Handstand February: ‘How to Survive’ – part 3


This week we have something for all those of you who like to geek out on fitness and anatomy details! After delving into falling and fear, we’re going to end this 3-part series with a 3-part knowledge bomb;

This is a must for instructors/trainers and everyone else who wants to upgrade their know-how – it is a sure way to take your (students’) performance to new heights.

Throughout our pole journeys, there are several ‘Eureka’ moments, when we realize we might have been doing something wrong all along. Nailing your nemesis move is great, but there are no greater achievements quite as powerful as the mobility and prehab epiphanies (which allow you to enhance the quality of your training immensely).


Since mobility was already subjected to a thorough blog post, today we’ll talk about the latter.

Prehab, as the word suggests, consists of habilitating yourself for the task at hand BEFORE attempting it – in the fitness field this consists of:

  • Proper warm-ups
  • Effectively visualizing the move (break it down into simpler steps)


Warming up should be the first and foremost stage in every workout, since it is paramount to stay injury-free – studies (here and here) have shown that when you ‘prime’ your muscles for the upcoming bout of physical exercise, your injury probability decreases significantly.


This entails working up a sweat while your muscles undergo a fraction of the force you’ll need to successfully workout. For us pole dancers, and every other body-weight training athlete, this means lifting less weight/exerting less force than your total weight (acceleration times mass equals force).


Tips and tricks for handstands


Below are a couple of videos that you can leverage to stave off injury, whilst preparing for on- or off the pole activities.



…and a little throwback to 2 years ago:



Handstands 301



Each exercise is different, and requires you to focus on different muscle groups.

But some things remain true, whatever the workout – while your bones are load-bearing (collagen absorbs traction forces, while hydroxyapatite withstands compression events), your muscles, tendons and ligaments articulate movement of your skeleton and, with proper training, increase your endurance, i.e the ability to undergo strenuous exercise for longer periods of time.

handstand february off the pole feature

Without going into too much detail, here is some bite-sized knowledge:

  • Muscles – fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers – we can harness the former for power, while the latter provide us with endurance – different approaches to training are required to improve both
  • Bones – (mostly) consist of organic collagen and inorganic hydroxyapatite; a useful analogy is made by looking at reinforced concrete, where steel plays the role of collagen, and cement works just like hydroxyapatite
  • Tendons connect bone to muscle, promoting stability and the ability to pivot around your joints; ligaments connect bone to bone, and they share the workload with tendons.


In regards to handstand-related anatomy, these are the most important aspects:


  • Wrists


Planes of movement:

– Frontal (flexion/extension)

– Sagital (abduction/adduction)


If we don’t strengthen our upper body we risk overexerting our wrists, which is where most of the force is applied when in full handstand. Warming these up with flexion, tension, abduction, adduction and circular movements also efficiently increases temperature and primes them for not only handstand training but also any other off- or on the pole activity.


  • Forearm


The ugly duckling of the bunch; it deserves a proper workout too! Your finger flexors elicit movement from it, so clutching movements (like the one shown in the image below) are perfect to get those forearm tendons burning, promoting hypertrophy in the process.



  • Elbow


Planes of movement:

– Sagital (left/right)

– Frontal (flexion/extension)

By allowing the biceps and triceps to work in tandem with your forearm you’re able to take the strain away from your elbow.


  • Shoulders


shoulder involvement

Planes of movement:

– Horizontal (up/down)

– Frontal (flexion/extension)

In turn, your deltoid and trapeze muscles provide added stability to the joint, allowing you to focus on your balance.

Check this out for a detailed overview of how your shoulders engage, we’ve covered them in depth in a previous blog.



You’d think that the perfect handstand would rely solely on the upper body, but this is by no means true: bracing your core and using your lower legs for balance are just as important.

And like we talked about in part 2, your handstand posture is of the utmost importance.

Here is that video in case you missed it:


Proprioception: what is it?

The last item on the list for today is proprioception; despite looking and sounding daunting, this is nothing more than your awareness at play – repetition is key to mastering ANY move, and with each iteration you develop a sense of what muscles you need to engage, what movements you have to trigger, and when.

And then you do, automatically.

Some people call this “muscle memory”.

Try to pole dance with a blindfold on and you’ll see what I mean.


DISCLAIMER: Please don’t hold me accountable if you or anything breaks while doing this..!!! I’m joking, but be careful.


Next week we’ll do a little recap and go over how you can effectively recover your muscles and joints from the handstand gauntlet they’ve been subjected to. Stay safe, and remember,







[1] – Shellock, F.G. & Prentice, W.E. Sports Medicine “Warming-Up and Stretching for Improved Physical Performance and Prevention of Sports-Related Injuries” (1985) 2: 267

[2] – Fradkin, AJ, Zazryn, TR, and Smoliga, JM. “Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis.”  2010,  J Strength Cond Res 24(1): 140-148,

[3] – Holm, Inger PT, PhD* et al, “Effect of Neuromuscular Training on Proprioception, Balance, Muscle Strength, and Lower Limb Function in Female Team Handball Players” – Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: March 2004 – Volume 14 – Issue 2 – p 88-94


Jazzy K Interview | Time to rethink your training? | Episode #006

Welcome back to the Off The Pole Podcast, where we help you train smart so you can dance more. Episode #6 features Jazzy K as my guest – she found pole dance in 2009 and quickly got into teaching and competing.

She’s been a finalist in the Felix Cane Pole Championships multiple times, won Pole Theatre Switzerland in the Classique category and Exotic Level 4 at the PSO Europe Edition in 2017. As an XPERT trainer she teaches at Gravity Arts in Zurich, and when she’s not there she’s traveling the world teaching workshops.

But what I really wanted to get her on to talk about was her change in attitude with her training – highlighted in a recent Facebook post which was hugely popular as I think so many people related to it. Enjoy our chat!

Really hope you guys enjoy the 6th episode in the podcast series – you can subscribe to our pole podcast on iTunes to keep updated with all the latest episodes and it would mean the world to me if you could leave a review!

Hit play above or watch or read the transcript below.


Sarah:                      Welcome, Jazzy. Thank-you for doing my podcast. Much appreciated you little Swiss beautiful creature.

Jazzy:                        Thank-you so much, Sarah.

Sarah:                      I’ve already given a little bit of an introduction about who you are, where you come from, how long you’ve been doing Pole. But I’m sure everyone knows you already because you’re everywhere. But I thought we could start off with maybe you letting us know, what are your plans or your pole goals for 2018?

Jazzy:                        Pole goals? Like one … I don’t have a goal that you can say, “I want to do this trick”, or, “I want to be able to do this”, for me at the moment. It’s actually really about getting to play more. To enjoy myself more. Again, I do pole for eight years now. Sometimes I kind of lost the play in pole. For me it’s also that I really set my goal for 2018 to go and play more and do different things. Explore pole more without having to be like, “I want to do this competition”, or, “I want to go to this showcase”, or whatever. It’s, just get the joy again.

Sarah:                      You did a lot of competitions last year. Can you remember how many you did?

Jazzy:                        No.

Sarah:                      Okay. Almost too many if you can’t even remember how many.

Jazzy:                        I think it’s –

Sarah:                      Do you feel like you lose that sense of play when you are competing because there’s that extra pressure to get a routine done? Or do you actually feel like you get more creative when you have the pressure of a routine that you have to do?

Jazzy:                        It is kind of both. Competing always gave me a platform or a chance to improve, because it put me under pressure. But at the same point, I feel like I lost so many opportunities to just explore more of what my body can do, or where I want to go. Being free of having to do a routine, being on time pressure, and a lot of teaching. Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t have that much time to spend more time improving my teaching as I wanted to. I think it was a good thing. I did it, for four years now, kind of a lot. But in the last year, I got to a point where I actually felt like I lose the joy. I didn’t want that to happen. I love pole, and that’s why I set myself a goal, two max a year, nothing more.

Sarah:                      That’s even, that’s a lot for most people.

Jazzy:                        I know.

Sarah:                      That’s more than I’m doing!

Jazzy:                        Three in three months.

Sarah:                      You did three in three months? You lunatic…

Jazzy:                        Yeah.

Sarah:                      You were everywhere. Goddamn. You don’t repeat routines either. You do a lot of fresh routines all the time, so fair play. Do you find that when you’re doing competing, that you have to add in more recovery or look after your body a certain way? Or is it literally, I’m just going to get through this and just get the competition over and recover afterwards”? Or do you have specific things you do along your competition prep to keep you ticking over?

Jazzy:                        I really look that I, when I know I have a competition coming up, I try to really be careful with my food so that I get all the nutrition. I feel like when I get too much junk food I just can’t function properly. That’s really important for me. Good food. Nutritional food, and enough sleep. Definitely enough sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep I really feel it.

Sarah:                      Do you get as hangry as … Was there another one for sleep? Tungry? Tired and hungry?

Jazzy:                        Yeah. Definitely.

Sarah:                      That would actually be better than hangry. Hungry and angry. If anyone doesn’t know, if they’ve been around Jazzy when she’s required food then they’ll see another side of her.

Jazzy:                        Asking for food.

Sarah:                      It’s not a bad thing. I think it’s good if you know your body and you’re like, “Now is the time I need to eat, and everyone else is just going to have to deal with that until Jazzy gets food”, which is fine. You know your body well.

Jazzy:                        Exactly.

Sarah:                      Much respect. But yeah. Sleep and food and she’s happy.

Jazzy:                        Yes.

Sarah:                      We made sure that she ate before this podcast as well, people, so don’t worry. She’s like, “I think I’m going to be a bit late. I haven’t had food yet”. I’m like, “Dear God, make sure you have some food”.

Jazzy:                        I was like, I said to my boyfriend, “Sarah knows me”.

Sarah:                      It’s all good. You did a recent Facebook post which was hugely popular. I think a lot of people could relate to it. I’m going to tag it down below in the transcript on the blog so that people can see it. It went through a little bit more about where you were with training to where you are now. Could you maybe give a little bit of a detail about that?

Jazzy:                        Yeah. I may have to say especially, I do pole for eight years. I started when my teachers back then were one of the first in Switzerland. Nobody came from the fitness industry. What I learned had nothing to do with healthy training. I didn’t know anything at all. I wasn’t trained in that field yet. I did many mistakes that I know now what to do with my body. I put my body into positions that it could not support.

Some of it I didn’t even realise until two years ago or one and a half years ago when I was really in pain. I looked for help, and I was actually looking more, help for getting more flexibility in my hips. Not really about my shoulders. “Well, shoulders. I’m a pole dancer. It’s normal that your shoulder hurts”. It’s not normal.

Sarah:                      It’s normal for us but it shouldn’t be.

Jazzy:                        I met Hunter, Hunter Cook. He actually looked at my body like, “Girl. There is more wrong with you than just your hips”. That’s when I found out how much my body was not capable of doing the things I just did all the time. It was pretty shocking, actually. I was thinking a long time about this pose because it’s a really sensitive area, I guess. Many are training in a field that they have not that much knowledge about. I didn’t want to feel like the people, or I talk bad about people or accusing anyone of doing a wrong thing. But I think it’s really important that people, especially teachers, they learn more about what they’re doing because they’re working with human bodies.

For me it helped a lot. After this point, I think it was 2016, end of 2016. From that point my training changed a lot. It went from just trying to achieve moves or tricks or certain positions for a picture or a video, to way more training in healthy, to keep my joints and my body healthy. It changed my mind as well a lot.

Sarah:                      Yeah. I think there’s a big pressure on people to always be pushing the new trick, and not necessarily looking at the longevity of even, obviously we all hope that we can do pole forever and ever and ever. But there may be a point where pole could affect us to the point that we can’t continue, or even it could affect our everyday life. Not necessarily just our ability to pole. I think when people start looking at the bigger picture like you started to, and I have also with my own training, looking at, “Oh god. If I continue with certain things then that’s going to massively affect things further down the road”.

                                    I think it’s really important that the more people talk about it, and even if you might get upset with, or you might get worried that people get upset about it, you kind of have to get past that. It’s our responsibility I think as people who are going through it to be like, “One sec. Maybe look after your body just a little bit more”.

Jazzy:                        The thing is, sometimes it’s not even because they choose to do wrong. It’s just, people don’t know better. It’s like, we just have to push more so people get educated. They read about it or listen, and they learn how to do it better. That’s the thing. We do pole. Pole is pretty young as a sport and we don’t know what it’s, how our body is going to be in 10, 20 years. But I for sure don’t want to be in pain in 20 years.

I was also expecting way more negative feedback. I know that many are training a different way or living a different way. But there was so much positive feedback, and also people were like, “I feel the same. This makes so much sense”. I was really surprised. I was really surprised, but positively surprised.

Sarah:                      What would you say is the main thing that’s changed? I know you said your mindset has changed and your training has changed. Without going into specifics because I know it’s quite difficult to verbalise it, but what’s been the main shift in how your training’s changed?

Jazzy:                        I have fixed routines where I do exercises for my mobility. My active flexibility. My joints, to keep them in a good range of motion. Train my whole range of motion, and actually trying to increase my range of motion. But really have set trainings where it’s about my health, and not about doing a new trick or a new combination. It’s in my schedule, and it’s fixed.

Sarah:                      How many times a week would you say that you have a fixed health session?

Jazzy:                        Two to three times a week, definitely.

Sarah:                      Would you say that’s more across the board? Or you think it’s very personal depending on what people’s bodies are like, and how they should look into it themselves?

Jazzy:                        It’s definitely very personal. It’s so hard to say without seeing someone or to know their body. To see what they are capable of or what their body’s capable of or isn’t capable of. You can’t, it’s so hard to say, “You have to do this exercise or this exercise”. It’s just not possible without seeing someone and seeing what is wrong.

That’s why, many wrote me also in messages asking me questions. I can’t tell you what you have to do, because I need to see you, and even I am still learning so much. I would always recommend to go see a physical therapist first as well, because I don’t have that training. But I can, with my learning that I do now, help at least at some point, and with basic knowledge. But with so much, people are coming with so much injuries. I really tell them to go see professionals first so we know what we’re dealing with.

Sarah:                      Yeah. That’s really good advice. I know it’s difficult because people, they almost want a magic pill or something to be like, “What do I do? I don’t necessarily have access to the people that you have access to. I don’t have the training. I don’t have the knowledge. My instructor doesn’t know”. All these things. I think the best thing to do is just to start trying to look into it. You can’t really, there’s no wrong education. You’re going to learn, even if it’s not the right thing for you-you’re going to learn that it’s not right. It’s going to push you on a path that’s going to put you towards something that is going to help you. I definitely agree with going to see a professional. Especially if you’ve got any pain or injuries or impediments or anything like that.

                                    Then just start learning about the body. That’s where it all started for me, was just, the more you learn the more you realise you don’t know. Which is also quite depressing. But the more you start looking into it, then the more you can actually start helping yourself along the way.

Jazzy:                        Yeah.

Sarah:                      Good advice Miss Jazzy.

Jazzy:                        Yeah. It’s really, that’s why people who are asking me also about doing a workshop, and how can you book, I always tell them I try to work on it. To actually build a workshop that I can give on the basic knowledge. Or so they can actually work with their own body. But so much information and understanding. It’s going to be a lot about talking as well, because people need to understand how their body works before they understand what doesn’t work.

Sarah:                      Pole is a difficult creature. We want the big fancy fun tricks. Then you get to a certain point and then you’re like, “Oh. Now I have to go back to school and learn how the body works and moves and levers and physics and anatomy, and all that stuff”. You don’t have to, but I think it’s going to massively help the more you do learn. But it’s not as fun.

Jazzy:                        It’s not.

Sarah:                      It’s not, I think of posting, it’s not Instagram worthy what you’re doing.

Jazzy:                        It’s not.

Sarah:                      The really useful stuff is boring to look at and very repetitive, and doesn’t look like you’re doing anything. But that’s the actual stuff you have to do.

Jazzy:                        I know. Actually sitting in a gym or in a studio, and especially when I do it in a gym, my work for my hip mobility, I just sit there. You don’t see me actually move, but my face changes. I’m like, I’m looking like it’s really had, but I’m not moving. People are like, “What is she doing?”.

Sarah:                      Strange gal in the corner, breathing and talking to herself.

Jazzy:                        Yeah.

Sarah:                      I like it. Well, we had a couple of people in the group, because I posted up in my Facebook group that I was going to be doing an interview with you. I had a couple of questions. One is from Sara Bibby. She wants to know, “What did you focus on to keep your motivation up, and self-control strong, when you decided to change your training?”. Her back has been injured for about six months, and she wants to know, how does she find the balance of training and rehabilitating without going mad? Obviously, as we’ve just said, it’s a bit boring to do the rehab stuff. What did you do to help keep motivated?

Jazzy:                        Well, the pain was pretty motivational. I was like, “I don’t want to be in pain anymore”. Just thinking about, where do I see myself in five years? In 10 years? In 20 years? I just realised if I go on like that, I may wreck my shoulder and I’m not going to be able to pole or live without pain anymore. I just don’t want that. Hunter also told me pretty well that this is not going to be the future.

I think it’s hard because it’s also, especially if you earn money with pole dancing, I mostly do at the moment, you always feel like you have to learn new stuff. Post it. Do new things. Stay on top of your game. I think to find the right balance between healthy and caring for your body, caring for yourself, and still have fun with pole, it’s not easy. But I think she has to really decide what she wants to be able to do at some point. You have to think about longevity so much more, because pole is so young and many people do it just for three years. What is three years, in comparison to a sport for a dozen years? It’s not the same.

Sarah:                      It’s definitely different.

Jazzy:                        It is fun. But I think to work with actual professionals, and get a training plan and a fixed training, these exercises to really be fixed in your plan is helping to get a routine. As soon as you’re in there and you actually feel that your body feels better and that you don’t have any pain anymore, it’s worth it. Then you’re like, good food. As soon as you’re in it and you feel better, it’s way easier to stay on track than when you first start.

Sarah:                      Yeah. Sometimes you think that the chocolate cake’s going to make you feel good. Then you eat it and you feel terrible. You have a really nutritious meal and you’re like, “It’s boring”, but then it actually makes you feel amazing. Like training. Good metaphor. I do like cake metaphors. I seem to always come back to the cake metaphor.

Jazzy:                        Yeah. People can relate to cake.

Sarah:                      People love cake. Anyway. The next question I’m going to ask you is from Derek Hamilton, also from the Off the Pole group. He asked, “Do you have any particular rules when it comes to assessing whether you’re approaching the line where you’re overtraining or something?. Is it time to back down for a while? Or is it just a case of ‘suck it and see’ depending on how you feel that day?”.

                                    I guess the question, in summary,y would be, how do you know when you’re over training, versus whether you just need to get down and actually get on with it and train? Because pain is part of pole training. But the right pain. Skin pain or muscles can be sore. But we don’t want to hit the point where we’re causing injuries and pulling things out of place. How do you feel about that?

Jazzy:                        Well I also feel it kind of emotionally. I think I’m an emotional person.

Sarah:                      Really? I’ve seen how you are with food, so.

Jazzy:                        It’s also when I train and I get really in a bad mood, or I’ll repeat something over and over and I feel that I get kind of moody. I don’t know. I think it’s the way also my body tells me to, “Calm down girl”. That’s something. When I train something too much in a repetition and I feel not as hyped as in the beginning, or happy. It sounds weird, but that’s really an indicator for me to be like, “Put it to the side. Maybe do it next time again”.

Also in general with recovery, also mood and daily time. If I feel that I’m moody out of no reason, I know, “Maybe my body needs some time off”. Also to get to feel your body. To know when is the time where I just feel like it’s a bit lazy, or I feel cold. Or is it really your body telling you, “Take a break”? I think that’s something that’s really hard for us, is to actually take a break. To rest and not doing anything. Or just take time for ourselves to do something. Read a book. Just don’t move, or gently moving. But our brain is always telling us to do more and more and more. The more you get to know yourself, the easier it is to find that balance. It is kind of hard. But you have to just say sometimes, “Take a break”.

Sarah:                      Yeah. I think I’d say you seem like you’re quite in tune with your body. You know what food works for you. You know when to maybe take a break. It’s a lot of it, you’re talking about it being emotional. But I think there’s a big brain-body connection that, sometimes people, if they ignore one or the other, that’s when you start going into trouble. It’s not because it’s a physical exercise doesn’t mean that it’s not massively connected to how you’re feeling mentally. If you’re feeling a bit depressed or you’re not sleeping properly, or things are getting you agitated. That is all signs of overtraining. People, I think just wait for the signs of, “Am I in pain? Am I feeling weak”? They just look for the physical signs. I think it’s really important to get the emotional side of it as well.

Jazzy:                        I actually was, I think it was 2014, I actually was overtrained. I saw a specialist. Because I was always getting weaker. I didn’t have any energy. I couldn’t do anything else. Really in a bad mood all the time. It was really bad. I saw him, and he made a stress test with me. With just questions, “When did you laugh the last time? When was the last time you felt really happy?”. When I filled it out I was like, “Wow. I’m a really sad person”.

Sarah:                      Aw.

Jazzy:                        No. Then he was like, I did, I don’t know, I was tested in English. Spirometry? When you’re on the treadmill or driving the bicycle and you have this breathing mask. They measure your oxygen. I did that. He was looking at me. He was like, “This is …”. I was so stressed out. My body was just screaming for a break. I had to really … If you’re at the point where you really over train, it’s so hard to get back. You have to really take a break. That’s why I learned to listen more. Because I don’t want to take a break of that much time anymore.

Sarah:                      No, because you’re a very active person. It’s like, you don’t want it to be all nothing. You want it to be a consistent good level that’s going to keep you happy, rather than just 100 percent or having to take two weeks off. Definitely.

Jazzy:                        Yeah.

Sarah:                      Awesome. What I wanted to finish with, last question, was if you, do you have any go to Off the Pole exercises? I know you recently did a really good one for the mobility blog that we did on my website. That was the 90/90 hip one. But do you have any others that you’re like, “I have to do this or my body falls apart”?

Jazzy:                        Yeah. I do lots of the rotator exercises. The stretches and the strengthening. Especially because I did have problems with my shoulder one and a half years ago. I’m really sensitive to that one. I really love that, and the forearm strengthening, with the rotating.

Sarah:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jazzy:                        Because I have baby hands, and it’s really true. My hands are tiny. It’s really, for me, important to strengthen my forearms. Otherwise it’s so hard for me to grab the pole and be strong in it. That’s a really good exercise I do as well to get strong.

Sarah:                      Nice.

Jazzy:                        With my baby hands.

Sarah:                      “With my baby hands”. Well I have big hands and big forearms.

Jazzy:                        Happy for you.

Sarah:                      The swan. I mean, I do like to strengthen my forearms though, because it’s helped massively. If you have strong forearms you have a strong grip, and that helps you do stuff on the poles. I would agree with these also. Nice. I’ll try and get links to those as well, put down underneath. Where can people find you if they want to be following Jazzy around the world? Where can they find you? I’m going to link to your social media and stuff, but are you touring? Are you travelling? Are you doing workshops around the globe? A website they can go to?

Jazzy:                        I’m just going where people want me to. If you want to see where I’m at for workshops, or for private, just look on my Instagram or my Facebook site. I’m always posting the regular schedule. Mostly around Europe in Spring. I’m also going to be at Pole Theatre UK. I’m at amateur for judging. I’m also for workshops there. I’m actually going to be quite a lot in the UK in the next half a year.

Sarah:                      Yay.

Jazzy:                        Yeah.

Sarah:                      We’ll get the Jazzy fix, and I’ll make sure I always have snacks. Just to throw snacks at you when you’re feeling angry.

Jasmine:                 Just be sure.

Sarah:                      Yeah. It’ll be awesome to see more of you.

Jazzy:                        I’m actually pretty, yeah. Happy to teach more and spread my passion for healthy training and pole dancing and exotic pole. It’s just so much fun to connect.

Sarah:                      I’ll make sure that I link all of the social media places that people can find you.

Jazzy:                        Thank-you Sarah.

Sarah:                      Well thank-you for coming on and answering my questions. I’d love to have you back on again. I know this is quite targeted, but I wanted to talk specifically about your recent post and stuff, which was super helpful, and I’m sure loads of people related to that as well. Thank-you very much for sharing your knowledge bombs.

Jasmine:                 Thank-you so much.

Sarah:                      Speak to you soon, Jazzy. Love you. Bye!

Jasmine:                 Bye!


Next up on the OTP Podcast is Dan Rosen, so be sure to tune in in a fortnight for episode #7 to hear from the “mother of all Susans”! xX



Handstand February: ‘How to Survive’ part 2 – Fear

Overcoming the fear of Handstands

The Human race has survived by being cautious, so it’s no wonder that many of us suffer from a fear of handstands. But we’ve also thrived when taking calculated risks.

Visions of falling on your head, breaking something or yourself, or simply the fear that yet again you won’t find your balance after months of trying will hold you back – but you can overcome these.

Here are some tips for you to follow so you can develop your skills!

Handstand 201

1) Strength = Confidence

When you know your body is strong enough to support you, you have much more confidence in the flow of the movement.

This needs to be built upon slowly (and by using the correct techniques) so no need to worry if you feel stuck – most of all, you shouldn’t skip stages.

The drills below will effectively enhance your strength, and increment your confidence accordingly. Give them a go.

2) Technique

When the technique is on point then the likelihood of success increases!

More success = Less fear. Period.

Gravity is a cruel mistress and will continue to pull us down if we don’t get our balance up to speed. A poor technique will often lead to frustration and in the worst case scenario even injury can occur.

3) Control

The feeling of being out of control is a big fear factor. Learning to find the balance point when your body is stacked correctly can actually feel ‘scary’ the first time you feel it, as it almost feels like you’re floating. As you become more accustomed to this feeling – you’ll begin to seek it out, relax and even enjoy handstands! (who’d of thought…!)

4) Emergency Exits (otherwise known as dismounts)

Know them well and you’ll know that whatever handstand shenanigans you find yourself in, you’ve got a way out. Cartwheels (thanks Samantha Star) and forward rolls should be your go-tos (I’ll leave bridges to all you bendy backs people!).

Join us next week for part 3, and keep practicing with our daily Instagram videos.


Greta Pontarelli | On Artistry, Motivation and Creativity | Episode #005

Hey there! Sooo excited to have the awe-inspiring Greta Pontarelli on for this edition of the Off The Pole Podcast – she started pole at 59 and since racked up 5 world championship titles. We go over artistry, her training regimen and how she keeps her body performing optimally.

Really hope you guys enjoy the 5th episode in the podcast series – you can subscribe to our pole podcast on iTunes to keep updated with all the latest episodes and it would mean the world to me if you could leave a review!

Hit play above or watch or read the transcript below.

Sarah:                      Well, welcome Greta. Thank you so much for being on my podcast and giving us some of your weekend.

Greta:                      Oh, it’s an honour to be here, thank you so much.

Sarah:                      Now I’ve done a bit of an intro, and I’m sure that many of the pole industry already know a little bit about you already, you’ve done lots and lots of things in our community. Am I right in saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, have you won five world championships at the masters level? Is it five?

Greta:                      Yes.

Sarah:                      That’s incredible, are you going to go for a sixth?

Greta:                      People ask me that, and I have to say, it really isn’t on my bucket list. I would like to use my energy to cast our net a little broader beyond the pole industry and show the world what a fantastic art form and a form of fitness this is. I think it’s more into trying to inspire other people right now, but, I’d never say never, maybe.

Sarah:                      You’re keeping it open. I like that, that’s fine. You’re not going to commit to too much. You’ve said, I’ve watched quite a few of your interviews and you’ve done some different videos and things as you say, you’re getting out there into not just the pole industry but into the wider world. And you’ve spoken how you can inch closer towards your goal, so it’s all the little victories that build towards something a lot bigger. So is there anything that you’ve been working on recently that you’ve had that feeling where you’ve triumphed over something that you’ve been working on for a long time?

Greta:                      Oh yes, deadlifts!

Sarah:                      Yeah?

Greta:                      Because, yeah, that was my nemesis move for so long. I would say, “Okay, I’m one inch higher today.” Or I felt more stacking in the muscles or something about it that felt better. Maybe the next day it went back again, but I’d say, “Okay, it’s probably… my body is recovering from yesterday, just give it a few more days. Let it rest,” and then it would come back and I would see if I could keep getting further and further.

I started expanding, I don’t use weights but I do like pull-ups and I found out by doing pull-ups and by really looking at the biomechanics of the move, it really helped me. So I really had to be a bit analytical and I really had to just look at it, watch and see how to stack my body because it is difficult at my age, it takes a tremendous amount of strength and people like you that make it look so effortless. I just look at that-

Sarah:                      Its difficult at any age I think. I think we all struggle.

Greta:                      It doesn’t look like it though, it looks like you’re just are weightless, seriously, and I love … That’s what’s so beautiful about that art form. It looks effortless and it looks like everybody’s flying, so that’s what I aspired to do. I think for people that no matter where they are, even if it’s something very simple, I think that there’s always something you can come back from a workout and say that I got better. Even if it’s maybe I feel that my line’s a little better, my form, and how to build on this level.

Sarah:                      I think that’s really, really important point to make and I think we can all get quite bogged down with trying to improve all the time and see big changes, but it’s actually the little ones that all accumulate and actually add up to the long-lasting changes.

                                  Do you ever feel that you get unmotivated, do you ever get those days where you feel that it’s a bad training session and you want to try and turn it around? Do you have any tips for making it a bit more of a positive ending to a session if you’re not having not such much of a good one?

Greta:                      I think everyone has these moments because sometimes you get in the studio, maybe it’s very cold, or it’s hot, and you’re slipping and the air conditioning is not on so you think, “Oh, nothing’s going right. I can’t do anything.” What I do when that happens, I usually put on music that is really inspiring to me and I put the … myself put it on video and I start videotaping. So just basic things I do, and then I always find tonnes of things I could do better. Oh, that line could be better, I wasn’t quite lyrical enough, I moved too quickly through this, let me try it in slow motion, or try a different approach. Then I watch the videos after every pass and I see all these things that I could refine and so that motivates me because I go, “Oh, I’ve got to fix this.” I’m sure you do the same thing.

Sarah:                      Yeah, that’s very, very similar to what I do. I always start with good music and then video and then look it back and then I find all sorts of things that I can either play with or explore or things like that, that’s very, very similar.

Greta:                      It’s what inspires me because I never want to leave a session if I’m not feeling like I’ve corrected something. There’s always ways where I feel like I could have a better line through the ambiance or bring more artistry to it. Sometimes it’s just the expression, the difference between doing a port de bras around your head where you are doing something like, instead of just this you are, you’re following the hand or you’re reaching deep inside, giving something to them. So I look at that and say, “Am I really reaching deep to the core of my being and making this an art form or am I just going through the motions? Is it just a trick?” I aspire so much, to bring artistry, meaning into the tricks and that’s a challenge sometimes because sometimes you’re doing a difficult trick and you’re just focusing on getting through it, right?

And so then later you look at it, okay I did the trick, but what was I saying? What did it mean? And sometimes it’s just the glance at the audience or a glance here or something. There’s some tiny thing that brings it to life and allows you to connect more deeply with the message that you’re trying to share in the choreography.

Sarah:                      Is that part of your choreography process? Obviously, you’ve performed a huge amount all over the world, competing and performing and things, and do you have a specific choreography process? Do you start with the song and kind of work from there or do you more start off with an idea, and then find the song to suit that and then suit your movement to the song?

Greta:                      I think it works in different components. Music is challenging because you want music that inspires you and you also want music that if it’s live streamed, it has to pass through clearance, some music won’t clear and you can’t use I, right? So I think that’s one thing. The kind of music I like, I tend, of course, things are a little more lyrical, a little more classic because I like crescendos. I like things to go up and then sort of move down, things to have moments where we take things down almost in slow motion, and then moments where maybe you speed up and do something that is a little bit more exciting because I believe it’s the kind of play of different colours and textures that really turns into an art form, so that is a challenge.

If I find music that moves me, then I try to say, “What does this say to me?” Somehow that music has a message, and it seems that all my choreography seems to be around the muse of transformation. Somehow, it just always comes back being the phoenix that rises out of the ashes and looks at those ashes and sees, like in our own lives, the blessings that are there and water them so they germinate and grow and then this phoenix is reborn. We go through those struggles in our own lives, we go through challenges and if we can turn those challenge’s into thrusting blocks that creates success in our lives, that’s what it’s all about.

So I love doing pieces that people look at and somehow they go, “That’s my life,” or “yes, I’ve been through that,” or “I’m going through this,” and seeing that tells me what I need to do, and I get these beautiful emails from people, and that’s what’s so inspiring because I see so many people in the world are looking for inspiration.

Sarah:                      I think pole does that with a lot of people that they can express themselves in so many different ways that you can’t normally do in everyday life and that gives people the opportunity to have that release, which I think is why it’s so therapeutic.

Greta:                      Yes, and I believe that there’s something really truly in it for everybody. The reason that I love pole so much is that I look at my age and I can’t tumble anymore, my body won’t let me do it, I just don’t have the vascular muscle to rebound. I mean on springs, I could, on a spring floor, but competing I could never do that, but you can learn to fly. You can do things on the pole, you can develop your upper body and your core. And that’s what’s so beautiful about it, is that you could just keep going and you can use it as a means of expression. You can use it as something that really can heal and unfold the inner spirit.

Sarah:                      A lot of people use age as a reason not to start, they say, “I’m too old, I haven’t done this in my youth. I wasn’t a gymnast.” So what would you say to maybe people that are maybe using age as an excuse not to take that leap and actually try it for themselves?

Greta:                      I think that everybody has to start somewhere. They look at me and they go, “Oh, you use to be a gymnast,” but I’m like, “Gee, that’s 45 years ago.” That’s like another lifetime to me really. So I look at that and the same thing with … I did martial arts and I did dance. Gymnastics gave me a lot of body awareness, of course, but in certain ways, it’s made it more difficult for me today because I competed on cement floors, and cement floors ruin your cartilage in your hips, and in your knees.

I don’t think you’re ever too old to start anything because you have to compete with yourself. Your competition’s in the mirror. You can’t start at my age and look at … for me to look at people like you and say, “Gosh, I could never be like that.” Of course, my body is never going to be able to do some of the things that you do and some of the things that some of these ladies who are uber flexible do, I know that, but I can find out what I can do. So the road turns left, you turn left so to speak, and you find those things that your body will do and you try to perfect them and make them better and maybe take the same move and create new shapes with it, or create more meaning or a different approach.

You can always take the simplest moves even a spin around the pole, like even doing a chair spin and create new shapes with your legs and with your hands and bringing your body into it in a new way, like the transition in and out of it. So you can take the simplest things, and I think people starting out, if they look at that and allow their creativity and their artistry to flourish, they will find that they can do some really meaningful, beautiful things. It’s not all about the tricks.

Sarah:                      Yeap, that’s a really, really good point. Very, very good.

                                    For you doing pole, you say it’s a lot about the creating and the artistry when you were in your competing phase which your not necessarily in at the moment but, was it all about … was that what … I’ll start again. Is that what was driving you like competing and winning the medals, or was it just part of, that was kind of an added bonus to the creativity side of it?

Greta:                      I think it really was an added bonus because the way this all started for me with competing is, I was on American Ninja Warrior, I was actually on it twice. And the first time that they called me to be on the show when it aired on television they said, “This is the oldest person to ever attempt the course,” and I thought, “really? Where is everybody else?” Then I realised that people were kind of encouraging me to compete and of course, I didn’t think I was nearly good enough and I thought, “Well, I want to give visibility for my message.” So it’s not about winning, it’s about showing somebody that my age can go out there and do it, and it gives me a goal and a challenge.

The first competitions I had to compete with, because they didn’t have masters division at that point, with some 18-year-olds. I was competing against very young, great flexible, wonderful ladies, and then pretty soon they had masters division. I think the first time when I qualified for worlds, and I said to them, “I would love to go, but I don’t think I’ve really qualified. I don’t think I’m really good enough.” And they said, “Well, we think you’re going to do pretty well.” So I was getting on that aeroplane and I was waiting to sit down and I go, “I must be out of my mind. I have no business going here.” And I have to say, I never expected it, it was totally surreal and the fact that I kept doing well was really overwhelming to me, I wasn’t expecting it. And then I realised, okay, the reason I’m on the stage is that’s a platform to somehow inspire other people to not let age or any limitation for that matter, keep them from finding a passion and going after that passion with their entire being.

Sarah:                      I think it’s really natural to have a lot of kind of inner voices telling you, you shouldn’t do something, and it takes a lot to step outside of that and actually make the jump to do something out of your comfort zone. It could have gone wrong, or there are many things that could have happened, but in the end, even if you don’t come away with the silverware as it were, or the gold medals, I think you can still learn a huge amount from going in to a pole class for the first time or compete for the first time. Those little challenges that you overcome in everyday life can be hugely beneficial, so it’s really inspiring for sure that you put yourself out there. As I say, most people would say, “Oh you know, I can’t do that, I can’t do that. I can’t possibly get on a plane and travel to another continent and compete in a world championship,” but you did it and here you are, so it’s very inspiring.

Greta:                      I think Sarah, I think you’re right. You have to have … Everybody’s going to have some whatever’s, that didn’t turn out the way you want, right? But I’d rather have a few of those than a few of, what ifs. What if I had? So I look back at it as if I don’t do this, I’m going to say there is a missed opportunity. Sometimes opportunities don’t re-present themselves and so I look at that yes, I have to push myself through that. We all have moments of hesitation or feel challenged by something and I tell those people that although they’re having struggles moving through them, you just have to do it. Stop, let go and you go after it. You have to be determined to move through it because we all have challenges in life, but you have to build those muscles. It’s not about asking for a lighter load as you know, it’s just building stronger shoulders.

Sarah:                      Do you have any specific favourite exercises that you do for building said shoulders or your strength? Is there anything that you do specifically for your own strength training?

Greta:                      Pull-ups, that’s about the only thing I do. I don’t lift weights but my husband has a pull-up bar into this office and I stay there and talk to him and then I do some-

Sarah:                      Just rep out as your talking to him.

Greta:                      I’ve learned to do them without cheating. I use to cheat when I started out doing them, and my son who’s very much into the biomechanics of sports and he said to me, “Mom, you have to take it the whole way up to here. The slightest bend, not this.” You’re like not this?

Sarah:                      Yeap, you’ve got to fully extend your arms at the bottom before you kind of go back up again.

Greta:                      And planks sometimes. Planks are a little bit boring for me, but I like push-ups actually better because I’m moving.

Sarah:                      A bit more dynamic.

Greta:                      But sometimes I do planks. I mean I think planks are wonderful and for people that can get through them and light them up, I think it’s a fantastic way of doing planks on each side and doing them forward. I think that’s really about it. I believe that just working on the pole, going around the pole doing pull-ups, right? Just doing spins and then pulling up as many times as you can with proper form, engaging the shoulders, the shoulders down and try to make it as beautiful as possible, that’s another thing going around on a pole and really trying to get the shoulders back so you look lyrical in what you’re doing instead of-

Sarah:                      Shrugging the shoulders up, yep.

Greta:                      That’s always them you think, okay just get the shoulders down and get my legs back and have it look like I’m flying and doing something effortless, I mean that’s the goal. And so I keep practising getting the form right and then in the interim, I’m exercising. I don’t think I’m doing a pull-up, I think I’m trying to perfect my lines.

Sarah:                      Repetition is so key on the pole. I think again, there’s quite a big culture of doing a trick once or twice, and then moving on from it quite quickly and not necessarily focusing on the transitions and doing something for many, many, many times until you master it truly. So things like climbing, simple spins, making your inverts look clean and controlled, dismounting really controlled, all of those you’re still working the muscles and building strength, it’s just not maybe as fun as learning a new trick, but it’s going to make your whole pole expression so much cleaner in the long run. So that’s a very, very good piece of advice.

Greta:                      That’s totally where my focus is now. I remember several years back maybe, five years ago when I met Oona Kivela, and I said to her, I said, “I need to learn more sport tricks. And I was doing the Russian then and things that were fairly advanced and she goes, “You don’t need more tricks, you have to work on your transitions,” and she was right. It’s the transitions, and that’s what people forget about.

Sarah:                      It’s nice when you watch a routine and it’s not even like … It’s clear what’s a trick and what’s a transition like they almost merge into one. It should be fluid throughout the routine rather than just like, oh they’re building up to something, trick, get down, walk across the other pole, trick. It’s nice if it’s just, the whole thing has been thought of and all the little details make so much difference.

Greta:                      That’s something that I keep working on all the time. I mean I see there are so many areas that I could not telegraph what I’m going to do next, and like you said, that’s the beauty when they just drop it something or flow into something. So it’s a journey. It’s a journey, it’s something you keep exploring new ways and new possibilities.

Sarah:                      That’s why it’s so fun, that’s why we love it so much.

Greta:                      I think it’s such a fabulous industry. I mean the women that are in the pole art form, they are just so empowering, they’re such hard workers. It’s not an easy sport, and they rise up to the challenge and they work so hard and they’re such a positive, inspiring group of people for me, and I just feel so blessed to have been drawn to this industry.

Sarah:                      We’re blessed to have you in it!

Greta:                      Oh.

Sarah:                      Cheesy but true…

Greta:                      No, I do, I feel so immensely grateful. The reason that I actually got into this is, both of my sisters were diagnosed with the beginnings of osteopenia, which is the beginning of osteoporosis and they’re younger than I am, and my mother had it pretty terribly. So they said, “We’ve found out we have the beginnings of this and we do, I’m sure you do too,” and I said, “okay, what can I do to offset it? I’m in pretty good shape.” But I realised I didn’t have a programme that was giving me enough weight-bearing exercise. So I researched that I could lift weights, which didn’t seem as creative, it didn’t seem as much fun to me. Or I found that you could lift your body, and then I went to YouTube and I saw these amazing videos, and you’re probably one them-

Sarah:                      Oh, I don’t know about that.

Greta:                      Oh, I’m telling you. I looked at them and I went, “Oh, this is so beautiful and so artistic. This is what I want to do.” So, the rest is history.

Sarah:                      The rest is history, exactly. Is there anything, obviously, you train quite regularly still, is there anything that you do help your body recover so that you can continue for, have longevity in your pole career, or do you find that your body recovers quite well?

Greta:                      My body recovers fairly well if, I listen to it. I used to overtrain and I used to be sore all of the time and I think you’ve heard a lot of complaints from people, “I’m always sore.” Well, that’s because they’re not giving themselves recovery time. So the way I train now, I have a studio in my home, so I train every other day and I train lots of passes, so I don’t train particularly routines, I’m not working with particularly with them right now, but I work on the passes that I would do in a routine and I videotape and work on those. And the next day, I do things like, I had a hammock so I do yoga, more stretching. Things that allow my body to recover, that keep the movement because your body loves to move. Moving offsets arthritis, it helps the lactic acid leave your body faster, so I do that.

I eat pretty much a Paleo diet, I eat a pretty clean diet. For people that don’t know what Paleo is, it’s organic vegetables and fruits, and if people eat meat it’s all grass fed, the fish that I eat is freshly caught. I really don’t eat any flour, white sugar, processed products, most of the time. Every now and then, yes I’ll have a bite of cake or something like that, but we never eat it at our house, we never make it and I find that it really does keep my inflammation down. I think that diet is really important. Take some supplements, I don’t overdo it. I think everything in moderation, everything’s a balance, but I do take supplements. I do take things that I feel are relevant particularity for somebody my age.

Sarah:                      Are there any that you would recommend that people look into? Or is it more do you think it’s a personal and they need to maybe have a look into what they’re lacking first or is there any kind of like staple things that you would recommend?

Greta:                      I personally, besides the regular really good multiple, organic, multivitamin, I like Curcumin, which is turmeric, I feel that really helps me a lot. Omega-3’s, there are some other ones that I put in that I think really help. I don’t overdo it but I do have some really good supplements that my husband gives me that are for people that work in with sports and it combines a lot of those things in high dosages, appropriate dosages rather. That really helps me recover.

You really can change your body at a cellular level because I don’t desire things that aren’t good for me. I just don’t desire them. I don’t feel like eating things. I mean it’s kind of like if you know you’re going to train, you’re not going to go eat a big meal before it, right? Because you know if you train with a full stomach you can’t train as hard. It takes your energy away, so you know that. So before I train I eat something very, very light, maybe a little fruit or something, but I know that. And so, in that respect, you’re always listening to your body and you’ve got to train it, and then it expands over to your whole life. You say, “Okay, you start listening to what your body needs, you start listening. What do I eat before I train that helps me, gives me a little more energy? Is it something with a little bit of carbohydrates in it? I love bromelain too, I guess that’s something I missed. My husband makes me these drinks, that’s what I should have mentioned. He-

Sarah:                      We all need your husband come and make us stuff, feed us supplements.

Greta:                      He’s wonderful, he’s a fabulous cook and he makes these fabulous drinks where he puts whatever we have, but it’s usually fresh pineapple because of the bromelain in it, it’s really good for inflammation. But whatever we have if it’s kelp, if it’s cilantro, he puts different things in it. And he puts it into the blender and its kind of thick. Most people might think it’s a little thick because it’s not like most of the juices that you get because he says I need the roughage. It’s good for me. He sometimes put other little berries in, or whatever we have. They’re wonderful and it feels when you drink it, it just feels so alive and so fresh. And whenever he makes his organic garden, he tries to grow a lot of the things too, and that makes a difference too because not only … we always get organic food, but when you get it right out of the garden, it’s completely fresh. I mean it was growing minutes ago, and now it’s in your body. So you feel the chlorophyll you feel the aliveness. So I believe diet can make a real big difference.

Sarah:                      Is there anything else that you would like to, kind of last piece of advice you would like to give for the Off the Pole listeners, any nougats of wisdom that we can pull from you before I let you go?

Greta:                      I think you did fantastic, you covered so much. Is there anything else? Well, I just want to inspire people no matter where they are, to remember like I said earlier, that your competition is in the mirror, that every day is a chance to improve on something. Look at it like an art form. Look at is as a way of bringing more creativity into your life. Of going deep inside and touching that inner muse. We all have a muse within that inspires and empowers us, and that muse is what brings us passion into your life. So if you find a piece that you’re working on, whether it’s choreography, and you touch that and allow that to not just, that muse to connect with it while you’re doing the dance, but bringing it into your life, are things that are meaningful.

Like many people I’ve seen, they have worked through issues in their life and the dance allowed them to heal that. So I really believe that you can use this art form to enrich and empower our lives at all levels, if we allow it and if we go deep inside and find something about it that is going to give them a different vantage point of what they’re going through and at the same time, empower them at levels that they didn’t even know existed.

Sarah:                      That’s a perfect ending, perfect ending to the podcast.

Greta:                      Thank you so much for the opportunity. I’m immensely grateful for every opportunity to somehow inspire people to go after their dreams.

Sarah:                      Well, I’ve loved having you on so thank you so much.

Greta:                      Thank you so much.


Greta on Instagram: @aerialzen

Greta on Facebook: Greta Pontarelli

Handstand February: ‘How to Survive’ part 1 – Failing

Ladies and gentlemen, let the handstanding begin!

With every February comes the handstand challenge, and with it, the improvement of a technique which is at the foundation of being both balanced and graceful on the pole.

Handstands 101

When giving a new technique a go you should always be mindful of 3 things:

  • Fail Fast

You need to commit mind and body to leaping over those earlier hurdles as fast as you can, and this means accepting you’ll fail a lot.

You’ll notice that learning curve will get steeper, but with it, the speed at which you develop your skills will also increase. And our community is here to help you.

(Keep an eye out for tips on getting over the fear of handstands soon!)


  • Fail Often

The number of attempts that ANYONE requires to climb a skill level, whatever the subject at hand, is enormous – you first need to develop an understanding of the ins and outs of everything within that tier, to progress.

This can be daunting, but it shouldn’t, since this is all part of the process of gaining confidence to succeed on every attempt.

Consistency is key, you’ll hit plateaus and it won’t always be smooth sailing, but as long as you keep at it – you’re moving closer towards your goal.


  • Fail Safe

This is almost self-explanatory, but you need to know how to be safe; Samantha Starr emphasized that same how during episode #4 of the OTP Podcast.

Paraphrasing, If you get used to falling safely into a cartwheel, you’ll be able to effectively fall less, and gain the balance (and that much needed confidence) faster.

Another way to go about this is to work with an experienced spotter who can help you dismount from the handstand safely and correctly.

Warm ups: It’s imperative that you warm up your wrists, forearms and shoulders sufficiently before handstand training. This will help to mobilize these areas so you can get into the correct positions, reduce the risk of injury and allow you to recruit your muscles optimally. Keep an eye out for next week’s PoleWOD which will be all about Handstand warm-ups.

The next stage of handstand development is overcoming your fear, but I’ll only get into that next week! So remember to drop by again to check it out, next Thursday!