You are teaching a student a new skill. You know they have the strength and are ready. So, what will happen next?
What can be the biggest predictor of success or failure? It's your cues.
What sets great coaches apart is the ability to "speak" to their students and say the right thing at the perfect time. As a coach you must be able to communicate with your students in a way that makes sense to them and their body to enable them to learn. (Of course, there is also the bonus of great cues making you an entertaining coach that your students love.)
The first step is understanding the types of cues and learning how to recognize them. Using the position of the humerus in hanging as an example, here are the two major categories of cues for instruction
Internal Focus - directs students to their own actions
"rotate your arm to point your elbow forward"
External Focus - directs students to the effects of their actions
"break the bar behind you"
Both examples tell the student what you are looking for, but which is more successful?
(Aerialist Enrique Escajeda Photo by Danny Boulet)
Do you feel like your grip strength isn't up to your level of training? If you have been an aerialist for a while and feel like your grip and forearms fatigue quickly, it might be worth looking at your shoulder strength, and especially at your rotator cuff.
Researchers studying the shoulder have found that grip strength is strongly correlated to shoulder muscle recruitment and function. What they found is that when you are gripping, especially with the arm overhead, muscle activity increases in the shoulder stabilizers. This relationship is particularly found with the lateral rotators of the shoulder. These small muscles are the ones we use to “break the bar” and rotate our elbows forward to stabilize the shoulder in the socket.
However, this relationship also shows that if you have weak shoulder stabilizing muscles, grip strength suffers. Without a strong and stable base, your grip muscles cannot generate as much force.
So, your weak grip could be a symptom of unstable shoulders.
If you have concerns, try these tips:
Take a new look at how you are hanging. Hanging is the basis of all we do in the air. It is a great place to start to recognize how you are using your shoulders to support your motion. Make sure your shoulder blades are anchored on your back with your middle and lower trapezius, that your elbows are trying to point forward, and that your lats are relatively relaxed.
Strengthen your rotator cuff. (Extra stable shoulders never hurt) My favorite simple exercise for the lateral rotators is done in side-lying as pictured below. Be sure that you are spinning the arm in the socket. Watch out for the shoulder tipping forwards, or squeezing the arm into your side. These cheats can steal the workout away from those small but mighty rotators. If you can easily do this exercise with more than 5 lbs, you are probably cheating.
Antony NT and Keir PJ. Effects of posture movement and hand load on shoulder muscle activity. J Electormyog Kinesiol 2009; 17: 578-86 (Link to Full Text)
Horsley I, et al. Do Changes in hand grip strength correlate with shoulder rotator cuff function? Shoulder Elbow 2016; 2: 124-9 (Link to Full Text)
Mandalisis D and O'Brien M. Relationship between hand-grip isometric strength and isokinetic moment data of the shoulder stabilisers. J Bodyw Move Ther 2010; 14: 19-26 (Link to Abstract)
Sporrong H, Palmerud G and Herberts P. Influences of handgrip on shoulder muscle activity. Eur J Appl Physiol 1995; 71: 485-92 (Link to Abstract)
When I speak to other healthcare professionals about circus artists (once they figure out the difference between a trapeze and a trampoline) they always want to know what kinds of injuries circus artist have. They also assume that injury rates are much higher in circus arts than they are. To answer their questions I conducted a survey on injury rates back in 2013 and 263 of you graciously responded. (See below for some of the information from that survey)
However, as I am preparing for a workshop on the Evaluation and Treatment of Circus Artists for healthcare professionals in Boston next month, I am realizing how much the community has grown and would love to get a more updated view of what injuries are occurring in the community.
Please take this 7 question survey below to help the knowledge in our community grow.
Thanks for your help! I look forward to reporting back with results!
(And if you know any healthcare professionals who would benefit from knowing a bit more about what you do have them come join me in Boston!)