Building a Strong Foundation for Your Straddle Inversions

To build off one of our earlier Instagram posts, I want to provide more information for building a strong foundation for your straddle inversions.

Actually, what I am about to share will help with all your aerial inversions.

In this post, I will elaborate on the information in the IG post and the YouTube video on the same subject. I will also provide some exercises you can do to strengthen the shoulders while also engaging your core to build your strong foundation for your inversions.

As stated in the videos, your strong foundation is your shoulders. I often compare this to the foundation of a house. You wouldn’t build a home on rocks without cementing them together, otherwise your house would just roll or fall away.


While not as catastrophic as a house falling down, a straddle inversion without a strong foundation is just plain hard to hold. This is because without a strong foundation you are constantly battling the house, so to speak.

In a straddle, that means your hips, falling away. However, with a strong foundation it won’t feel hard and you’ll feel as though you could be in the position forever…

…assuming your hands don’t get tired.

Key Factors You Need for a Strong Foundation

Shoulder blade placement on the ribs. The shoulder blades want to be positioned so they are in a neutral position on the back of your ribs.

Not too protracted–this is usually what happens when the straddle feels hard–but also not so retracted that your shoulder blades are trying to hide your spine.

Neutral is just right.

This is done by rolling the shoulder blades back and together as you invert. Tagging with one foot or both feet can help with this.

The muscles that need to be contracting are your middle and lower trapezius muscles as well as your rhomboids. These muscles draw the shoulder blades towards one another. One way to strengthen your middle and lower traps and your rhomboids is highlighted below with a reverse fly exercise.

Upper arm bone placement. The upper arm bones need to be on the outside of your rib cage. This happens with the rolling of your shoulder blades back and together.

The upper arm bones also want to be pressed firmly into the sides of your torso–like they are trying to become your torso. You don’t want to see any gap between your arms and your torso. If you have a gap, this is an indicator that your shoulder blades are protracted and no longer in a neutral position on the rib cage.

The muscles that are keeping your arm bones glued to your torso are your latissimus dorsi (lats for short). Your lat muscles are what bring your arms back down to the sides of your body when they have been raised overhead. You can strengthen your lats with many different exercises: lat pull down or pull ups are just two that come to mind.

In the video below I demonstrate an alternative exercise: a banded pull-down for repetitions and then for a sustained hold in the end position. This is to simulate the effort in your inversion. What you can’t see in the exercise is that I have my core engaged with my ribs knitted together.

Why am I lying down?

It’s for a couple of reasons:

One is so that when performing this exercise, you can focus on what your arms and shoulder blades are doing, without having to worry about moving your whole body weight (at first).

The other reason is that the floor will actually give your body some sensory feedback about whether you’ve squeezed your shoulder blades into a neutral position while pulling the arms down to the sides of your body (using your lats)… And it will help you to feel whether or not you’ve engaged your core well enough to keep your ribs drawn together and down.

This replicates the muscle activation required for an inversion and you can progressively increase the resistance from the band over time as you build strength.

Core engagement. Hopefully this happened just prior to trying to invert. If you try to engage your core once upside down, it is much harder.

Just before you invert, draw the pelvic floor up and draw the ribs together like laces tying the two sides a shoe together. These two motions help to bring awareness to your deeper core.

Breathe. I can’t stress this enough.

Exhale as you invert.

Through your mouth.

The above to core activations–the drawing up of the pelvic floor and drawing together of the ribs can be more easily found with a long exhale. But an exhale also generally helps folx find their core engagement–the challenge is to not lose it on the inhale.

Tying this all together.

When you have your shoulder blades neutral on the back of your rib cage, your arm bones pressing firmly to your sides and your core activated, then you will find that the spine will be straight which will bring your hips up high so that your pubic bone is near your wrists and all of this puts you in a great position for a straddle inversion.

I often refer to what muscles need to be activated as find your “W”. These are your foundation muscles helping to maintain your shoulder blades in the position where they need to be for your strong foundation.

Highlighting the Lats and the Middle & Low Traps. (Rhomboids are deeper (under) the middle & low traps)

As you are learning to have all these these muscles activated while upside down you will most likely need to tag your feet on your apparatus. Your feet may have to stay there for a while and you may need to work very slowly towards finding this strong foundation before taking both feet off your apparatus to find the straddle position. As I described in the YouTube video, you may want to explore one leg at a time, alternating legs or hovering froggy, to build the strength and stamina in your strong foundation muscles before a full straddle will feel doable.

Here’s the video to ensure you have all the information.

Exercises for building your foundation

Tuck, Pike or Arrow inverted shrugs. The action is to protract shoulder blades into the rounded position and then retract back to neutral placement on the back of your rib cage. This looks like I am curling and uncurling my spine, but I’m not. This is just the difference between having the shoulder blades on the back of the rib cage–the correct spot–or having them really protracted–the incorrect spot.

Your core is activated throughout this movement and you are actively protracting the shoulder blades and then retracting them–like a push/pull action. Inhale protract and exhale retract.

Perform 6-10 reps

Banded Lat Pull-Down. Either attach a band to a sturdy surface or you can use a cable machine in the gym. Lie on the floor and hold the band in each hand, either straight up to the ceiling or for more difficulty a little overhead. Prior to starting the movement roll the shoulders into neutral position on the back of your rib cage. Feel the mid-back muscles activating and engage your core. Exhale pull down with straight arms. Do multiple repetitions and also try holding to the side of your torso for an endurance challenge.

Perform 10 reps and try to hold for 10+ seconds.

Reverse Flys. Hinge at your hips, keeping a neutral spine while tipped forward, holding some light weights in your hands. Engage your core to support your spine. On an exhale, lift your arms out to the side. To ensure you are using the middle traps and the rhomboids to lift your arms focus the movement for the arms coming from pulling the shoulder blades towards one another as the arms raise up. You want to feel this in between the shoulder blades and not in the upper traps-where your neck and shoulders meet. Inhale return to starting position.

Perform 8-10 reps

We hope that these pointers and exercises will help you discover and build your strong foundation for your straddle (really any) inversions.

We’d love to hear from you. How it’s going? Let us know if you think of any questions that pop up along the way. If you think someone else will like this info, please feel free to share this post.

Happy Training~~ Theresa