5 Flexibility Tips For The Average Pole Dancer

Flexibility for pole dancers is kinda like the Holy Grail. You want it so bad it becomes that thing you look for all your life. It drains you, it takes all your energy, you feel you are THIS CLOSE to getting it… and then you don’t. As a not-particularly-bendy pole dancer who has been working hard on her flexibility for the past year or so, I thought it’d be nice to share my journey to the Stairway of Bendiness together with 5 very easy flexibility tips for the average pole dancer. Because I am that average pole dancer.

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No One Cares About Your Bloody Flexibility Routine, Susan

Why am I writing a flexibility post? First of all, because summer is the ideal time to work on your flexibility – you are most likely too sweaty to do anything else, and your muscles are hopefully less tense. Secondly, last year I took the plunge: I put a pole in my house, started training alone and began working on my flexibility. Because I’ve worked hard, my flexibility has improved, and I’m getting a few messages and comments asking for tips. This post is an answer to those messages, but not exactly what those messages are asking for.

When it comes to flexibility routines, I think nothing explains how we all feel better than this Polelols post.

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While I do follow some amazing flexy polers and circus artists on Instagram – some of my stretchy inspo comes from @mangomammi and @circquephysio – it’s also true that I really don’t want to injure myself doing something I’m not ready for, and neither should you.

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⁉️Tight hip flexors⁉️⠀ ⠀ 🙌 Now don’t get me wrong- I’m a huge fan of the classic lunge for a GENERAL hip extension stretch! BUT if you’re wanting to target your iliopsoas, which is a muscle that gets TIGHT and/or SHORT in many of us from sitting, aerial work, or acrobatics, you’ll want to tweak your stretch ever-so-slightly. Swipe 👉 to see the anatomy of the iliopsoas, because that’s going to help explain WHY I prefer the second photo vs the first for this muscle-specific stretch. ⠀ ⠀ 🤓 Take a look at the ORIGIN of this trio-muscle: the lumbar spine (low back) and the inside of the pelvis. This means that to STRETCH it, we need to keep these structures fixed in place while moving the insertion (the top of the femur) BACKWARD into extension. Now, look at the first stretch: my back is SUPER ARCHED, which, biomoechanically speaking, is our body’s clever way of cheating the stretch and putting the ORIGIN of the muscle on SLACK so we can bring our leg farther behind us. This makes our brain think we’re bendier, but really, we’re just turning it into a generalized hip and spinal extension drill. NOT a bad thing, but also not specific to the hip flexor that tends to cause us the most issues!⠀ ⠀ ✌️In the second drill, I’m effectively locking out my lumbar spine and pelvis. THEN, I’m using a combination of GRAVITY and my GLUTE STRENGTH to bring my heel as close too the ground as I can while keeping a straight leg. If you succeed in touching the ground, EITHER: 1) recheck that you’re still hugging your knee as close to your chest as possible, and/or 2) add another yoga block.⠀ ⠀ 🔑 The key here, my friends, is that I’m using my GLUTES to help pull my leg into hip extension, and therefore turning it into an ACTIVE STRETCH for the iliopsoas. Our cautious nervous systems LOVE active stretches, because this means we are not only stretching into our end range, but we are ACTIVATING our stabilizer muscles to CONTROL our mobility!! Everyone wins.⠀ ⠀ Questions ❓Comments ❓Concerns❓Leave them riiiiight here👇, and tag a friend 👯 who could use this #cirquephysio stretch 💪

A post shared by Dr. Jen Crane PT, DPT, OCS,ATC (@cirque_physio) on

So if you’re hoping for this post to be a set of exercises to improve your flexibility you should follow as gospel, soz, you’re in the wrong place. Yes, I do have more than 1,000 followers on Instagram. No, I’m not a stretch teacher, or a contortionist, or a physio, or a qualified professional to tell you what to do with your legs or back. I’m just a girl who has been pole dancing for three years, and who did artistic gymnastics as a hobby from the age of 5 to the age of 10 (and if you think that has turned me into Bendy Wendy, you are very much mistaken: I got older, I got panicky, my bendiness is very average). So be wary of people that just come up with stretch routines: they might work for them, but not for you, so always take them with a pinch of salt.

My flexibility tips are more like a flexibility regime and routine I follow, that has been working for me, rather than a specific exercise. For specific exercises… check tip number one.

1. Go to a splits/ contortion/ flexibility class

I know, this doesn’t sound too helpful. So to be more flexible you’ve got to pay? Alas, yes. I think the best way to start pushing yourself and see how much your body can take is to do so under the watchful gaze of a trained professional in a safe environment. Starting out by yourself without knowing what to do is a one-way-ticket to injuryland.

Flexibility classes are easy to find. Your local pole studio probably offers some, otherwise look up yoga or dance studios nearby. Most of the splits exercises I do at home come from splits classes and pole warm-ups. I’ve learnt them in pole studios or yoga classes, not from some video off the internet. I haven’t just pulled them out of my ass – and neither should you.

By booking a couple of splits classes before going at it on your own, you can see whether you are able to replicate those exercises by yourself and you can prepare your body correctly, without the risk of over-stretching yourself. Safety always trumps money in my view.

2. Train everyday (or as much as possible)

The real shift in my flexibility – e.g. a cleaner straddle, better on-the-floor and aerial splits – only came when I started focusing on stretching for at least ten minutes everyday.

Ten minutes of your time isn’t a lot. Incorporating a stretch routine into your pole warm-up if you train alone, or stretching in the morning or in the evening for ten minutes won’t make you feel overwhelmed and it truly does wonders for your flexibility and your mental health. I’ve tried this myself.

Initially, it will feel boring and you will struggle to get to it. You will stare at your phone or watch, hoping for it to be over. Then something will kick in – maybe your body will feel more open, or you will start seeing some tiny improvements – and you’ll get excited, and that stretch routine will become second nature to you. I promise.

You can literally do this in leggings or in your PJs for minimum effort – and it’ll be even better, because leggings help you slide better during splits and they create an extra layer of heat that encourages flexibility without injury.

Also please train both sides, or your body will be all wonky and when your instructor will ask you to do a flexy move on your bad side you’ll be all ‘whyyyy’.

3. Warm up – A LOT

I know split drops at the club make quite the impression. Sometimes, a split drop at the right time can get you laid (speaking for a friend). Yet, your muscles won’t thank you if you keep dropping in a split without having warmed up first.

Since I’ve started training at home or by myself, I’ve begun warming up for at least 30 minutes. I know it sounds very boring, but since I’ve started doing that my body has changed. I’m more flexible, more prepared to face certain moves I was once scared of. My abs are tighter, my legs lift higher, my splits are flatter. So if you’re training by yourself, stop viewing the warm-up as a necessary evil you have to bear with for 10 minutes, and turn it into a longer session – say 15, 20 minutes. Your body will thank you for it, and before you know it you’ll be at your 40th minute of warm-up and will have forgotten you’re even training.

Disclaimer: this would have sounded fucking crazy to me last year. It sounded crazy when my teachers used to tell me this. But, as always, they were right. We do horrible things to our body when we pole dance, and we should at least prepare it before it gets smashed against a chrome pole.

4. Don’t overdo it

Needless to say, don’t just start training oversplits on your first day of flexibility training without supervision. The likely outcome is that you will not be Maddie Sparkles on day one, but will end up with an ugly injury if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is why I recommend going to a class every now and then, at least once a month, to check your progress and ask the teacher whether it’s worth pushing harder.

This is the problem with flexibility tips in video or blog formats: they can be great advice, but they are general advice. They don’t apply to your injury history, or to the way your body works. If pole has taught me something it’s that different bodies are able to do different things in different ways, and you have to figure out what yours can do and make it shine. So don’t overstretch yourself and always ask a teacher some face-to-face advice before, I don’t know, trying to scratch your ears with your feet.

That being said, you don’t need to have a perfect split to start training your oversplits – and training them might actually help towards achieving that perfect split. Your instructor will tell you if you’re ready to start, and then you can replicate it at home.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others

When I was in high school I was relatively fit. I used to go swimming three times a week, and running twice a week. I was flexy-ish, my speed was average, my resistance quite high, and I could do most sports without making a fool of myself (except from anything involving throwing a ball that wasn’t football. I did make a fool of myself there). However, I remember there was a girl who didn’t train at all, didn’t excel in many sport disciplines, but was hypermobile and would always do well in tests.

This is why I keep banging on about all bodies being different: we are all born with different characteristics that make us excel at different things. It doesn’t make any of us better or worse than the next person. So if you see stretchy Susans in class, don’t automatically think you are a failure. You might be wired differently. And that is ok.

Some Flexibility and Warm-Up Tips and Videos I Use

Splits

Indi Polewear posted about oversplits a while back and their article is very helpful to know when and where to start.

Here is the @mangomammi video I was referring to before.

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For anyone who wants to hit their BOX SPLITS goal – here’s PART 1 of a collection of stretches you should do. I didn’t realise how long the video would be so it’ll be split into four parts 😁. Life’s been so busy lately that I haven’t been able to train my box splits as regularly as I would have preferred, so starting today I’ll be aiming to stretch for 4 days or at least 1.5hrs a week. Follow along and let’s see how fast we can hit that flat box split 👊 {teyana taylor – gonna love me ft. ghostface killah, method man & raekwon (wu-remix)} . . . #pdboxsplit #pdsplit #pdsplits #pdsidesplit #pdmiddlesplit #pdmiddlesplits #pdlunge #pdwarmup #pdstretch #pdflexibility #pdtraining

A post shared by 𝔸𝕞𝕪 𝕆𝕜𝕠 (@mangomammi) on

Back Bend

Point Your Fucking Toes For Better Lines / To Be More Stretchy

Womack and Bowman‘s exercises to fight the micro-bend in your keens when you point your toes/ do aerial splits.

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