Written by: Neola Wilby
Peanut butter, pork crackling, the sound of snow under-foot on a crisp winter’s day – these things are gloriously, satisfyingly crunchy. One thing that definitely should NOT be crunchy, however, is shoulders.
I think it was about 6 months after I started pole when I first noticed that every rotation of my left shoulder sounded like loose change being sucked up a vacuum cleaner. Crunch, kaclick, crunch. I knew I had to do something before I caused any major damage, so I started incorporating shoulder mobility and strength drills into my workouts.
Thankfully, I no longer have to describe my shoulders as “…. erm….crunchy”, but whether you are feeling it or not, pole is super stressful on the shoulders and if you want to build shoulders that can take on twisted grip handsprings and flying phoenixes without risk of injury, read on and find out how to crunch-proof your shoulders for pole…
Why is the shoulder at risk?
The shoulder, unlike most of our joints, can move in multiple planes of motion. It’s that wide range of mobility which allows us to contort our bodies into crazy-ass positions like bridges, twisted grips and even just simple spins around the pole.
But whilst we’re busy twirling ourselves into beautiful shapes, swinging and dangling from our arms, there are a number of different muscles all working behind the scenes in conjunction with the scapula and humorous bone, and because our shoulders are so mobile, they’re having to bust their balls to keep the shoulder joint together.
The main muscles responsible for shoulder stability and protection of the joint are a group of four muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff. And the reason why shoulder injuries are so common in pole is that those four rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) are pretty small, and we put a huge amount of strain on those poor little muscles even during very basic pole moves.
The other reason the rotator cuff is prone to injury is that we don’t tend to train the shoulder in all its different ranges of motion, so the muscles become unbalanced and those muscles we don’t use become dormant, making the shoulder weak in certain positions. If you’re doing pole on a regular basis, trust me, weak shoulders are gonna be bad, bad news.
The shoulder drills that follow are designed to strengthen the rotator cuff in all of those different planes of motion, so that it is better equipped to cope with the stress we put on it when we go all pole-ninja mode.
As I said, the rotator cuff muscles are small, so we don’t train them with heavy weights. A resistance band or really light dumbbells will do. For the exercises below, I’ve used a resistance band and a pole.
What’s the point of these shoulder drills?
These shoulder drills are preventative exercises to strengthen all the different muscles of the rotator cuff in its different planes of motion. They will help to increase your endurance on the pole and prevent shoulder injuries. Each movement targets the rotator cuff in a slightly different way.
When to do them?
Try and fit them in three times a week if you can, just make sure you are warm first. I usually do them as part of my pole warm up.
How to do them?
Simple – tie your resistance band to your pole and follow the diagrams below.
There are 8 exercises. Aim for 8-10 reps of each one – and then repeat for 3 sets. For all of the exercises, keep the core tight with a neutral spine throughout the whole of the movement.
I hope this helps someone. Shoulder health is so important in pole, it really can’t be stressed enough. If you’re serious about pole then you need to get serious about your shoulders!
I’d love to know how you get on – so please let me know. I’m planning a shoulder mobility post to follow this up so stay tuned for that!
About the author
Neo is a fitness writer and personal trainer from Yorkshire, England. A former lawyer, she left the legal profession to pursue her passion for fitness and is now much happier lifting weights, playing pole and writing about all things fitness.