Most pole dancers look forward to inverted work with a mixture of excitement and horror. On the one hand, you’re going to be putting your butt over your head using only your own body strength! On the other hand, you’re going to be putting your butt over your head using only your own body strength! That can be scary stuff.
That’s why I recommend always, always, always working on position and technique from the floor first. Sort out your points of contact and get them sealed into your muscle memory before you need to rely on them to keep you safe.
Let’s start with inverted crucifix, AKA bat, AKA basic invert. Can you do a standing crucifix on the pole? Then you already know where your legs need to be positioned (ankles/calf+shin/knees as points of contact) and your legs already know what to do–so now, you need to train them to hold you upside down!
Lie on the floor, directly next to the pole, with the pole in your armpit. Place both hands as though you’re inverting. Using your core muscles, roll your hips off the floor and push your toes up and toward the ceiling. The idea is to get your hips way up so they are placed right next to the pole.
Note: your outside leg is your “catch” leg, meaning it is the one that catches the front of the pole. Your inside leg goes behind the pole.
Once your hips are above everything else (it is really important that you don’t just swoop your leg up, your hips need to go up as well for this exercise!), then you can place your outside leg to the front of the pole at the calf. Bring your inside leg to the back of the pole and get your legs situated as they would be for a standing crucifix. Now engage your leg muscles, let go with your hands (remember, you’re on the ground so there’s no danger of falling), and release your core for a moment. See if your legs will hold you; you should definitely be able to feel it if they’re holding any of your weight.
Yes? Great! Do it again and again and again and again, until you can roll your hips up and catch the pole gently with your legs, without even thinking about it.
No? Try again from the very beginning, concentrating on leg position and muscle engagement. You should have a firm hold on the pole using the top of your back foot + shin of your back leg, the achilles of your front foot + calf of your front leg, and your knees. One knee should be on either side of the pole. If your inside knee wants to slide to the back of the pole, bring it back forward. The pole needs to stay in between your legs, and it can’t do that if your knees are out of place!
See how the knee of my back leg is next to the pole? That’s just where you want it. It’s relatively common to allow that back leg to straighten too much, and then your knee slides behind the pole . . . and you slide d-o-w-n. No fun.
*** Before you begin to invert, be sure you’ve been doing lots and lots and lots of pole holds to condition your arms and back, plus core work like pole tucks, planks, all that good stuff–inversions must be done with control in order to be safe. If you’re not ready to go up and come down with control, keep practicing from the floor like I described above, and when the control is there, you’ll be ready to go!
Almost every move can be prepped from the floor. In the next several posts I’ll cover how leg hangs, butterfly, even aysha, can be sorted out from the safety of good ol’ terra firma before you take the plunge and go upside down!