Put a pole dancer in the gym and, like Jaws sensing a drop of blood in the ocean from 5 kilometres away, we’ll immediately gravitate towards the pull up bars and the suspension trainers hanging from the ceiling. We just can’t help it.

There’s something comfortingly familiar about dangling from a metal bar or suspending ourselves in the air on some straps that makes the ‘functional training’ section of the gym much more appealing to polers than the weights and cardio machines.

But other than pulling up and tipping back into an Inverted-V to wow everyone in the gym with our impressive inversion skills and awesome spreadies to the Gods, there are many more conventional but super effective ways we can use suspension trainers to improve our pole skills.

Why is suspension training so awesome for polers?

Machines at the gym work isolated, individual muscle groups, usually from a seated or lying position, which may build basic strength in those isolated muscle groups, but doesn’t usually have a direct translation to what we do on the pole.

Suspension training, on the other hand, uses your own suspended bodyweight and gravity as resistance. This is EXACTLY what we do on the pole, so if you’re looking for sport-specific training for pole, it doesn’t come much more functional than this.

And because suspension trainers destabilise any movement we do on them—whether it’s a bicep curl or a plank—we have to constantly engage the core muscles to control our movement and stabilise the body against the destabilisation caused by the movement of the straps.

That ability to stabilise the body in unbalanced positions translates directly to our performance on the pole, too.

So, now you know why suspension training is such a great option for pole dancers generally. But let’s get a bit more specific…

4 of my favourite suspension training exercises for polers

I should say that, as well as being a pole instructor and personal trainer, I’m also a certified Group TRX instructor, but, of course, there are other brands of suspension trainers out there. You’ll see that the exercises in the videos below are actually done on a Pole Suspension Trainer (PST), but you can do them on any suspension trainer.

1. One armed power pull

What makes this exercise so great for pole?

There are so many reasons why this is a great exercise for polers. For one thing, it’s a unilateral strength exercise. In other words, only one arm is working at a time, which replicates big time what we do on the pole – our arms are usually never working together to do the same thing, we usually have one arm pushing while the other pulls, etc.

Secondly, the pulling part of the exercise is essentially an inverted row that targets and strengthens the muscles of the upper back which are often neglected in on-the-pole training and are super important for shoulder stability and posture.

The rotational core strength challenged in this exercise is also an important skill for polers to learn and will help prepare your body and protect the lower back when you do rotational moves on the pole like twisting down from a Flatline Scorpio into an Allegra, or twisting the body from an Ayesha (torso facing the ceiling) to an Iron X (torso facing the audience).

2. Scapular rainbows

What makes this exercise so great for pole?

This exercise is basically a pimped-up version of the basic arm circles you’ve probably done if you’ve ever been to a Pilates class. The added instability of the suspension trainer not only activates the core muscles but also requires dynamic stability of the shoulders, promoting neuromuscular control and shoulder mobility that is crucial for shoulder health and great for our poor ol’ poler shoulders. 👍

3. Abducted Lunge

What makes this exercise so great for pole?

For a start, pole is a very upper body-focussed activity, so exercises that target the legs specifically are always a good addition for general strength. Again, this exercise is unilateral (the legs are doing different things), which as mentioned above, mimics the way our bodies move on the pole, so we’re building strength in a way that is much more functional for pole.

Not only does this exercise challenge balance and build unilateral strength and control of the standing leg, but the leg that is in the strap is also actively working against the instability of the suspension trainer, so it helps improve active flexibility for side splits and also works the muscles of the inner and outer thigh which help us to hold pole sits, climbs, caterpillars—and any other moves where we are squeezing the pole between our legs like we’re trying to squash a melon.

4. Oblique crunch

What makes this exercise so great for pole?

A strong core in general is crucial for even basic inverts and spins—and when we’re planking and crunching away to our hearts content, thinking we’re building the core of Wonder Woman, we tend to neglect specifically training our obliques (the obliques are the muscles that run along the side of our torso, either side of your six pack 😉).

The suspended oblique crunch is a challenging core exercise that targets them head-on and will help build strength for everything from handstands to straight leg inverts, deadlifts and that elusive Iron X.

If you can’t maintain a strong plank position when bringing the knees in to the elbows, for instance if you feel your lower back arching, you can just hold the plank position instead. With the feet suspended, this in itself is a lot harder than it looks! You can even keep one knee on the floor until you build enough strength to have both feet suspended—and then build up to adding the crunching movement.

The above 4 exercises are just a small selection of the many, many suspension training exercises you can do to help build strength for pole. If you decide to try any of these exercises in your training programme, please make sure you warm up fully first. As a rough guide, you can aim for 8-10 repetitions, then rest for 30 seconds or so and repeat twice more to make 3 sets in total of each exercise, but make sure you focus on form. Rest and reset your position when you need to.

Please tag me if you try! #thepolept Insta: @ptthepole

If you’d like your own fully personalised strength building programme to help you kick ass on the pole then check out my personal training for pole page. I provide all programmes online through the Pole PT app. They are fully customised to your pole goals, ability level and equipment you have available and come with all the support, guidance and accountability you need to build strength for pole.