Strength Training for Circus: 3 reasons to add weight-training to your circus training (part two)

  • An athlete should possess:

    • Specific strength necessary to perform the skills/combinations/routines they are aiming to do

    • A solid level of general strength

I’ve added Rupert Egan’s slide to the start of part two as a reminder: your foundation is important.

It is perhaps the key to long-term health and injury reduction …and to being able to do cool stuff in circus.

As I mentioned in part one, I would like to suggest that your strength-training goal should be to be stronger than your apparatus or circus-discipline-of-choice asks you to be. This will not only expand your options and possibilities in terms of things you can do, but it will also make it much less likely that your body will be overwhelmed (read: injured) by anything that you do…or try to do.

To elaborate, let’s dive in to reason number two why weight-training is a great way to get stronger for circus:

2. Your shoulders.

I’m sure you know that your shoulders need to be able to do a lot in circus.

A lot a lot.

By way of a quick review: your “shoulder” is made up of your shoulder girdle (your shoulder blade and its associated musculature) and your shoulder joint (the glenohumeral joint…the good ol’ ball and socket).

Copyright: Eraxion / 123RF Stock Photo

In the most basic of ways, in order for your arm to end up where you need it (which, in circus, is very often fully overhead), your scapula (shoulder blade) needs to move in such a way that the glenoid (socket) is positioned right below your humerus (arm bone).

But that’s not all: your scapula also has to provide a stable base for your glenohumeral joint in order for you to transmit force through the joint.

Oops: belated nerd alert.

If you want to get any sort of high quality performance out of your shoulders, you’ve got to have some pretty tremendous shoulder stability.

But wait, there’s more!

But wait, there’s more!

That scapular stability needs to be connected to a really strong and stable core.

Connecting these two things—scapular stability and trunk (core) stability—is best developed by using exercises such as a half-kneeling landmine press.

Exercises like this challenge you to keep your torso in position (creating a stable base) while you generate force with and through your shoulder joint.

The half-kneeling position helps you to use your glutes in conjunction with your core (connected strength) to stabilize your torso and your scapula while you press up and away.

On the other side of things—pulling down happens a lot as well.

And that requires a stable scapula as well.

So how to train the scapular stability in the other direction?

Consider the Alternating Isometric X-Pulldown.

In many ways similar to the landmine press, but this time the direction of the force is the opposite.

I opted to include this particular pairing of exercises because they give us a mix of horizontal and vertical pushing and pulling. Each of them are great strength options for folks who are working towards full overhead range of motion. Of course, how much of each exercise you do is also a function of what is appropriate for you.

And what is appropriate for you is very much a matter of what you need to keep your body balanced and strong.

And rather conveniently, this idea of balance provides us with a nice segue into part three: strength balance…