The Cross-back straddle (I also call Straddle X) is a skill often introduced early on in aerial silks curricula, but it is by no means easy! This skill requires a lot of precision and coordination, and it’s easy to leave one thing out, which makes the trick feel simply impossible.
Let’s break the cross-back straddle down and consider a few of the common errors that make this trick feel harder than it should.
What you need in your crossback straddle:
- The X is as low on your back as possible
- Your torso is hollow and puffing out against the X (strength)
- Feet in a straddle at hip height (strength + flexibility)
- Posterior pelvic tilt – tailbone tucking under (strength)
- PUSHING on the poles AS the lower core pulls the feet upward
Common mistakes in the crossback straddle:
- X is too high, making it less like a fulcrum to rotate over and even getting in the way
- Back is arched, meaning core is not engaging properly
- Feet remain lower than the hips, causing center of gravity to remain too low
- Lower core is not firing, so there is no scooping action at the pelvis
- Not utilizing the poles enough to help complete the inversion
Instead of feeling stressed by these lists, I want you to feel relieved! If you’re not getting crossback straddle, it’s totally understandable.
There are three possible overarching reasons for not getting it – technique, strength, or flexibility. In my experience the most common reason is technique. When I was first learning this skill, it felt impossible UNTIL my technique clicked into place. Then it felt easy and smooth. I hadn’t gained ANY strength – this shift happened during a single training session.
So your first step is to check off each item on the “do” list. If you *can’t* do one of them, then it’s likely a strength or flexibility issue.
If you cant bring your feet to hip height in a straddle because it pulls too much on your hamstrings, take a break from this skill while you work your straddle flexibility on the ground (FIT4FLIGHT is a resource that might be right up your alley).
Before you blame strength – you should know that there is a difference between not being strong enough and not knowing how to activate the right muscles. Ask your coach to help you troubleshoot which of these might be happening. You can try a test on the ground where you check to see if you can pull your ribs in and pull your tailbone forward (posterior pelvic tilt). Try tapping the abdomen if your muscles are not firing to encourage them to respond.
If strength IS an issue, there are actually exercises in the X you can try – see below. If you can’t get yourself to the seated straddle position at all, then do take a break from the skill and develop your strength on the floor (FIT4FLIGHT will help you with this too).
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Keep in mind that as usual in aerial silks, your core places a big role in this skill, not only in accessing the inversion but also in protecting your back in the process. Keep developing your core awareness and strength so that you can fly with ease!