A Beginner’s Guide to Trapeze Conditioning

Blog By Joe Summers, Visiting Instructor For Flying Trapeze

If you, like myself, have found that you are being drawn to pursue the higher levels of the flying trapeze, then it is time for you start considering the health and well being of your most precious asset: your body. Your body is your medium for your craft, and within that craft is the necessary and rewarding world of conditioning and discipline. The trapeze artist, to perform at their highest ability, must make sure to be in, or at least working toward their best physical shape possible. The long and lean muscle needed for this apparatus can also be cheaply attained, for all you need is a body, a floor, 20 mins a day, and the desire. Assuming you’ve read this far, I am willing to guess that you have that desire. So, let’s talk muscle!

Disclaimer: I am not a personal trainer. I am also not saying these exercises will work for everyone. These are simply a few that have helped me improve along my journey.

Before you start: When exercising we must also consider our breathing. Slow and controlled is always good, but breathing out during exertion and in upon release is always helpful, i.e. in on the down motion of a push up, out when pushing.

The Hollow Body Hold:

hollow This simple looking position is much more than meets the eye. While lying on your back, engage your lower belly abdominals and lift your feet off the ground, legs together, toes pointed. You will know that those lower belly muscles are engaged if you feel as if someone’s fist is pushing down on them. Make sure that your leg muscles are squeezing hard and that you stay engaged the whole time. Your arms can either be at your side, or for greater difficulty, may be stretched out over your head as if reaching for something behind you. Your head should be between your arms. Hold for 30 seconds.

This exercise is not only a terrific abdominal control exercise, but it also helps our body learn what this hollow body position should feel like when hanging from a bar. This is a form that is at the very core of Flying Trapeze. It keeps the body locked in one piece, garnering control and connected strength throughout the muscular structure.

The push up:

push uppush up 2We have all seen the push-up before, but now it’s time to take it seriously. The push-up, depending upon how one performs it, is very versatile: from the knees one can focus just on the arms, with our toes on the ground one starts to introduce the abdominals in a larger capacity, and with the tops of our feet on the ground we start to really put that full body connection to the test. These are all valid methods, though I prefer the latter, for it challenges me the most. Remember: no position or specific exercise (much like trapeze) is doing much good if you don’t have good form. 5 well executed push-ups are better than 15 with bad form. Quality over quantity is a saying to live by.

To perform: place your hands on the ground directly under your shoulders, your feet behind you, either on your toes or on the tops of your feet for more difficulty. From here slowly lower the entire body to the ground, making sure that the hips are not bent and are in line with the angle of the body. Engaging your lower abdominals, lower until your nose touches the floor. At this point, still engaging all of the previous muscle groups, push back up toward the ceiling, all the way through until your shoulders have a slight round in them.

There are many variations of push-ups: wide stance, diamond hands, one armed, clap. All are valid, but the more difficult ones require more concentration and strength. I find these ones to be most useful for Flying Trapeze. Also, push-ups are wonderful for shoulder rehab because in pushing we begin to counteract the strength we get from all of the hanging and pulling we do. It’s a 2-for-1 deal, strength and rehab!

The V-up:

v up 1 circus conditioning v up trapeze conditioningThis exercise is a bit on the difficult side, but you can start small and work your way up. From the hollow body position (abs engaged!), Quickly bring your legs and upper body up, touch the backs of your ankles with your hands,and lower back down. The difficulty here is finding balance and control. Take your time, stay engaged and remember to breathe. These ones took me a while to understand, but they have paid off in full many times over!

The Superman:

superman beginner trapeze conditioningThis exercise is very helpful in reaching the pesky back muscles. I also find it very helpful in learning to properly engage my butt when going through my Sweep in my swing. It can also have a nice effect on posture and back flexibility.

To start, lie on your stomach with your hands reaching out over your head. Squeeze your butt muscles, lift your arms and your legs off the ground, and hold. I like to hold for about thirty seconds. Really try to focus on feeling where you can engage and breathe so as to reach a bit higher and really open up the back muscles.

These are just three of hundreds of different variations and separate exercises that one can do to strengthen the body for the Trapeze. I chose these three because they are relatively easy yet very effective, however they do not cover every area of the body needed for flying. Below you will find a copy of my personal exercises that I try to do as a warm up before trapeze. You can find any of the exercises you may not be familiar with in a simple Google search, along with so many more!


Backward lunge x20 (10 per leg)
Kettle squat x15
Glute lift x15 (each leg)


V ups x10 (or best)
Bicycles x20 (choose 1 leg as you counting leg)
Oblique Crunches x15

Upper body:

Push-ups x20
Diamond push-ups x10 (or best)
Wide push-ups x15

Dips x20

I like to do it as 1 from legs, 1 from abs, 1 from upper body and then move through  until I’ve done them all. This way I don’t get too tired in any particular area. Thanks for reading! I hope this helps with start your life in the sky.