At Home Aerial Fitness: Down Dog Leg Lifts

Today’s exercise targets glute and hamstring strength and isolation at the same time that it develops hamstring active flexibility. It also trains knee extension and toe point, two of the most important factors for beautiful lines. We call this “hip extension” when the muscles along the back of the leg and booty pull the leg backward. One example of translation to aerial: we perform this action for a straight-leg hip key! We also use this strength to scissor our legs when we need to lock in a hip key or thigh hitch. 

What I also like about this drill is that your chest and shoulders are working to stabilize the position. This is great because it prepares the upper body for apparatus work AND it’s great because even you’re basically getting many beautiful birds with one stone. 

So here’s how you do it!

  • From a tabletop position, tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back to come to your downward dog. Find a comfortable distance between hands and feet.
  • If your hamstrings are really tight, your heels won’t touch the ground. In this case, consider placing a wedge/blanket/towel under your heels. 
  • Press your chest toward your feet to open your shoulders.
  • Relax your neck so your head falls between your arms.
  • Lift one leg toward the sky without opening the hip. It should be coming out of the hip at a neutral position. Once you do this, the other leg now has to work harder to support the whole structure. The shifted weight will pull your hamstrings into a deeper stretch at the same time that they contract harder. Approach gently and slowly. 
  • Begin small pulsations with the lifted leg.
  • Move from your HIPS, not your knee. Your knee will want to bend. you have to fire through the quads to prevent it from doing so.
  • void bending your low back–that is a different exercise.
  • Try 10 each side.