...and how to make them look effortless.
1. Bent arms during the set up. Not only does this bring your body closer to the slack and thereby hinder the leg action, it wastes precious energy and looks labored. Instead, use your grip strength and hang into fully straight arms whilst you complete the foot lock. Using this technique every time will help you build your stamina and strengthen the muscles of your entire shoulder girdle and back. These muscles are bigger muscles in general (Lattisimus Dorsi compared to Biceps for example) and better designed for this kind of work.
2. Flexing your foot as you wrap!! Whilst I'm not 100% against the occasional flexed foot, most aerial students do not take the time to make a flexed foot look a) deliberate and b) pretty. If you cannot bear the sight of a sickled foot (a pointed toe that is turned slightly inward) then the following alternative options are open to you. Flex it like you mean it! Turn the toes of both feet outward and take your time completing the lock. You can make this look extra pretty by arching your back and dropping the head back whilst keeping your arms straight. You can also train yourself to complete the lock by applying gentle pressure to the slack with a pointed toe, making sure that you turn the foot that is already wrapped inward. This maintains the tension of the foot wrap as you complete the lock by 'cycling' the foot into its final position.
Invent your own different way into a foot lock! I recently came up with an alternative entry for single tail foot lock which has proven very popular and eliminates the need for the second leg's action - it took a long time to figure out!
3. RUSHING! This is common especially with beginners, due to low stamina and grip strength but tends to only exacerbate every foreseeable problem you can encounter during a foot lock set up. The more you struggle the more the silk refuses to cooperate! Sound familiar? Or perhaps you've seen this happen to even advanced students as they tire towards the end of their routines? Training slow, deliberate and purposeful movements is the only way to build stamina and certain specific kinds of fitness variables such as control (strength over time). And when you are fatigued, reverting to proper technique often means slowing down and will always serve you better than rushing.
4. Holding the poles together. This unevenly stresses the shoulder girdle and although it is sometimes necessary to climb the silks this way, most skills and combinations actually benefit from starting with the poles separated (see "playing the harp") Plus, we cant see you..! And if you have students who argue that they are not wanting to perform, then you can tell them this. Every movement is in itself a performance. That's what execution IS. How you execute any move will tell me straight away where your strengths and weaknesses are. You're just doing it for fitness? Great! Well then you'll be pleased to hear that the most aesthetically pleasing way to execute a trick is also most often the hardest way you can train it - resulting in you getting fitter and stronger.
5. Not enough slack in the set up ("bandage foot"). This occurs when you place the free foot too close to the wrapped foot and don't give yourself enough slack to complete the lock. This results in bending that leg and being cramped. It also overloads the arms as you end up lifting your legs much higher than necessary. Always wrap the foot at about 45 degrees or less and if you need to you can always slide your heel downward to create a longer section of slack to complete the wrap.
6. Wrapping the foot too high, makes hard work for your arms and we can tell! This results in not enough slack and not being able to pull yourself up into standing on your foot lock. Unless your intention is to complete the foot lock and stay crouched (I.e not standing) The only time you may need to do this is on a small silk (less than 4m) when you want to place your foot lock as high as possible in order to do forward rolls or a single foot hang drop for example. If you have the space, giving yourself plenty of space is always the nicer option from both an aesthetic and physical standpoint.
7. "Playing the harp" - spending performance time desperately trying to separate the poles is a waste of energy! Unless there is a reason for the poles to be together, it is better to train with them separated. In the case of a foot lock, even if you are proceeding into a trick with them together after you complete the lock, you can still hold them separately in the set up then simply join them as you move on in the combination. It is much harder to separate them once under tension, but very easy to out them together if necessary.
8. Not enough space between your body and the Slack. This happens if you wrap the tail directly underneath yourself and not at 45 degrees.
9. Can't find the gap? Chances are you're not keeping the poles far enough apart for the whole duration of the setup (Egg Beaters). This comes down to a lack of full hang strength (arms straight, armpits and palms turned OUT) and sometimes grip strength. Create a wide gap between the poles and maintain this space for the entire duration of the setup. This in turn makes you focus on making your leg action pretty and not just whatever movement is necessary to complete the wrap.
10. What is your other leg doing?! This one is easy to forget. When you're free leg is not immediately involved in the leg action (and this applies to a lot of moves) it tends to hang out in space in a nondescript position. Then it tends to get in the way or just look plain ugly. I recommend keeping enough active tension with the free leg so that if it is not involved at least it looks pretty with straight knees and pointed toes. When setting up a foot lock on a single tail, always step through the tails and face that one tail with your torso before you start the set up for the lock. This avoids the free leg getting all tangled up in the free tail.
I hope these tips help you create solid, effortless foot locks! I'd love to see your style - Tag me and hashtag #mindfulmovement