What exercises can I do (off the pole) to help gain strength?

by Beth
(Sydney, NSW, Australia)

I would love to know which exercises I can do to improve my strength so I can make those awesome pole moves look effortless!
I don't have a pole at home (yet), but go to the gym often - which exercises should i be doing? Is there gym equipment which is good to use to build pole strength? Which muscles should I target?

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Pole Prep Exercise Suggestions
by: Susan from PDFF

Great pole fitness question, thanks Beth!

By now we all know what a terrific workout pole dancing is, but if you don't yet have a dance pole how can you best prepare for the wondrous day when one appears in your living room?

While I can't give specific workout advice without knowing your particulars and current fitness level, I can offer some general guidelines to help you get a head start on your pole dancing moves. Hopefully these will be helpful to others reading your question too!

You mention that you go to the gym often, but are you doing strength training or mainly aerobics classes?

Pole dancing can be a challenging total body workout, so if you're not already doing some type of strength training it may be best to start off with a general workout incorporating upper and lower body exercises, as well as core strengthening work. This will give you a good base from which to build.

A session with a personal trainer to get a personalized starter routine is a great investment if you're new to strength training.

If you're already familiar with basic strength training principles and safety, and you feel comfortable with the equipment available at your gym, I'd suggest you focus your efforts on upper body and core strength.

Not that lower body strength isn't important in pole dancing (witness some of those fabulous "look ma, no hands!" type moves), but for most women, upper body strength is our weakness. And since there's so much upper body strength involved in so many pole dancing moves (spins, lifts, airborne poses, etc), it will serve you well to develop these muscles.

Core control is also important in pole dancing (as in any type of dance or sport actually), as a good strong core will help you move with control and grace. A strong core can also help protect you from injury.

That's because without good core strength, you'll be asking your upper body to do a lot more of the work on its own. With good core control, you can recruit those central stabilizing muscles to assist in lifts and holds.

So, that said, which specific exercises should you focus on? While there's not a specific piece of gym equipment that's designed to work your pole dancing muscles (other than a dance pole of course!), there are several exercises I can recommend that will target the main muscles you'll want to work.

In my opinion, it doesn't much matter which equipment you use, or whether you use machines or free weights or just your own body weight. It's more important to know which muscles you're targeting, and to focus on excellent form.

This means isolating the muscle you're working (my favourite saying in class is "use the muscle, not momentum!"), moving with awareness and control, and being aware of correct technique.

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Pole Prep Exercise Suggestions, Cont'd
by: Susan from PDFF

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I recommend focusing on the following muscles to increase specific strength needed for pole dancing:

1. All 3 major abdominal muscle groups
  • rectus abdominus or "6 pack"
  • obliques or waist muscles (side abdominals)
  • lower transverse - these are arguably the most important abdominal muscle group, but also the most neglected in most people

2. Lats - the big muscles running along either side of your back as these are used in many spins and lifts

3. Shoulders - deltoids and trapezius muscles particularly - it's important to strengthen these to help avoid pole-related injuries

Here are some suggestions for exercises to work these muscles:

Lat pull downs using a machine are one of the easiest ways to work your lats.

Side raises and front raises with free weights are great shoulder exercises, as are overhead presses (with a barbell, dumbbells or a machine).

There are many different ways to work your abdominal muscles. Some of my favourites are:

For obliques: side planks (with or without a hip drop and lift), standing side bends holding a medicine ball overhead, ab crunches with a side twist.

For lower transverse: front plank (on or off an exercise ball or inverted Bosu ball), piking on an exercise ball, hands-to-feet ball pass.

For upper abdominals: Crunches on an exercise or Bosu ball, seated medicine ball pass (requires a partner, or just toss the ball up in the air as you sit up), "roll outs" using an exercise ball (also recruits lower abs).

An excellent "old fashioned" exercise that doesn't require any equipment is push ups. Done correctly, these work the core, chest, back and shoulders, all of which are used in pole dancing. I recommend incorporating some variation on a push up into your pole prep routine.

You may also want to work on your grip strength, as the muscles of your hands and forearms will work quite a bit once you get on your dance pole.

You can easily do this by squeezing a rubber ball in your hand. Treat this like any other exercise by doing several sets of increasing reps as you get stronger. And/or you can just keep a ball handy in your purse or at your desk for example, and give it a few squeezes whenever you think of it.

Of course this is just a quick overview of some helpful exercises to help prepare you for the rigors of pole dancing, and is by no means a complete exercise routine. But I hope it will give you a good starting point as you get ready for your pole dancing adventure!

Yoga and Pole Dancing
by: Anonymous

I know its essential to stretch and increase your flexibility before pole dancing/exercising but do you HAVE to do yoga? Yoga creeps me out for some reason...lol Is there any other 'routine' i can do before getting on the pole? I dont like the idea of doing yoga.

No Yoga Required
by: Susan

There's absolutely no reason why you need to do yoga for stretching if it makes you uncomfortable. There are many different tyeps of stretches you can do for flexibility. You may want to check out this DVD, which includes a 20 minute stretching routine to help with pole flexibility and releasing tight muscles.

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