I have been poling since 2009, and in my years on the pole, I have gotten some pretty amazing tips from my fellow pole dancers, personal trainers, and fitness instructors. Here’s a quick rundown of a few of the best:
- In order for a muscle to stretch properly, its opposing muscle must be its equal in strength. Balance, balance, balance is the word when it comes to your strength and muscle development! Your hamstrings will never stretch to their full capability if your quads aren’t strong enough to help them get there.The first time I heard this . . . it made total sense to me. For example, if you are in downward dog and your heels are a mile away from the mat, engage your quadriceps to help your hamstrings stretch. When I remind myself to do this, I get an instant 1/2-1″ additional stretch from the release of my hamstrings. Mind BLOWN.
- If you always get cramps from trying to point your toes, try to straighten the line of your ankle and point your *foot* instead. Engage your calf muscles rather than scrunching up your poor toes. The visual effect will be an elongated line, but the sole-of-the-foot toe-point cramp will be greatly minimized. You may be amazed at the difference it makes for you. A fair part of the visual effect of a pointed toe comes from having a straight line across the ankle–the brain knows there’s a joint there, so if that joint is invisible (i.e., you have a visually straight line running continuously from knee to instep, everything looks more elongated and pointed. Sometimes optical illusions can help us. 😉
- One of the best ways to become more body-aware is to be mindful of how your body responds to requests from you to move it. Always, always, always think about what your body is doing. Don’t just swing your arms/legs/torso around when stretching, for example. Practice thoughtful stretching and really focus on what muscles are engaging vs what muscles are relaxing in any given stretch. It will become easier to ask those muscles to do things for you when you know what to ask, and how!
- Functional strength is the best and most important kind of strength you can work to develop, and that requires changing up your workout. As pole dancers, ask our body to hold us and move us in ever-changing ways–it’s the ultimate in cross-training in some ways! If you do the same exact workout at the gym all the time, your body will be trained to do those moves and not much else. How often do you, in real life, lift a heavy object directly over your head? So change your stance. Alter your grip. Change something. Want to read more about this concept? Here’s a fun article on functional strength training.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these four things come back to me every single time I train or teach. What are the best tips you’ve ever gotten?