At Home Strength Exercises

Every day since I was about six and a half, I have challenged myself to make my own nightly routine consisting of strength building exercisesAt home strength drills are a great way to get you on the road to more complicated skills and benefit Chinese pole artists, aerial artists, tumblers, hand balancers, and just about everyone. Developed and strong (but also stretched and healthy) muscles are a valuable asset in your training. Below is my nightly routine, and then some of my very favorite exercises. 


  • Handstands {Tuck plance, L-sit, straddle sit, x1 one-arm drill}
  • Muscle {x10 handstand push-ups or x10 wide arm pullups, 30-60 sec. hollow hold or plank, and 30 sec. wall sit or horse stance, or x15 squats}
  • Physical Therapy {Exercises change but always an exercise for my right knee and both shoulders}
  • Stretch {A nice stretch for arms, shoulders, legs, and core}

NOTE: If you’ve never done these exercises before, it’s a good idea to do them first in person with a circus coach so that they can watch you and make sure you have good form. I also must remind you that after every drill to build your strength, don’t forget to match it with a stretch (at least 30 sec. long) on each set of muscles you were building up. It’s also a good idea to prep yourself with a light warm-up (jumping jacks, arm circles, etc.) before you begin your exercises. 


Builds upper body

There are many great variations of this exercise. There’s the regular: arms by your side, on your feet, kiss the ground and let your elbows graze your ribs, then push-up! There’s also the handstand push-up, which I find very helpful – especially for training my handstands and flags on the Chinese pole. For this variation, you’ll kick up to a handstand with your back against the wall and your arms fairly wide. Next, let your head almost touch the ground by bending your arms along the same plane as the wall, then push up, back to your handstand position. It’s tempting to arch your back or pike your hips in this position especially while pushing back up to your handstand position. Try to isolate the movement all in your arms and upper back. I love this exercise! Don’t forget to give your shoulders a nice long stretch after this one. 


Builds upper body

There are so many different versions of pull-ups but the most basic version is to put your hands about shoulder width apart on a pull-up bar, trapeze, playground monkey bars, or anything you can hang from (SAFELY!). Take all the weight off your feet and into your hands, stay tight and try not to roll your body or pull with your arms at different times to pull-up. Pull the bar all the way up to your chest and come down slowly with control. If you do not yet have the strength to pull-up, jump up to bent arms and lower yourself down with control. A great way to get stronger is to train the negative! So, if you can’t yet do a pull-up, do lots of “resist downs to build up the muscles. 

Hollow holds 

Builds Abs 

For this exercise lay on the ground with your back on the floor. Press your back into the floor so that you couldn’t even stick your pinky finger under, lift your legs about 4 inches of the ground and lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground to about that same height. Next, squeeze your arms at your sides. Hold for at least 30 seconds, 60 seconds if you really want some abs, 90 if you’re Beast Mode, and 120 if you REALLY want a challenge (or if you have a death wish.) BONUS: If all of those are too easy then try it with your arms squeezed by your ears!



Builds Abs

You will hold the same hollow position as described in the previous exercise, but now you will thrust your toes and torso to each other and hit your toes back down, over and over! Don’t let your limbs, head, neck, or shoulders touch the ground. Do at least 25 of these and if you’re feeling game, do 40!


Pistol Squats

Builds glutes, quads, hammies, and calfs

For this exercise make sure you have a carpet or pad you would feel comfortable doing a forward roll on. Next, stand on one foot and bend your knee as though you were doing a 1-legged squat and roll back. Then, use the energy from the roll to help you stand up. Try not to touch your hands or other foot or leg to the ground. If this exercise is too hard at the moment, do it next to a wall and use your hand closest to the wall to help you up. If it’s too easy, take out the roll back and simply do a one legged squat. Do an equal amount on each leg. I’d say a set of ten on your left and a set of ten on your right. 


Builds glutes, quads, hammies, and calfs

This one is brutal! But it’s good for you. As the name implies, stairs are involved. One simply runs up a flight of stairs and jogs with caution back down over and over and over and over. If an average flight of stairs has around 12 steps, I think you should go up and down around 15-20 times. If the stairs you’re working with are more than that, say about 20 steps, 10-15 should suffice. 

Tired yet? Good! I would recommend a good stretch, some rest, some water, and heck, why not a tasty snack? There’s nothing like a well-deserved snack bar after a workout routine. Repeat again sometime soon!

– Julaine

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