Do you need to train Off The Pole?

Why would you do anything other than train pole? As Pole Dancers we want to spend as much time flying round as possible – but here are a few reasons why you might look for some alternatives to help you along the way:

1)   Time – you want to live on the pole but you only have ‘x’ amount of time per week to get to a pole class and that isn’t enough!

2)   No home pole – You’ve tried to convince your landlord/housemate/significant other that you don’t really need a living room and that it would be better served as a personal pole studio but they aren’t being compliant.

3)   You’ve hit a plateau in training that you can’t seem to push past.

4)   You’ve found yourself becoming injured more often

5)   You want to get out in front with pole tricks so when you come to try them you already have the strength and flexibility ready.

6)   You want to benefit your body and pole ability in a multitude of ways and are looking to mix things up.

Technique classes can improve your strength and flexibility, but this is not usually the main focus. As much as we try to remain balanced, we do train asymmetrically on the pole – it’s simply the nature of the beast.

As with any specialized exercise, certain muscles are being worked more than others and this is a battle between becoming unbalanced/potentially-injured VS refining your body to become a pole-dancing machine.

Usually the people seeking out answers are in the frustrating situation of feeling or being further back than they were before, due to over-training, injury or pole plateaus.

During a technique class there is not usually time to do sufficient repetitions to see improvements fast enough for our appetite to progress.  We are focused on the movement itself, not improving the mechanics to assist us.

That’s not to say this doesn’t happen – we can all appreciate the strength and flexibility gains seen through simply taking a pole class, but having some options to improve without relying just on the pole can be very advantageous.

Photograph by The Image Cella

Off The Pole Workouts

This all started with my own journey in pole, and the factors that have led me here include:

1)   Being self taught –having to ‘reverse engineer’ a trick- knowing that I would not necessarily have the right technique for a while so would need the control to work it out during the trick itself rather than know the perfect steps.

2)   Competing – this takes it’s toll on the body as your pushing to your limits and training through aches, pains and niggles.

3)    Instructing – Teaching is a lot of repetition and also doesn’t allow you to rest when sometimes you should. You rely on your body to be ready and on call for long periods of time and potentially push through fatigue more than is recommended.

4)   Travel/work – fighting to balance between wanting freedom of movement and long periods of sitting/driving/admin. In the past few years this is where I have spent most of my focus – in the smaller changes to posture, balancing exercises and mobility.

We expect our bodies to perform like athletes but we don’t have the team around us like they do! It’s up to us to give ourselves the best platform to develop our pole skills. This includes taking some time to invest in strength, conditioning and mobility work. Which is what OTP is all about- bringing together Pole-specific information so you can find exactly what you need and know that it will directly benefit your pole dancing.

My love for pole pushed me to look for pole fitness alternatives that would increase my longevity on the pole and hopefully reach the many students and instructors I’ve met around the world, who seem to be growing increasingly frustrated with injuries and not seeing the improvements they want/expect.

It is a great passion of mine to help research and develop this way of thinking so we can pole MORE not less – but adding in some conditioning and strength training, we can train smart and dance more <3

Pointing your f**king toes

If there’s one thing we love in pole – it’s a good toe point. It helps you to engage muscles throughout the leg (helping you in leg-grip tricks and strength movements like lifting a straddle) and create better lines in your tricks, combos and transitions.

Some people are blessed with a genetically great toe point, some people come to pole with a background in ballet or gymnastics and some need to work on the process along side their pole training.

As with a lot of flexibility – to get the most benefit you need STRENGTH in your range, and this is no different with our feet.

Test by pointing your foot – then see if you can point your foot further by pressing the foot further. Your ‘active foot point’ is what you can achieve without pressing.

“Any attempts to increase the range of motion into either a pointed or flexed position must be accompanied by specific strengthening exercises so that the dancer can actually use the new range of motion when he/she dances. Excessive range in the ankle without excellent proprioception and strength can be the cause of many foot and ankle injuries” TheBalletBlog

How to improve?

To point or not to point?

After banging on about pointing toes…is there a time not to point?

In a word – yes!

Tricks: Certain tricks require a flexed foot to complete the movement – e.g. The Starfish

Dance Style: This is all about intent, if the dancer chooses to flex the feet to either perform a specific trick or in a certain style then that’s completely their prerogative  – as long as it’s done with purpose and not through lack of control

Beginners: Some beginners will learn a movement with the added contact point of a flexed foot to feel more secure – e.g. in a climb or crucifix. This will then be changed to a pointed foot as the beginner improves.

Negatives

Foot stretching devices:

Can end up stretching ligaments, which can lead to injury, instability in the ankle/foot and posture problems. These don’t encourage strengthening the point – so would be similar to pressing the toes down with your hand and wouldn’t translate to the active toe point we want up the pole.

Toe stands:

This is very popular in the pole world but to air on the side of caution, it can cause serious pain and potential problems later down the line if done incorrectly or too much.

The technique can cause bruising on the surface but also puts a lot of stress on the bony arches of the foot.

This should only be done (if absolutely necessary) with strengthening exercises of the foot and ankle along side it.

As someone who has included these in routines and photoshoots, this is not to come across as hypocritical but I have always had a certain level of flexibility in this area which I have also improved over a long period of time, I don’t experience any pain or discomfort (which in itself doesn’t mean its necessarily ok) but I also work to keep my feet strong and mobile whilst not overdoing the stretch/stand.

As with most things in life – we’re adults and can make our own choices, just be aware of the positives AND the negatives so you can look after your long-term-self as well as the short term.