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Gotta chair before you can pheonix… you know the old saying, right?

In order to progress in pole (like all sports), we have to increase overload (to our muscles, cardiovascular system, ligaments…etc) GRADUALLY. It’s classic Goldilocks: we need ENOUGH overload for our body to make adaptations, but not SO MUCH that we end up exhausted and broken.

PROGRESSIVE overload is the key to this safe, gradual and optimal training approach that will help you find that ‘just right’ overload porridge.

Okay, I’m not sure where I’m going with that Goldilocks analogy, so let’s just leave it right here in the intro and move on…

Let’s take a look at how we can apply this important principle of sports science to our pole training.

Read on, pole nerds!

What IS progressive overload?

The concept of ‘progressive overload’ is pretty simple when it comes to traditional gym movements – each week we gradually increase the weight we’re using as we get stronger!

One day you’re barbell squatting with an empty bar, then each week you increase the weight a little and before you know it – boom! You’re squatting 40kg easy breezy. Magic. 

But how does progressive overload work on the pole? 

Progression in pole may not be as linear as weight lifting, but the concept is exactly the same: it’s all about starting at the beginning and building up through logical progressions as we get stronger.

With only our bodyweight to play with, we just need to be a little more creative to develop progressions so we can gradually, safely and logically build up the strength and flexibility we need for a trick.

Here are 7 ways that we can adjust the load of a pole trick to create these gradual progressions…

1. Start off the pole!

I know this one may seem particularly obvious, but we pole dancers can get a little, erm… enthusiastic when we’re training! I know you’ve probably got hundreds of pole tricks and combos saved on your phone to ‘try’ and I know you’ll have these moments, too…

Me: ‘Oh I’m feeling good today, I’ll just try see if I can get into this ridiculously intense shape I found on Instagram’.

My mobility in hip abduction: ‘Nope.’

Taking a step back, assessing the mobility requirements of a trick and checking in on your own strengths and weaknesses in that area of mobility to make sure you can achieve the position required for that trick OFF the pole first, before starting load that position ON the pole, is wise! 

The magic of progressive overload is that if you want to achieve a certain position on the pole, it’s really just a case of figuring out where you are right now and creating the right progressions that will gradually but surely take you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Replicating a movement that we need to achieve ON the pole in a deloaded position OFF the pole is an awesome starting point for most pole progressions.

For example, acheiving a flat pancake on the floor is always going to come ahead of trying your spatchcock on the pole in the list of gradual progressions towards that trick!

2. Use assistance!

Using spotters/pull up bands/stability balls to adjust the load of pole tricks is one of my most favourite ways to create pole progressions!

If you want to see an example of this in action, check out my stability ball chopper post – or these other stability ball exercises – and prepare to be both humbled and amused by your giant inflatable ball!

Stability ball training for pole

3. Use levers!

Like gradually increasing the lever in a flag move: both legs tucked (short lever), one leg tucked (longer lever), both legs straight (heavier lever).

4. Adjust contact points!

Again, this is seemingly obvious – and something that you’ll probably do intuitively when learning a new move, but just to clarify…

Removing contact points progressively TOTALLY counts as progressive overload!

More contact points = more support and less load!

Less contact points = less support and more load!

So when your pole instructor is teaching you to ‘keep your hands on / keep that back leg grip on for now’, it’s not just about gradual skill development, it’s about gradual physical overload, too!

5. Adjust range of motion!

Rather than heading straight to the final trick position, we can start with a reduced range of motion. Eg – keeping your legs bent in your jade split instead of straightening them and gradually increasing the leg extension and split angle over time.

6. Adjust complexity!

Another great progression for a pole trick is to reduce the complexity and number of ‘moving parts’ of a trick by working on just one element of it. Like working on the grip point for the Jade, without doing the full movement.

7. Adjust entry points!

Our ultimate goal for a pole trick is to be able to incorporate it into a combo – to move in and out of it with ease and from different entries and exits, but when we’re working on progressions, we can sometimes make life harder for ourselves by adding this extra load before and/or after the trick itself.

Finding an ‘easier’ entry point – like getting into a trick position from the floor without an invert – will 1) reduce how fatigued you are when you go into the trick, reducing the intensity of it; and 2) reduce the fear element by allowing you to practice the trick closer to the ground, where you can work on the skill and strength aspects safely and confidently.

8. Adjusting timing / tempo

You can build in some gradual overload to your pole conditioning exercises by altering timing / tempo.

For example: gradually increasing timed holds in your static pole moves, or slowing down inverts / invert lowers to increase time under tension.

How do you apply progressive overload in YOUR pole training?

If you ever find yourself banging your head against a nemesis trick (I’m naming no names, *cough* Janerio *cough*), check through these progression ideas – can you think of a way to regress that nemesis and start working on some gradual progressions for it, instead of just trying to hop straight on over to the finish line?

If you want to know more about how to apply progressive overload in your pole training – check out my book Strength and Conditioning for Pole which is available NOW in paperback or ebook!

Content on this website is provided for educational/informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should consult your Doctor or Health Care Professional before doing any exercises or fitness programs to determine if they are right for your needs.


Strength and conditioning book pole dance

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