Why it’s important to do conditioning exercises.
Many people want to start pole dancing but they believe they are not strong enough or fit enough and they tell us they are going to ‘get fit’ before joining. To which we always reply if you want to be fit for pole then you need to do pole. Think about it if you wanted to be a marathon runner would you go to gymnastics? No, you would start walking and progress on to jogging short distances until you had conditioned your body to run for longer and longer distances and then one day you run a marathon.
So with this in mind why do we need to do conditioning exercises to be better at pole? Well your choice of exercise is important, because last time I looked at the pole bible of moves I didn’t see any move that was performed like a squat or a barbell dead lift (hmm maybe if you are a partner in doubles). Now I am not saying these exercises are not good for you or that they won’t give you any benefits (they will definitely give you a better bum!) but will they make the pole tricks any better? Probably not, because the conditioning exercises should emulate what you do on the pole. A good condition program will help balance your body, (let’s face it even though your instructor is telling you to do it on both sides you’re not actually working both sides evenly are you? Be honest, how many times do you actually practice everything on both sides? ) It will also strengthen you in a safe position, so doing reverse curls holding onto the pole against your shoulder and dragon flags on the floor is safer than holding your shoulder mount position in the air for a long period of time.
Conditioning exercises also help improve your lines (another topic to blog about) by allowing you to practice partial moves with better positioning. So imagine you want a better invert but your legs bend and feet flex, lots of straight leg scissor kicks will improve this. By conditioning your body through specific ranges of motion means that you can work on the weak points to improve your overall strength.
Let’s take the example you want to be better at climbing. Let’s break down the action and see what would help
A climb starts with the arms placed high above the head and the shoulders pulled down and back so exercise number one could be hanging straight arm shoulder shrugs.
The second part of the climb is to bring the legs onto the pole so that the knees are in line with the hips so next practice lifting your feet up off the floor without jumping or bending the arms. I always describe this movement as a feeling of sucking the knees up as this creates a drawing up action with control rather than jumping. You could always hold the position with your feet and knees holding on for a count of 5 to 10.
The third part of the climb is to squeeze the knees as you pull with the arms and drive your hips towards the pole to stand up. Exercise no 3 becomes this movement. Practice pulling up and lowering down in this position. This will help you to understand how the knees hold you on and it also conditions the skin and contact points to make them less sensitive.
The fourth part of the climb is the actual moving up the pole so from standing you squeeze hard with the legs to stop yourself from slipping, re-grip your hands higher up the pole and begin the process again. So this is the equivalent of running more distance if you were training for a marathon. This stage is where you need your mileage and practice makes perfect so just do it!
Pole conditioning really needs to be done on the pole at each class or practice session.
To become stronger 3 things need to happen in the muscles, we need to create small tears that then heal stronger, we need to accumulate lots of blood in the muscle which gives you that muscle pump feeling and finally there need to be some metabolic stress on a hormonal level (think of how your muscles ache the next day). We create these circumstances by using sets and reps. Set are how many times you perform groups of repetitions. Usually on the pole we do a move once or twice, we either get it or we don’t then we move on (admit it this is you!) Unless you repeat the process until your muscles are pumped and aching you will never get any adaptations in the muscles.
Sometimes a move improves because of the practice you have done and the nervous system catches up and finally the brain gets the correct information and can tell you which muscles to contract in which order and bish bash bosh the move is complete.
Conditioning exercises can help when a move is too hard and can only be practiced a few times before you are too tired to practice it safely again. Breaking the move into smaller parts and gradually joining the parts together is a great way to progress. You practice all positions for the nervous system and you also create the 3 circumstances for muscle growth.
So now you are ready to do some conditioning exercises. How many should you do and how often? Specific condition movements can be performed for 3 -4 set of 8 -15 receptions. The important thing is that you do the exercise to almost failure, meaning you have maybe 1 or ½ rep left in you. This is to keep you from injuring yourself or over training.
If you come to pole 1 x week I would recommend doing a few core and major muscles exercises in every class. Be careful that you are not over training your pulling muscles (back and biceps) as these actions are predominate movers in pole moves and working the push exercises (chest, shoulders and triceps) can help balance your work out, improve your posture and stabilise the pulling muscles to make these muscle perform better. So if you have spent the class doing climbing, inverts and leg hangs, place some handstand training in to create balance ( I personally use my handstand on my dismounts to ensure the balance with every move).
If you are interested in having some specific conditioning exercises or things you can do at home then let me know and I will create a post for you.