First observations of a running Aerial (Pros VS Newbs)
Pros: Run up is steady and gathers speed before take off, powerful hurdle is performed giving both legs a solid platform to kick off and jump. The head is set as low as the hips during take-off to ensure efficient flip and jumping height to land the aerial, and lastly, while landing, the landing foot rotates towards the back where they came from.
Newbs: Run-up is shaky, and slow before take-off, hurdle is performed by jumping too high and not covering enough distance hence insufficient power can be stored and released to perform a strong enough kick-off, and jump. The head is set way too high, making the performer gain a lot of height, but not enough flip speed to get their feet to land on the other side, on the other end of the spectrum having their heads set too low, making the performer flip real fast, but still being unable to land the trick due to the lack of air time. Lastly, landing with the landing foot pointed in other directions other than the back (180 degrees from where their aerial is traveling), stresses the leg joints when landing, which can cause serious injuries to the ankles, knees, and hips.
3 Stages of a Running Aerial
The Run-up to Take Off, The Flip, and The Landing
The Run-up to Take Off]
Run up (hurdle)
The run-up first needs to be accelerated towards the take-off (slow to fast).
At the end of the run-up, take a moderately long leap to perform a hurdle.
If aerial is performed on the left, the hurdle steps should be RIGHT-RIGHT-LEFT.
As performers take their last step out of their run up (right leg), use that last step to leap a moderate distance forward onto the same leg (right leg) (making sure it's not performed high)
When landing from the leap, speed is achieved, the next thing you want to do is to then take your last powerful step with your other leg, (left leg) (short step 0.5 meters away from the right leg) making sure it is a strong step, resisting the forward moment, pushing vertically converting the momentum into jumping power.
Take off (T-jump)
Once the performer has taken the last step of the hurdle, the next thing to focus on is to kick the back leg (right leg) back and up, setting the chest down to the hip level, and then pushing off the floor with the jumping leg (left leg)
When kicking and setting the chest into position, a T-shape should be formed with the body, to achieve efficient flip speed, and jump height.
Performing the hurdle into an Arabesque position can help.
While the chest is set to the hip level, the back leg should be tapping off the floor to kick back and up as quickly and as powerful as they can.
The jump should then only be performed when the performer knows that the back-kicking leg has kicked as high as it physically can maximize the rotation.
After taking off from the T-jump position, much like a cartwheel, turning the upper body towards the right (left leg jump), and also rotating the swing leg (right leg) outwards opening up the hips.
Make sure the core is braced, not relaxed, to drive the swinging leg up, over the body, and towards the floor.
The leg swing pattern from the take-off into the flip should be “Back -> Side -> front” smoothly and quickly.
Shoulder setting is also important, the left shoulder should be nicely set right over the jumping leg (left leg)
The right shoulder should be pulled and rotated out towards the right to help with the rotation.
The landing is simple, only if you perform your kick well before, and during the flip, this helps the leg gain momentum to swing around towards the ground quickly to place the feet underneath your body.
The kick should travel in a (back -> side -> front) direction to create a circular swing motion around the cartwheel axis.
Performing cartwheels, dive cartwheels, or general fast and power cartwheel variations can help with getting used to landing.
The landing foot should ideally face the opposite direction of where the aerial was performed.
This is to ensure a more straight-on angle for the leg coming into contact with the ground, avoiding unnecessary stress on the joints.
Also allows your leg to be in the position where it can land the sturdiest, using the calf muscles, quadriceps, and glutes to get a solid and safe landing.
How to build strength and coordination to perform an aesthetically pleasing Aerial:
Block-supported heel drive (with a jump as progression): With a block, about hip height, holding the block with both arms for support, keeping the upper body parallel to the ground, and jumping leg lunging forward with the kicking leg at the back. Performers are to perform a kick as hard as they can back and up with their heel, keeping the knee straight, purely using the glutes. To progress, we add a jump as we perform the kick, NOTE that the kick has to be performed first before jumping as it helps increase jump height, and trains the coordination needed for the aerial.
Cartwheels (Focus on swinging the leg around quickly): Performing the cartwheel itself will be helpful, as the aerial is almost like a cartwheel without hands. Using this drill, the performer needs to drive the legs around with all their might, landing their swinging foot as close to their hands as possible proving that they are actively focusing on the kick. NOTE that the cartwheel still has to in a straight axis, avoid building bad habits.
Block-supported heel, side, to toe drive: This drill is more of a mind-muscle connection exercise, it teaches the performer to have more hip control, swinging their leg straight back and up, while rotating the hip.
Static T-jumps (Hurdle to T-jumps as progression): This drill helps the performer learn how to jump in the “T” position, build strength and power in their single leg jumps, and also learn to block the hurdle momentum to transfer it to vertical power. NOTE the T-jump has to be performed in this order (Set upper body close to parallel to the floor(knees should be bent in lunge position) → Back leg performs heel drive hitting its peak → Pushing up the jumping leg as the kick hits it peak)
This drill is important as it is the base of the trick, a good jump, or takeoff plays a big part in the success of the aerial.