Going back to basics: staying ‘tight’

We’ve all heard it and most instructors have probably said it: Stay tight! But what does it mean and why is it important?

First, let’s talk about why it’s important. If you’re not tight when you’re in the air, and your legs aren’t together, your brain has to process information about two separate things (each of your legs). If you bend your knees, then your brain has to process information about the movement and location of two more things (each of your legs below the knee now). Each separate part of your body that is moving makes demands on your brain’s information processing capacity.

Conversely, when you’re tight, your legs don’t come apart or bend, effectively making everything from your butt down one unit. This reduces the number of ‘things’ your brain has to keep track of and frees additional mental resources (which you can use on things like improving your trick).

Staying tight provides the added bonus of almost instantly giving you a greater sense of control over your own movement. Again, because your brain isn’t trying to figure out how to move several different segments, a tight body means your brain only has to figure out how to move one thing.

So what does it mean to be ‘tight’? To be ‘tight’ while you fly is—in theory—quite straightforward.  All you need to do is engage all of your core musculature and then powerfully squeeze your butt and your legs. From the moment you take off to the moment you finish bouncing in the net.

But how do you do that? Start by trying this exercise at home:

  1. Sit down on the floor with your legs straight and together.
  2. Point your toes.
  3. Squeeze your quads (your thigh muscles) really tight.
  4. Squeeze your butt really tight.
  5. Activate the muscles of your pelvic floor. This helps you create a zipped up feeling. (These are the muscles you use to ‘hold it’ when you have to pee).
  6. Activate your transverse abdominus (it’s the muscle that wraps around you stomach and is a very important muscle for core stabilization). Think of pulling your belly button in towards your spine.
  7. Hold this position.

Start with 5 seconds and work your way up to 30 seconds. As you begin to feel more confident with holding this position, you can gradually lean yourself back into a ‘hollow’ position (think ‘banana shape’).

Ideally, you should be contracting all of these muscles this tightly the whole time you are in the air.

As you begin to feel more confident with holding this position, you can gradually lean yourself back into a ‘hollow’ position (think ‘banana shape’).

Ideally, you should be contracting all of these muscles this tightly the whole time you are in the air.  With time and practice this action will become simpler and eventually it will be second nature when you fly!

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