When I first began to pole, I was amazed at all the strength moves that I saw different pole stars completing. I was certainly no stranger to strength work: I had competed in track and field through middle school and high school, and I had been a rower in college. How did these women and men manage to do it? And for an entire song?
A competitor needs to show both strength and endurance – and make it look effortless and fluid at the same time. So how do you build that strength? Should you just take as many pole classes as possible? Not necessarily! Cross training will help build muscle, endurance and has also been shown to reduce the risk of injury – when you use your muscles in just one way, you are at risk for injuries from overuse.
After nearly five years of pole fitness, four main areas of cross training have allowed me to improve in pole, and I hope that they are useful to you!
(1) Strength Training
Obviously, pole is a strength workout in itself (we’re pulling our bodyweight around the pole for goodness sakes!), but cross training with strength work is key to getting some of the more difficult strength based moves. With strength training, you have a wide variety of options:
(a) Pole Based Strength Moves: These are usually the “fun” things we do as drills during classes – tucks, Vs, inverted Vs, inside/outside leg hangs, shoulder mounts, etc (on both sides!). If you have a pole at home, you already have an advantage there! Pole Pressure classes like ‘Firm and Flexy’ will certainly help build the strength as well.
(b) Non Pole Based Strength Moves: For those who do not want the added cost of a gym membership, you can easily do many bodyweight exercise at home – I’ve found that simple moves that use your bodyweight are the most effective. Pushup variations, front planks, and side planks will help work that upper body and core; squats, lunges, and wall sits will help keep those legs looking lovely! If you have the desire and/or the opportunity to do strength work at another workout facility, you have many many choices, especially if you are in the DC area. I personally have just started crossfit – and already I can see improvements in strength! Different aerial work can also be fun – both lyra (aerial hoop) and static trapeze have helped my grip strength and upper body strength – plus they’re addictive!
Endurance is what will get you through a routine; four minutes never seems so long as when you’re pole dancing! Endurance or cardio training that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up will make it much easier to accomplish the choreography and the tricks in your routine. As with strength training, you have a lot of options here! Mix it up! You can run, bike, swim, dance, row…or any combination!
I love running – I’ve run five half marathons, and numerous shorter distance races – due to an injury a couple of years ago, I usually only run about 3 days per week. For me, this is a good balance with pole, crossfit, and other workouts. But I know that not everyone enjoys running and some have injuries – but you can also find a cardio workout that is non-impact. Swimming and rowing are great options that work out your entire body. The more that you build up your endurance, the easier it will be to accomplish a gorgeous routine!
This one has been a tough cross training challenge for me – I’m certainly not a naturally flexible person! Cindy’s Deep Stretching and Flexibility class is a great weekly routine for me, but you shouldn’t stop there. Flexibility must be maintained! Some options include stretching DVDs (Cleo the Hurricane’s Rocking Legs and Abs DVD – http://www.cleothehurricane.com/portfolio-view/rockin-legs-n-abs/ – and the Get Bent and Fit and Bendy DVDs – http://fitandbendy.com/dvdsale.htm are great options if you like to work out at home), yoga classes (we’re very lucky in the DC area to have many studios and types of yoga to choose from!), or following Instagram yoga challenges (my personal favorite! I love seeing pictures of my progress, and the daily postings keep me accountable). Remember – flexibility is linked to strength – you have to have the strength to hold those flexible positions, especially on the pole.
Lastly – this isn’t precisely cross training, but it’s important – the only way that you get better at pole is to practice. Yes, this means coming to classes, but it also means coming to open pole, booking time in the studio, or just having a pole jam with friends. Work on different combinations, see if others have ideas of how to link moves together. Explore different styles! Play around with songs that you ordinarily wouldn’t dance to!
Remember – every poler is different and everyone progresses at different paces! Cross training can help you prevent injury and become more fit all around. And who knows – maybe those push-ups will help you get that nemesis strength move!