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Tuesday, 27 March 2012 12:08

Aerobatic flight-oriented physical preparation.

Written by  Josep María Cervantes
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Competitions begin soon, and a good flight training that is technical (sequences, maneuvers, etc.) as well as physical is crucial to establish a good season and meet the objectives we have proposed, regardless of the type, during the planned aerobatic competitions for this year.


Spring is already here, and although we are some months away from the first national competitions and even further away from the international competitions (summer), it is time to prepare ourselves mentally and begin to prepare (if some of you haven't done so yet) physically as well as technically for the flight marathon that awaits us over the course of the season.

Althought technical preparation is perhaps one of the most important aspects of our discipline, there is another preparation of equal or more importance that is essential for helping us to enjoy, relax, be more conscious of flight, and dare I say it, help us to save a couple of euros in gas; I am talking about the importance of good physical preparation. For this reason, Josep María Cervantes, licensed in sports science and physical activity, athlete (two time Catalunya Kick Boxing Champion), coach, and physical trainer of high-performance pilots like Bernat Seuba (two time Bike Trail World Champion); analyzes and explains to us which physical qualities are most necessary in our sport, like the crucial parts of the body and which are worked the most during aerobatic activity, recommending some exercises to develop these muscles with the goal that our body withstand the large forces of aerobatic flight maneuvers in the best way.

The phsyical form is where distinct components intervene (cardiovascular resistence, capacity of force, capacity of speed...) and interact with each other. In aerobatic flight, without a doubt, the most required fundamental qualities are cardiovascular capacity and strength. In this article, we will discuss the latter in detail.

 Strength training is a vital element for reaching success in this discipline. It is necessary to have a resistance training program that addresses the needs of aerobatic flight.  Whether or not you fulfill these demands will depend on the specificity that we are able to give our training.

Aerobatic flight does not require elevated levels of strength, however you do need very precise control of muscle contractions, concentric and eccentric.  Moreover, there is also a constant requirement for isometric contractions (muscular contractions produced without movement) at the abdominal level as well as the lower extremities to counteract the effects of G-load at the cerebral blood flow level. Training with resistances increases and amplifies the ability to maintain anti-g maneuvers (AGSM).

Isometric contractions also allow us to support the load properly on the body of the pilot. Although the torso of the pilot is fixed to the plane, all of the back, the chest, abdomen, and shoulders should contract isometrically to stabilize the body at times when G-force is very high. This stabilization is critical for maintaining control of the head. The neck muscles also undergo great stress, and as a result, should be conditioned.

The upper extremities should be capable of performing under G-loads, a job as precise and technical as aerobatic flight figures.

So simple, and at the same time, so complex: in training, you should pay attention to the physcial requirements that the plane imposes.

Next, as an example, I'm going to show you some of the exercises that we have used with aerobatic pilots in the general preparatory period, represented in an outline of strength training that the pilot did.

As you can see, all the exercises require a great deal of postural control (scapular waist, lumbo-pelvic region) and a technical level, which is why it is necessary to work at a progression with less unstable and more analytical exercises. 


Power clean:

Carga en Squat


Multi-articulating exercise that combines the movement of the snatch grip deadlift, the pull, and the squat.

It involves large muscle groups, with high speed of execution and great intensity.

Inverted Row:


Flexiones remo invertido

Movement that especially works the latissimus dorsi, teres major, deltoids,brachioradialis muscle, and all of the muscle groups involved in the stabilization of the scapular waist, the thorax, abdominal zone, and pelvic waist.

Medicine ball flexions:


Flexiones balón medicinal

Version of conventional flexions that consist in a movement comprised of the scapulohumeral articulation and elbow extensors.  They especially work the pectoralis major as a whole as well as the deltoids, the brachial triceps, and the muscle groups  responsible for the stability of the scapular waist, the thorax, abdominal zone and pelvic waist.

The support over the medicine ball adds difficulty to the exercise; first, because this base of support is unstable and second, because it prevents us from working symmetrically.

Chin ups:



Movement of combined actions of the scapulohumeral articulation of the elbow where the latissimus dorse, teres major, rhomboids, brachial biceps and the muscle groups responsible for the stability of the scapular waist, the thorax, the abdominal zone, and the pelvic waist, are exercised.

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