People who train in pole fitness, or polers as we like to call ourselves, have forces that we have to resist we must resist the rotational and gravitational forces that we experience on the pole.
These forces are particularly strong and it’s often a struggle to overcome them, but I will try my hardest to explain what these rotational forces are, how they are trying to sabotage your pole moves, and finally how you can use a concept called anti-rotational core training to surpass and overcome them
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Functional Core Training
The fitness industry is constantly evolving its approaches to numerous areas of training. In the case of core pole fitness, it was realized many years ago that solely doing sit ups and crunches were not going to get you the strong core that you desired. This is because we realized that your abdominal muscles function primarily as stabilizers, and not as movers.
In the simplest terms, your core muscles are meant to help stabilize, or prevent movement of your spine, not to create the movement itself. It is true that the anterior muscles, or the muscles that are located at the front of your body that include your abs and obliques, are able to flex and rotate the trunk of your body, but that it not their true purpose. Your abdominal muscles are actually meant to work with the rest of your core muscles, including your back and hip rotators, to help your spine stay in place!
This exact concept has dramatically changed the way that we now approach core training. When training your core muscles, we know focus much more on keeping the spine in place and preventing unnecessary movements in this area, as opposed to focusing on excess movement in this area of your body through crunches and Russian sit ups that require you to perform motions such as bending, flexing, and rotating.
Basically, instead of training with sit ups, side bends, and Russian twists, we now do isometric holds such as V sits, planks, and hollowbody holds on a regular basis.
This is great progress, but it doesn’t just stop here! Your spine requires stability in a number of different planes of motion, but most people don’t train their core in all of them.
Spine Stabilization – But what does it stabilize?
First, think of all the ways you can bend your spine. It can extend (bend backwards), it can flex (or bend) forward as well as laterally (to the sides), and it can rotate (picture your hips and shoulders twisting to one side).
Your core is constantly working to prevent these movements from happening when we don’t want them to happen, whether it be to prevent ourselves from slouching down when we are simply waiting in line for coffee or to pay for your groceries at the market, or when we are training on our pole. Core training, therefore, is essentially stabilization training!
Here are a couple of examples of how training your core can help stabilize your body:
- To prevent your spine from extending, or bending backwards, do planks to help strengthen your core.
- To prevent lateral flexion (or side bending), focus on side planks to help strengthen these muscles.
- To prevent flexion (or bending forwards), perform other common gym exercises such as barbell deadlifts to strengthen these muscles.
Most people tend to only focus on stabilize their spine to prevent extension and flexion, but they often forget about spinal rotation. Don’t allow yourself to forget about this important aspect! This is particularly important if you practice pole fitness because it requires you to be able to hold your body isometrically against rotation.
Anti-Rotation as a Skill for Pole Dancing
As stated above, it is important for pole dancers to be able to isometrically hold a position against rotation forces. Since your dance pole is vertical, you are constantly fighting against gravitational forces that are pulling you in all sorts of directions, all while you are trying to keep yourself steady with 1 to 3 points of contact.
If you have ever attempted to do a one handed chair spin, you will definitely know what I’m talking about. This move requires you to tuck your knees in while spinning gracefully around the pole, but it likely didn’t happen exactly like that. What probably happened was that your knees wanted to rotate you back in towards the pole, am I right?
Another example is the shoulder mount. Doing this pose requires you to support your body on one side, and this requires a ton of core strength (coupled with immense upper body strength, of course) in order to keep your body stable, as well as steady in a horizontal position.
Similarly, if you do an Ayesha or a pike/straight edge, you won’t have any contact points with your feet or legs and are only supporting yourself with your hands. This requires an incredibly amount of pure core strength in order to keep your hips steady and your body facing the right way, instead of bending backwards or twisting to the floor.
Basically, rotational forces work to ruin beautiful, clean lines, and require a lot of core strength to overcome.
Anti-Rotational Training for Pole Strength
There are so many options for training your core against anti-rotational forces, but I like to stick to a basic plank, but with a few adjustments to make it into the perfect exercise. Keep in mind, however, that you must be skilled at doing the regular plank before adding the following elements!
So, to alter a regular plank from an anti-extension exercise to an anti-rotation exercise, all you need to do is simply remove one point of contact with the floor. This creates instability in one corner of the plank, and your body must resist the rotational forces in order to keep a straight line.
I personally like to remove an arm instead of a leg because most people lose their proper plank position when lifting their leg. Remember to keep your body in a straight line, as arching your back makes this exercise ineffective.
Building a Functional Core for Pole Dancing
When you add an instability factor to your core exercises, it not only builds the anti-rotational strength that is required for pole dancing, it also makes for a more dynamic and functional preparation for getting on your pole.
We not only hold our poses still for a few seconds, we are also constantly moving on the pole. Building your solid foundation that includes isometric anti-extension and flexion core strength is important, but so is training your core to react to different forces and movements so your spine will stay stabilized when you are moving.
Training with basic planks and other similar anti-extension exercises are great for building core strength itself, but anti-rotational exercises help to improve our ability to counterbalance gravitational and rotational forces, making them perfect for pole dancers.
I hope this article was useful and inspired you to train your core! See also how you can get that stripper body that you always wanted