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Get into the swing of things. No longer just confined to the big top, trapeze classes provide an enjoyable yet intense alternative to the repetitive slog of a gym work out. Trainers insist that as well as building strength, improving agility and enhancing flexibility, trapeze sessions can also be empowering due to the level of confidence needed to undertake the exercises involved. And hey, it certainly provides something interesting to talk about at parties…
Incorporating both bar and rope work, trapeze classes initially start with the equipment being rigged at a low height so that you can thoroughly master the basics. Following a short, ground based warm up, group classes usually move on to a learning session where the trainer runs through some foundation moves and tricks on a static bar and rope set up. After you have memorised and tried out a few acrobatic exercises, you will then begin a period of conditioning work, designed to strengthen and tone up key muscles used on the trapeze. Finally, the class will end with a warm down, including stretches and gentle ground work to ease those muscles back into life on solid ground. Many centres approach trapeze work as a form of aerial yoga that simply targets different muscles. Instead of pushing down onto a mat, muscles are pulled and stretched, with shoulders, the spine and stomach muscles being particularly tested. It also promises similar results to weight training, as once off the ground, you are lifting and manoeuvring your entire body weight (even when doing something as simple as swinging). It may look graceful in the hands of professionals, but trapeze classes are hard work and you won’t find yourself being able to flip and swing immediately – as they say, patience is a virtue. Centres usually suggest a course of six lessons so that you are able to reach a level where you can begin to string a series of moves together, and also advise that you look into doing some extra abdominal work to strengthen your core muscles. Apparently, arm and leg muscle strength is almost guaranteed to noticeably improve without any supplementary exercise over the course of a couple of weeks – we like the sound of that. Devotees even claim that the sport can act as a form of stress relief, with the concentration needed to pick up technical intricacies during classes ensuring that external worries are banished to the back of your mind. The adrenaline rush from attempting an aerial trick for the first time is also said to boost your mood, providing a mental as well as physical reward at the end of a satisfying lesson.
Trapeze proficiency takes time, so if you’re not a fan of being out of your comfort zone during the initial stages of a workout regime, then it might not be for you. Persistence and a willingness to dedicate yourself to something new and testing is a must, so you should be prepared to ache in places you never thought possible by the end of your first class.
If you’re scared of heights, fear not- plenty of classes will not progress with bar work any higher than a couple of feet from the ground. There are also purely static trapeze classes available, where swinging and high bar work do not even enter the equation.
Classes are aimed at both men and women over the age of 16 and there is no upper age limit. Those with longstanding injuries that are prone to flare ups may be advised to search for an alternative form of exercise, and it is probably best for pregnant women to avoid swinging around in trapeze classes. Overall, injuries obtained as a result of classes are rare, but as with any sport, failure to adequately warm up can lead to sprains and twists. Crash mats below even the lowest of bars tend to prevent any form of fall-related aches and pains.
The world’s first trapeze act took place on November 12, 1859 at the Cirque Napoleon in Paris. Performer Jules Léotard amazed the audience by swinging through the air on the bar of his new invention and made such an impression that the trapeze has been a staple of circus performances ever since.