Skydiving Health and Fitness | Introduction to Canopy Piloting Conditioning
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Saturday, July 20, 2024
Skydiving Health and Fitness | Introduction to Canopy Piloting Conditioning

Skydiving Health and Fitness | Introduction to Canopy Piloting Conditioning

By Dr. Nancy Grieger, DPT

Safety & Training
Monday, June 28, 2021

Brought to you by Dr. Nancy Grieger, DPT, of Blue Skies Physical Therapy at Skydive Elsinore in California, and Christian Cody, canopy piloting instructor with Flight-1. Video of each exercise is available at

Canopy piloting competitors sure do make it look easy, but if you take a canopy piloting course, you’ll probably find that you need to improve your strength and endurance in certain areas to achieve the ideal performance level. These exercises are useful for canopy piloting beginners who wish to correct their toggle pressure, improve their body position in the harness and achieve better harness inputs. Perform one to two sets (depending on your endurance) of 10 repetitions for each exercise.

Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. If you have any questions about the exercises contained in this article, consult with a local certified professional or contact Dr. Nancy Grieger at (951) 894-9500  or through her website,


Toggle/Riser Pressure (Closed-Grip Front-Lat Pull Down)

This strengthening exercise can help correct uneven toggle inputs caused by unilateral weakness. Use a narrow bar on a lat-pull-down machine.

Start: Stand holding the overhead bar.

Action: Pull the bar down, keeping the arms in toward the body. Use your triceps and lats and depress your shoulder blades. Push over the bar and press down once you get to 90 degrees of elbow flexion.

End: Stand while contracting your upper abdominals and hold for five seconds. Don’t lock your elbows. Slowly release to the start position.


Body Position in Harness (Vertical Knee Raise)

This strengthening exercise, performed on a pull-up bar, can help combat the tendency to drop the legs and hang in the harness when piloting a canopy.

Start: Dead hang from the pull-up bar with arms fully extended.

Action: Keeping your legs together, bring your knees up slowly and hold your thighs horizontal. (You do not want to bring your knees so high that you decrease your input and pressure in the leg straps.) Focus on evenly lifting your knees using your lower abs.  Do not use momentum by swinging to bring up your knees.

End: Keep your knees together and hold your thighs horizontal to the ground (about 90 degrees or a little above) for five seconds. Slowly release evenly back to the start position.


Harness Input (Bent-Knee Alternating-Side Raise)

This exercise, performed on a pull-up bar, benefits those who have a tendency to drop their legs and use their toggles instead of utilizing their cores to fly with their harnesses. 

Start: Perform a vertical knee raise from the pull-up bar.

Action: Bend your knees and bend sideways at your torso, like you are trying to lift your hip to your armpit using your obliques and lats.

End: With your hips elevated on one side and knees together, use your obliques and lats to hold that position for five seconds. Slowly lower to the start position and repeat


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