Pole dancing is for those of us who love progress. The ones who love the journey of setting goals, smashing them, reassessing and then setting the bar even higher. In the pole world, there is never a clear “end” or final goal. Rather, pole dancing is like a babushka doll, where there are always more layers each time you pop one open. You’re going to love pole dancing if you love discovering new, amazing layers within yourself. Some of your shiny new layers will reveal strength you didn’t realise you had, and dance moves that could give Beyonce a run for her money.
However as you progress and start to try intermediate pole tricks, suddenly a new challenge presents itself – flexibility! Flexibility generally doesn’t progress as fast as strength, and flexibility training is not always as fun as learning pole tricks, but it’s just as important. Flexibility helps make many tricks look amazing, and safe and consistent stretching also improves mobility, range of motion and muscle control, which helps prevent injury!
Still not convinced? Read on to discover some of the ways that flexibility can improve your pole dancing tricks and skills!
- Your lines will look cleaner
The first and most obvious benefit of training flexibility is that it helps your pole tricks and splits look amazing. By working on your flexibility (particularly active flex) you’ll develop the skills to lengthen into your lines during pole moves and to engage your muscles correctly for long, safe splits. You’ll find your pole dancing splits will look flatter, so you won’t need to always rely on getting the “good angle”. A lot of pole dancing competitions include technique, lines and extension in the judging criteria, so if you’d like to compete it’s important that you work on flexibility exercises. However, you can be bendy AND have poor lines and extension, so make sure you’re really focussing on tidiness and engagement!
- You will be less prone to injury if stretching safely
Strong muscles = safe stretching. A good pole stretch class always includes a strong element of conditioning. When we do tricks on the pole, we aren’t holding splits and backbends passively. Rather, pole dancers need to be engaged in what is known as “active flexibility” during pole tricks. Simply put, active flexibility is the range of motion you have without needing to apply force to create the range. For example, lifting your leg out in front of you in the air vs holding onto that leg and pulling it higher. The first is an example of active flexibility, the second is an example of your passive range. To increase your active flexibility, you’ll need to work on conditioning exercises to strengthen those parts of your body. Mix active and dynamic stretching with passive and PNF stretching to become a well-rounded flexy pole dancer, keeping your body safe and happy. Finding a great flexibility coach who can guide you is the first place to start, so jump onto PoleSphere and check out some of our instructors’ amazing stretch tutorials, all of which include active flexibility conditioning:
- You will be able to perform higher level tricks
There are a lot of pole dancing tricks that most people can learn regardless of flexibility levels. That’s one of the best things about pole – there’s something for everyone! But as you progress and reach advanced or elite levels, you’ll find that some tricks demand a higher range of motion than others. Becoming more flexible not only helps you achieve these tricks but helps you to achieve them safely. Of course once you reach elite levels of pole, there are tricks that are ONLY accessible to the bendiest of them all! We all know these tricks well and many live within the “bird” family, for example Spatchcock, Bird of Paradise and Eagle. Half of us dream of the day we extend into a Bird of Paradise, whereas the other half of us have accepted that there ain’t no way that’s going to happen – which is okay too! Achieving extreme levels of flexibility depends on factors including your background (those who have a gymnastics or dance background can have an advantage), pre-existing injuries and also your genetics and how your body is built! One thing that you DO have control over is how you approach flexibility training. How consistent are you? Do you stretch regularly? Do you work with professionals to help you reach your bendy goals? If you put in the time, energy and dedication, your levels of flexibility will improve! And improved flexibility can help you reach higher levels of pole dancing and perhaps one day hit an Eagle! (Okay, okay – at least a flat Jade Split!)
- Your dance and floorwork will look stunning
If you improve your flexibility, not only will your pole tricks look incredible, but your floorwork and dance will look amazing too! Your splits, basework and lines will start to really pop, and because flexibility and mobility go hand in hand, you’ll find your ability to flow in choreography and create those delicious, gooey leg waves and smooth, silky bodyrolls will improve! Even holding a pose against the pole will look smokin’ if you can create flexy shapes. With strong active flex you’ll be able to learn a jaw-dropping dancer’s tilt (which you can learn on PoleSphere with Joanna Littlewood-Johnson by the way) or even a needle scale. You might find yourself performing the perfect floor jade split or rolling through a middle split during your floorwork. While these elements may seem small, when put together into a pole dance routine, it can be the difference between a good or a ground-breaking, sashie-winning show! And by the way, if all of this talk about choreo and floorwork has got you dying to do some gooey flow, jump on PoleSphere and give our newest lessons from our instructor Lola Grace’s ‘Liquid Lines’ series a go! They include:
- Your mindset and self-confidence will improve
Training your flexibility and committing to regular stretching has more than just physical or aesthetic benefits. Yes, over time your splits will start to look fantastic, but you know what’s even better? The sense of accomplishment you feel when you think about all the hard work, time and commitment that went into those splits! The process of setting a goal, working towards that goal and seeing yourself improve over time will make performing that Allegra or Spatchcock even sweeter, and you’ll have a sense of satisfaction every time you achieve a trick or flexy position you used to think was impossible! Throughout the journey, you will have built a better mindset, a stronger, more flexible body, and acquired a new level of determination and belief in yourself. So grab your mat, yoga blocks and therabands, pop on a tutorial to follow and start stretching!