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June 3, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Big Top Fitness

By Kim Straub More Blogs by This Author

The Greatest Show on Earth

No one will forget the horrors of being young. Vegetables shoved down our throats, forced playtime with younger siblings, and surrendered Tamagotchi pets to teachers. However, one fantasy helped us push through these turmoils: the possibility of joining the circus. The thought of taming lions, riding majestic horses, and walking across a tightrope allowed us to believe in an amazing future waiting just around the corner. The elaborate costumes sparked our imagination, while death defying trapeze acts left us gasping for more. It didn't take long before we were lying in bed at night planning our escape to a life under the big top.

Fast forward twenty-something years and we are now faced with a very different agenda. Stress over finances and relationships consume us. Routines become the norm in our work, personal life, and even exercise schedule. Until finally, the inevitable happens, and we become "stuck" in our routines and are bored with our own lives. Again, we find ourselves lying in bed, planning an escape.

But this time, you really can run away to the big top with circus fitness classes.

What is Circus Fitness

Circus Fitness uses circus apparatuses, such as the trapeze and aerial silks, to help strengthen and tone your entire body while increasing flexibility. So while you won't be learning how to ride an elephant or tame a lion, you will be able to defy gravity and fly through air as if you were part of a Cirque du Soleil show.

There are many different types of circus classes which people of all ages and fitness levels can participate in. Have a fear of heights? All beginner sessions begin low to the ground, and you can work up to a higher level as you gain confidence. Upper body strength will develop as you continue to take classes and, since all exercises are done above ground, your joints will not suffer any impact.

Many yoga, Pilates, and dance studios offer circus classes of some kind. Contact your local studios or search the Internet to see if there are any classes in your area.


The Trapeze is a horizontal bar hung by ropes, which is free to swing back and forth. Unlike the circus stars who swing from one trapeze to another, students only work on a single apparatus and will start low to the ground to prevent injury. Pull-ups, upside down hangs, and swinging your legs over the bar are basic moves used to help strengthen your upper body. Holding your legs out straight while you hang from the bar will help develop your core and give you well-defined abdominals. Working from a higher level allows you to perform these moves while the trapeze is swinging, making you feel like you're flying. However, a net is still placed underneath you ensuring that you will be able to always come back for more.


Aerial Silks

Aerial Silks, made popular by Cirque du Soleil, are sheets of fabric that arerigged to hang from the ceiling. Climbing the silks will help develop back, core, and shoulder strength. Holding onto the silks while lifting your legs up or over your head will elongate and build muscle in your thighs and calves. You will also work muscles you never knew you had in your back and forearms. Your hands will even benefit, as you strengthen your grip by holding your entire body weight above the ground. All beginners work low, and you will build upper body strength as you continue to take classes. Don't feel discouraged if the silks seem difficult or even impossible. Holding your entire body weight up is no joke. But with patience and consistency, you will become circus strong in no time.

Aerial Sling/Hammock

The aerial sling is a large piece of fabric that hangs from the ceiling to form a giant swing or hammock. This allows you to work on a variety of poses and shapes without having to hold up your body weight. You simply rest inside the hammock and receive excellent support while you concentrate on getting your arms and legs in the right positions. Because of its added support, aerial sling is a great introduction to circus fitness.


Circus Classes are a great way to develop amazing strength and muscle. With its emphasis on upper body strength, circus classes are extremely beneficial for runners and cyclists who mainly focus on lower body. Along with physical strength you will develop mental strength by being thrust out of your comfort zone as you dangle up in the air. You will learn to trust and believe in yourself and your physical ability. Most importantly, you will be able to put excitement back into your daily life as you brag to friends and family about your circus tricks and newly developed six-pack.

So go ahead and buy that sparkling leotard. You're a circus star now!


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1 Comment

  • I LOVE this! Now to gain the courage to do it! I am terrified of heights!

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