How Contortionists Work

Contortion Training

Whether it's walking around on all-fours with your chest to the sky or pulling your legs behind your head to check your own diaper, contortion work looks both difficult and painful. Those who practice the art form, however, say that just about anyone can learn to do it with the right training [source: Simply Circus].

For beginners, the idea is to gradually increase flexibility through various training exercises. Those who are new to contortion may want to begin with a set of simple stretching exercises like the ones from gym class for a month or so in order to limber up a bit. Yoga and Pilates classes are also good ideas, as these types of exercise will help increase both strength and flexibility while easing your body into life as a contortionist. Increase your yoga and Pilates sessions over time until you feel ready to take the next step toward contortion [source: Simply Circus].


Before starting any serious contortion exercises, it's important to begin each session with a warm-up, consisting of some running and light stretching exercises. The point is to get the body moving and limber without pushing the muscles [source: Simply Circus].

The actual exercise regimen that a contortionist undertakes varies based on whether he or she is a front or back bender. The goal is to start with simple exercises and push the body over time. A front bender, for example, may start by standing up straight and then touching his or her toes. As time goes on, the person can add wrinkles to the exercise by grasping the ankles and, later, reaching through the legs and touching as far back as he or she can reach. Similar progressions with splits and twist exercises are also common [source: Simply Circus].

A back bender might start by facing his or her back to a wall or piece of furniture and using it as a brace while bending backward slowly over time. Or the contortionist may try a variation of the exercise, lying with his or her chest to the ground and using the hands and arms to help bend backward while keeping the hips to the floor [source: Simply Circus].