chandler, Arizona, the Bungee Workout classes include total-body exercises and dance moves performed wearing a harness attached to a bungee cord from the ceiling. "The bungee cord pulls you up, so you're forced to do the opposite and resist against it, which requires a lot of core strength and stability," says Tough Lotus owner Amanda Paige, a former professional dancer. Meanwhile, Crunch gym recently launched its own Bungee Flight: Adrenaline Rush class in several clubs across the country. The 45- to 60-minute workout uses a special sling—attached to a bungee cord from the ceiling—that can be placed around your waist, arms, or legs. "The bungee cushions the impact as you do cardio and strength exercises, so it's both high intensity and low impact on your joints," says Karri Mae Becker, group fitness manager at Crunch, San Francisco.
Go ahead and jump.
Letting loose on a trampoline is such a thrill, and now fitness pros have turned those otherwise random bounces into creative calorie-burning routines with all the benefits of plyometrics. In fact, a recent study from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) showed that women who did a trampoline-based workout burned an average of 9.4 calories per minute—about the same as running at a 10-minute-mile pace, even though it felt easier. Classes like AIRobics combine flying leaps—think midair splits, sky-high tuck jumps, and the like—with balance-challenging moves on the unsteady trampoline surface. (Classes are offered at sports centers and trampoline gyms; search online for "AIRobics" for one near you.) "Thanks to the bounce, typical exercises become much more plyometric, and your core is working double time to stabilize you," says Jaime Martinez, the general manager of Sky High Sports in Portland, Oregon, which calls AIRobics its signature fitness program. (Watch what happened when @girlwithnojob and @boywithnojob gave the trend a try.)
Want to test the trend on a minitrampoline first? Classes like the pop-up JumpHouse workout and Bari studio's Bounce in New York City, Bellicon Studio in Chicago, and Body by Simone's Trampoline Cardio in Los Angeles use single-person rebounders for inventive group cardio-strength classes. Or, if you're inspired to invest in a mini (from $32 for a basic to about $700 for a high-end model such as Bellicon at bellicon.com), you can stream fun hybrid routines like BarreAmped Bounce (a barre-meets-plyometrics workout), Body by Simone TV, and Booya Fitness.
Sculpt on the fly.
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Aerial yoga took off and got legit science cred when an ACE-backed study found that doing yoga while suspended in a fabric hammock (or aerial silk) could be classified as a moderate- intensity workout. (Try this aerial yoga-inspired workout to prep for your first class.) Since then, aerial hybrids have proliferated, with circus-style props, including a static trapeze (the suspended bar stays in place rather than swings), straps, and hoops. One amazing twist is Lyra, an aerial dance class that uses suspended hoops known as Lyras to swing, hang, and pose on (offered at Crunch gyms nationwide). "You're constantly lifting yourself into the Lyra to do different moves and transitions, so the first thing you'll notice is a dramatic increase in arm, back, and core strength," Becker says.
Plus, lots of local studios—like Upswing Aerial Dance Company in Berkeley, California; Sky Candy in Austin, Texas; or Aerial Arts NYC in New York City—teach aerial classes with static trapeze (such as Trapeze Conditioning at Sky Candy) and ropes (for example, Rope class at Aerial Arts) for these fluid, muscle-searing exercises. (Google "aerial fitness" to find a studio near you.) "Try all these apparatuses out to see what you like best," says Kristin Olness, the owner of and an instructor at Aerial Arts NYC. "All of them can help you really build your strength and flexibility." And, of course, you'll love getting the Instagram pics to prove it.