What to Expect from Your First Aerial Class

Signed up for your first aerial class? Here’s everything you need to know.

What to wear

For pretty much any common apparatus (silks, hoop, trapeze…), you’ll want your skin covered. Wear leggings that cover your knees and a t-shirt or a long sleeved top instead of a tank top. If your skin slides against silks or rope, you’re basically getting rug burn. The surface of hoop or trapeze can also be pretty rough – you’ll feel this on your hands most, but also on the backs of your knees. People rarely wear gloves though. Avoid jewelery or anything else that could catch on the apparatus.

Generally you’ll practice barefoot. Leaving socks on can make some moves more comfortable too, except for silks, where they might make your life more difficult.

Woman inverting on silks.
Photo credit: thisisbossi on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

What to bring

It’s a good idea to have a bottle of water. You can also bring your phone to to take any pictures or videos with. Make sure to check with the instructor (and any other students around you) if that is okay.

The studio will probably have rosin, which can be used if you’re having trouble with grip. Alternatively you can bring your own.

How to prepare

Eat something small, like a banana, shortly before the class. A large meal might lead to discomfort, and if you don’t eat anything at all you might feel dizzy or lightheaded, especially when you go upside down. Make sure you’re well hydrated.

When you book the class, make sure it’s suitable for beginners. Some studios require even beginners to be able to do at least a pull up, so make sure to read their website thoroughly. If you can’t do that yet, don’t fear – plenty of studios are welcoming to anyone.

Be there early enough that you have time to change in peace. If it’s your first time going to this studio/gym, bank in a couple extra minutes if you get lost, or to fill out any insurance forms that might be required. When you get there, check in with the reception, and they’ll point you to changing rooms, bathrooms and the studio your class will be in.

What to expect

The instructor will most likely check if there are any first timers, and if you’ve got any injuries you’re working with.

Aerial classes are usually quite small, since the instructor has to make sure everyone is safe. Often there will be 3 – 6 students per instructor. Depending on the size of the class, you might have your own apparatus, or you’ll share it with one other person, rarely more than that. Having your own is nice as you get more time to practice, but also more tiring.

Your class will most likely start with a 10-20 minute warmup – some cardio, stretching, and strength building exercises. This is key for injury prevention.

Once you actually get on the apparatus, you will often start with some more conditioning, such as shoulder shrugs or knee tucks. Then you will be introduced to some basic moves. For silks, that might be climbing (French and/or Russian), foot lock, hip lock, and perhaps even inversions. For hoop or trapeze, you’ll first need to learn how to get onto the bar and back down via pike. You’ll most likely try hocks (hanging on by your knees), then practice relatively simple shapes.

Don’t worry if those terms are unfamiliar to you. Look them up if you want to find out what you’re getting yourself in for, but no one will expect you to know them right off the bat. Similarly, don’t feel bad if you don’t actually succeed at many of the moves. Aerial can be difficult even for fit people. Part of it is getting over the mental hurdles, such as fear of going upside down, and the physical discomfort of hanging by your hands/knees/feet. It might take your mind and body some time to get used to new movements.

At the end of the class there should be a short cooldown to stretch your muscles. You can also help put away crash mats or other equipment.

Common problems

Grip: if you feel like you’re slipping on silks, use rosin, which should hopefully be provided by the studio. Regardless, your hands might just get very tired during the class. Unless you do climbing or something similar regularly, they’re probably not used to the intensity.

Feeling weak/unfit/inflexible: it’s possible you’ll find yourself in a class with a bunch of people who seem to be doing much better than you. The key is not to compare yourself with others. Even if they say it’s their first class, they might have a different background to you. Anyway, don’t be harsh on yourself – you’re trying something new, and you’re there to have fun and learn something.

After the class

Aerial arts are an intense workout, especially on your upper body and core. To help with that, you can stretch, take a bath, foam roll, or use any other methods that work for you.

I hope that was helpful! If you have any questions or tips, please share in the comments.

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