Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, what do you do, and how did you first get involved in the world of acrobatics?
My name is Willy Weldens, and I’m the fourth generation of circus artists in my family.
I grew up watching my father perform on his hands, and it was a natural progression that I would do the same. He taught me the ropes, and I found a love for hand-balancing.
You must be on the road a lot. Where did you grow up, and how do you cope with life and training on the move?
Yes, I travel all over the world. I was born in a caravan in France while my parents were traveling between France and Canada. Being on the road is part of the job, and part of the passion.
I absolutely love repetition, and I make sure to adapt exercises and equipment for my trips. I always find ways to get my workouts in.
Five years old is a very early start to physical training. What does acrobatic strength training look like for a five year old?
It’s structured in much the same way as for an older acrobat, but it is much less physically demanding.
I learned many things by observing others, and developed an understanding of how my body works; a sense of its rotation and equilibrium points. I jumped around, and started flips and handstands. At the same time I also juggled, and I had a unicycle act with my sister.
Tell us about a typical day in the life of Willy Weldens. How is your day structured? What does your training involve?
I always start my day with a good strong coffee and a banana – and off I go!
I begin by training abs, because it gently wakes me up. I do all sorts of ab exercises, both on the floor and suspended from a bar.
I then work on planks and push-ups on my bars until my arms burn, and then attack my handstand exercises. My handstand exercises involve a whole host of rather technical tricks. I’ll do tricks on one arm, then jump to the other arm and do the same.
I finish up with some human flags and boards on my bar, before a final 4km sprint session so that I’m never out of breath on stage.
All of this usually takes me two or three hours in the morning, and then in the afternoon I’ll do the same again. I’ll do more handstand work on my inverter for the stage and practice new movements, which takes me another two or three hours depending on my schedule.
I haven’t missed a training session since the age of twelve. That makes sixteen years of consistency with my morning exercises. Whether it rained or snowed, or if I was sick or even hospitalized, I made sure to fit my training in. Strength of mind is very important for that. I know it’s a cliché, but my motto is ‘never give up’.
I’ve never been in a gym or used any weights. I don’t know what level I’m at in terms of weightlifting strength and, frankly, I don’t care!
I work as requested or contracted. Sometimes that’s for a whole season at a park, cabaret, or circus, performing several times every day. Other performances are “one shots”, which are one-off performances for TV, festivals, etc.
I often work when others are at rest, such as at weekends or during holidays. December is a big month for performance artists because of Christmas. Sometimes I’m fully booked up to a year in advance.
Everyone has parts of their training routine that they love and parts they struggle with. What part of your training do you enjoy the most, and are there any elements you often wish you could skip?
Honestly, I love everything. There isn’t a single part that I hate.
Sometimes when it rains or when I need to catch a plane early and I have no choice, I admit that it takes a lot of motivation, but I would never consider skipping any of it.
Tell us about your diet. Do you count calories or macronutrients? Do you take any supplements to enhance your health or performance?
No, I take absolutely nothing. I’ve never taken any supplements.
I just eat normally. I love red meat and on occasion I’ll even eat fast food. I don’t count calories either, I just try not to eat to excess.
Your head-balance on a bottle is incredible. How do you come up with new ideas for performances to keep things fresh?
Thank you very much.
I’ve always said that I’m looking for something truly unique; an idea that is one of kind. This is difficult to do because almost all hand-balancing movements have already been invented or improved upon as much as they can be. Innovation is especially hard in balancing acts, but I like to think I’ve proven myself and created something unique!
Do you have any tips for aspiring acrobats or anyone interested in taking their bodyweight training to the next level?
Work hard and do not give up. Whatever you do, you have to do for yourself.
What does the future hold for Willy Weldens Acrobatics Circus? How will you continue to improve and expand your show?
That’s a good question, and unfortunately I have not yet found the answer!
Careers in hand-balancing are often short, because strength decreases with age, but I’m not quite at that stage yet! I’m still moving forward.
In France there is a proverb that says, “It is the old pots that make the best soup.”
Find out more about Willy’s show at:
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Excellent article. Many doubts cleared and replaced with new ones.
I have never exercised or played till I developed a heart condition and was given a bypass surgery.
I thought I was losing my mind by 63 with all the medications. Finally I Rebelled and stopped all medication and resorted to exercising.
No experience or coach but just a desire for doing something when I did not even know what Calisthenics was.
Today I am almost 69 and seriously desire to do something special like a free standing handstand and a muscle up.
The latter a pipe dream.
Realised that age had made serious dents like PPT, bent elbows, inflexible wrists, lack of strength and the list could go on but I am choosing to keep those things aside. I am now a bit better and more hopeful than ever.
Thanks for the good article.
Great interview, Todd. Many thanks for bringing us content like this. The guy is an absolute beast and anyone who says you can’t build mass with cals just needs to look at his pics. Do you know how tall/heavy he is?
Thanks Gavin. So glad you liked it. No idea on his specific stats but definitely agree you can build mass with just calisthenics.
Great article! Ever since the resurgence in the interest of body weight training has come about, i think it’s really opened up peoples eyes to training recovery, and training frequency, and the fact that people can take a lot more than they ever thought possible. Sure he has been doing this since he was 5, but still it makes you think.
I even remember a article on a man named Dragan Radovic, he’s in his late 50’s maybe early 60’s now, but he primarily does high rep body weight stuff, but he’s the guy that has the record for basically doing a hammer curl to press for reps, he has this challenge where if people can beat him he’d give them 10k, Any way he trains daily, and he mentioned his great grandfather was a lumberjack, chopping and sawing wood 8 or more hours a day, 6 days a week, no thoughts of ” overtraining” ha ha ha, So he had the same thought process.
What i thought was interesting with Willy, was he trains his abs and then burns out his arms with pushups etc, before he does his more technical training? But he also has been training for years, where someone newer to this kind of training you’d think would do that in the opposite?
Great point. I think too many people are worried about “over training” and looking for the perfect system. Good ol fashion hard work, sweat and just doing the exercise will beat any perfectly researched system out there.
I think anyone that is newer to training should train technical skills (handstand, planches, etc.) before training muscle fatigue and endurance. Willy is an animal so he does his own thang. 🙂