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Why Going Vertical Is the Next Big Fitness Trend

author image Jamie Lebowitz
Jamie is a social media/content intern at LIVESTRONG.COM and a personal trainer. She received her B.S. in Kinesiology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She enjoys using her creativity to produce photos and videos which inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle. Posting and sharing on social media is her favorite way of getting others excited about health.
Why Going Vertical Is the Next Big Fitness Trend
Astro Doves perform on lyra hoop in Los Angeles. Photo Credit Astro Doves

Ever dream of running off to join the circus? Now that circus-like apparatuses are being integrated into the fitness world, you can get a taste of both — without quitting your day job.

These vertical fitness routines will help you build upper body and core strength, flexibility and confidence as you learn to master new skills. Give them a try, and prepare to use your muscles in ways you probably never have before.

While you may find the physical benefits and "cool factor" of vertical fitness appealing, you’ll also gain a sense of pride in these unique fitness achievements as well as a new form of self-expression. All it takes is a brave step out of your comfort zone.

Author Jamie Lebowitz demonstrates a pose on aerial silks.
Author Jamie Lebowitz demonstrates a pose on aerial silks. Photo Credit Jamie Lebowitz/LIVESTRONG.COM

Channel Your Inner Cirque du Soleil With Aerial Silks

Get ready to earn your first pull-up!

Commonly seen in the famous Cirque du Soleil, aerial silks routines involve two separate “fabrics,” or “tissues,” hanging from a tall ceiling on which you climb and perform various tricks. Don’t worry though, because any beginner’s class you take will include a careful series of progressions from certified aerial instructors who will ensure you’re comfortable with the basics before assigning anything too advanced. Your first class will likely teach you the technique for climbing the silks.


A video posted by Jamie Lebowitz (@lebowfit) on

Aerial silks builds incredible upper body and grip strength because you learn to pull up and hold your body weight with just your grip on the loose fabric. Starting out, you may be turned off by the unfamiliar burns on your skin from getting tied up, but you’ll get used to these battle scars and may even take pride in them as you advance. Besides, the knots are necessary to secure you into different positions on the fabric, and the result is a picturesque body-and-fabric shape worthy of Instagram.

Jagged Vertical Dance and Fitness studio owner Jessica Anderson-Gwin (center) demonstrates aerial hammock poses.
Jagged Vertical Dance and Fitness studio owner Jessica Anderson-Gwin (center) demonstrates aerial hammock poses. Photo Credit Jamie Lebowitz/LIVESTRONG.COM

Ready to Try Flying Yoga in the Aerial Hammock?

Want to get off the ground, but not quite ready to fly 10 feet in the air? This may be the apparatus for you. The aerial hammock is a closed loop made of the same material as the aerial silks, but the moves are performed at the base of the loop, which hangs low to the ground. You can swing, spin and dance on the hammock without having to worry how you’ll get up there.

Aerial yoga is an emerging trend that combines the hammock with traditional yoga poses — all while suspended. You’ll enjoy floating above ground without the burden of gravity, so you can really focus on each pose and sink deeper into stretches. People with lower-back pain often find this incredibly soothing.

Aerial hammock classes may also be more accessible to the general population because the closed loop supports your body weight, providing more opportunities for rest.

Bethlayne Hansen performs a pole routine.
Bethlayne Hansen performs a pole routine. Photo Credit Bethlayne Hansen

Not Your Grandma's Stripper Pole

While your grandmother probably would have given her seal of disapproval, people are now giving this vertical fitness trend a second chance — and rightly so. Through a sequence of burlesque moves, pole fitness will have you feeling sexy and confident, regardless of your strength.

At the most basic level, you’ll probably learn floor work and simple spins. Some pole classes may focus more on the dance element and others more on the tricks. You can take a “spinning pole” class or a “static pole” class because the poles are adjustable, and many people tend to prefer one over the other.

The beautiful and bendy @theknockingbird will be teaching flexibility Thursday night at 8:30pm!

A video posted by Jagged Vertical Dance Fitness (@jaggedvdf) on

Bruises are inevitable as you learn new tricks on the pole, so a tough, can-do attitude is necessary. Your first class may be intimidating because you are advised to wear as little as possible in order to maintain better contact with the pole, but any feelings of shyness are put to ease as you realize everyone is there to learn — not to judge. For some, in fact, pole has become a celebration of the female body and empowerment.

Through pole fitness, women are getting stronger and more comfortable in their own skin.

Mila Gazaryan performs on lyra hoop.
Mila Gazaryan performs on lyra hoop. Photo Credit John Higgens

Prepare to Take a Beating with the Lyra

Lyra, also known as “aerial hoop,” is a circular steel hoop that spins and swings as you perform tricks. You must use your core and upper-body strength to lift your lower body into the narrow hoop, which requires the most balance of the aerial apparatuses. You will learn to trust your body in different positions as you manipulate it around the hoop. Bruises are, again, inevitable.

lion roll! #aerialarts #aerialhoop #lyra #circuslife #dance #usaerial #aerialnation #circusinspiration #play

A video posted by Elli Williams- Los Angeles, CA (@astrodoveselli) on

Most poses will involve your body weight hanging from this steel apparatus, so it’s essential to wear clothing that covers the backs of your knees and under your arms. Flexibility and strength intertwine here to give you a well-rounded workout and the confidence to take on anything.

For the Love of Vertical Fitness, Try It!

Bethlayne Hansen participates in an aerial performance.
Bethlayne Hansen participates in an aerial performance. Photo Credit Bethlayne Hansen

These aerial fitness trends are by no means easy. Stick with them, though, and you’ll see how fun they can be. Many people fall in love with these apparatuses, but only after giving them a fair chance. Classes will vary greatly from teacher to teacher, and having a good one is key, so try out a few studios if you’re not comfortable with your first choice.

As a trainer and fitness enthusiast, I’ve found that people who engage in a physical activity that they’re passionate about more often reach peak physical fitness. And, for vertical fitness lovers, a class is much more than just a workout — it’s an opportunity to grow, have fun and challenge their minds and bodies.

Elli Williams leads an aerial hammock class.
Elli Williams leads an aerial hammock class. Photo Credit Elli Williams

What Do YOU Think?

Have you ever tried an aerial apparatus? How do you feel about vertical fitness? Think you’ll give it a shot? If so, which apparatus will you try first? Tell us in the comments!

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