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Twelve Dominant movement patterns

I wrote a blog post years ago called a dozen daily movements - it was written on the assumption that these were movements that we should try to do every day on top of the regularly scheduled walking commute, dance, swim or social sport sessions that we were already doing. It included things like chewing on hard food for our jaw health and looking long distances for our eyes. And I roped my kids into being the models because they were easier to boss around then.

The movements in this post are for people who want to work a little harder than that. I piggy back on a rubric from the gymnastics and circus world. There are a dozen basic movement patterns that a circus performer should aim to train in order to stay strong, balanced and injury free. Anyone looking to get strong or move well could be doing a variation on Nick Ruddock’s daily dozen. Here I am making shapes on my stairwell.. The twelve movements that you should aim to do throughout your day are:


Squats and pistol squats give aerialists climbing strength; they give the rest of us power to walk up hills. Squats are great for strengthening the lower body and the core. A strong lower body enables us to better execute full body movements with correct balance mobility and alignment. Squats also strengthen tendons, ligaments and bones and promote ankle, knee and hip mobility.


Lunges and all of their variations are useful for climbing strength and muscle balance.

Because they work one side at a time the less strong and less flexible side actually has to work and isn't over compensated for by the dominant side.


Pulling weight toward your chest in a horizontal pull echoes the strength needed for climbing. Pushing weight away brings balance to the opposing muscles and echoes the strength needed for many inversions. For non aerialists strengthening and bringing balance to the upper body helps counteract the ‘working from home stoop.’


Aerialists pull themselves up constantly so doing a vertical push like a handstand to headstand (on a wall) keeps the whole system in balance. Non aerialists deserve the benefits of hanging to lengthen our spines and align our shoulders. We also benefit from the inversion and shoulder strengthening of a vertical push. If this seems bonkers to you. Miss this one out.


An even dish and arch is essential for a healthy and powerful beat as well as working strength into extension movements and held poses. For the rest of us, an even curl forward and extension backwards is a gift to our spine.


Strength in side lying echoes the control needed for drop and hold positioning, it helps to be able to keep good form for twisting drills too. For everyone else it is great for core control and balance.


Balance work strengthens the entire body and ensures that you have good alignment - no matter who you are or how challenging the balance.


Working on rotation trains the vestibular system and is worth working even if you do not perform roll downs, twists or spinning moments.


Moving upside down helps us maintain a sense of awareness of where we are when we are upside down, this is a useful skill that needs to be practiced. Being upside down also sends blood flow to the heart and brain and helps to moves lymph from our lower limbs to lymph nodes further up the body.

If I include ACTIVE FLEXIBILITY in this list then we technically have a bakers dozen. But. It’s important. Don’t forget to work your leg, hip, pike, shoulder and back flexibility too. In an active way. If you happen to be a circus performer or dancer friend reading this then when you work your splits, slide in and out of them and hold points en route. Bend and straighten one leg, side bend and circle or lie on your back and incorporate small circles into your stretch. Here's a quick video of some active flexibility in straddle - using the aerial sling..

I haven’t listed examples of all of the variations of these twelve movement patterns that you can do. I encourage you to use variety. Please include rotation or side bending or clock patterns for feet and hands. I haven’t included reps or sets either. You know yourself and how hard you want to work. You do you. The same goes for weights and bands - put them in to add variety. Create a flow that includes all of these movement patterns to find a way to make conditioning more fun. Or better yet meet up with a friend and do them together.

Here’s a video of me improvising a combination of the daily dozen on an aerial sling

Be well friends.




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