Aerial Theory: Hip Key

Hip key! One of the most important skills in aerial silks (and other apparatuses)! But why? What makes it SO INCREDIBLY VALUABLE?

Also known as a hip lock, this wrap puts you in a position of relative restfulness. I say “relative” because no matter what you’re doing, when you’re training aerial you’re working hard. 

But it supports you around your hips, allowing the hands to come completely off if needed. You can describe the wrap as a form-fitting shelf under your bottom hip.

The shape of the hip key: The fabric descends from the ceiling, passes the junction of upper body and lower body to continue under your bottom hip/upper-outer thigh, and is then redirected UPWARD between legs with the tail draping over the low back. In short: down, up, down. 

The wrap doesn’t fall off because by winding into the pole with your body you have “closed the loop. ” Winding into the pole involves stacking your hips, which causes the tail to go UP, in toward the pole, and then down. If your hips unstack (unwind), your loop opens away from the pole and it unwraps. If you go vertical, your loop opens and falls off. It is only the stacking of the hips that allows the wrap to be secure.

Now let’s look at that shape (high qual courtesy of MS paint).

If the tail does not land on the back it will slightly “open the loop” and can fall off, but this is less likely to happen if the legs are trapping the tail with a good squeeze. 

The wrap works because your center of gravity is close to your hips. If it were at your feet or chest, you would tip out with gravity. 

Uses
From a hip key you can rest and spin, transition directly to your hands and be wrap free, or transition to a thigh hitch or an unsupported knee hook. You can roll up all the way to an s-wrap, split your poles to get to swing seat, and build a variety of wraps. With the fabric securely wound around the hips, there are many possibilities for how to use the tail(s) and work with the pole(s). 

A few common mistakes:

  • Not picking up fabric high enough on outside leg, so the fabric passes between knees instead of upper thighs. 
  • Fabric getting in the way due to disorganized starting position.
  • Not bringing feet high enough before straddling. This causes the tail to fall over the butt instead of the low back. 
  • Dropping torso to a horizontal position too late. This also causes the tail to fall over the butt instead of the low back. 
  • Skipping the wide straddle and using bent knees instead. This totally works but does not showcase the beauty of the wrap. 
  • Dropping inside leg too early. This causes you to lose height.
  • Dropping inside leg late. It needs to drop before the outside leg (the one that is going to be on top)
  • Pronating (turning in) the foot of the outside leg. Maintain external rotation through this leg and turn the foot slightly outward. 

A hip key executed without applying technical cues.

Practice: 

  • Practice the pathway on the floor
  • Bring inside leg forward and UP while the outside leg swings back and behind.
  • Invert sufficiently before widening your straddle and rotating to the pole.
  • Tilting the hips away from the pole can be helpful for positioning the fabric well at the beginning. 
  • Break it down into parts and practice the parts as drills
  • Film yourself and watch for your problem areas

A hip key executed with good technique.