Today is Sunday – the official ‘day of butts’ for pole dancers around the world. So, it feels appropriate that I’ve sat down on my tush to write all about glute strength and why we need it to kick ass on the pole. Spoiler: it’s about more than achieving those awesome peachy #sundaybumday pics…

The video below is a summary of this blog post, so if you’d rather watch than read, go ahead and hit ‘play’, then scroll down if you want more details.

What is hip extension and why is it important for pole dancers?

We spend most of our lives in a seated position—working at a computer, driving, sitting on the sofa—with our hips (partially) flexed.

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For most of us, after 7 or 8 hours sat at a desk with our hips in flexion, we get in the car, drive to pole class (again, with our hips in flexion), then spend the next hour or two trying to get our hips to do exactly the opposite – extension!

Hip extension in pole dance

And, boy, do we do a lot of hip extension in pole! Here are just a few examples:

  • The leg that’s away from the pole in a butterfly

Glute strength for pole dance

  • Any bridge based moves

Glute training for pole dance

  • Any splits-based moves, even if you’re not in a full split – like a half Jade/Duchess.

Hip flexibility pole dance

  • Basically, any move where you have to grab your foot with your hand and push the hips forward… Allegra, Yogini, Ballerina… you get the idea?

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But, because we’re so used to spending all day sat on our peachies with our hips in flexion, we tend to end up with tight hip flexors and, conversely, with weak and underactive glutes (the glutes are primarily responsible for hip extension), which is bad news for those flexi pole goals. ☹

Glute strength combined with good hip mobility are both key to improving the lines of those hip-extension based moves. Not only will it mean that you don’t have to shout “can someone pass me my foot?” every time you attempt a ballerina, but strong, engaged glutes will also help to take pressure away from your lower back when you need to extend your hips, making you a more bullet-proof pole dancer and less likely to be injured.

The antidote for the deskbound poler

So this is why I often include lots of lovely hip extension and glute activation exercises in my programmes for pole dancers.

There are some awesome gym-based hip extension strength exercises, like barbell hip thrusts and kettlebell swings (which are particularly great for more advanced pole athletes who want to work on more explosive hip extension for leaps into splits and dynamic drops). I often include both of those in my strength programmes, depending how experienced someone is in the gym, but I want to show you a great activation/mobility drill which I almost always include in my warm ups, whether someone is already doing those exercises or not.

It’s called the Cook Hip Lift and it is universally awesome for pretty much all pole dancers, and it’s the first port of call if you are going to start working on your hip extension and glute strength.

Skip to 2min 30 to go straight to the exercise.

Why do I love this exercise for pole dancers?

  • It’s unilateral (one side working at a time), which reflects how we do things on the pole (as you can tell from the images above, we usually have one leg extending with the other flexed).
  • The bent leg forces the spine into slight flexion, which means you can’t cheat and use the lower back, so it really helps to isolate and zone-in on the glute muscles, without allowing you to cheat and use the lower back.
  • Because we spend so long sat on it, our glutes get lazy. The Cook Hip Lift helps to retrain the mind-muscle connection so you can fire that glute up when you’re about to go all ‘pole super hero‘ mode!

I usually have my clients do 1 or 2 sets of 10 slow repetitions on each side as part of the mobility section of their warm up, whether they are about to hit the weights or the pole.

I include it in the warm up for 2 reasons: 1. It gets the glutes activated, ‘turned on’ and primed ready for the serious ass-kicking that’s about to go down; 2. Let’s be honest, mobility training isn’t the most exciting way to spend a workout, so I try to include as much mobility work as I can into the warm ups of my programmes. Because I’m sneaky like that.

And although there isn’t a huge volume of the exercise within any single workout, done consistently over time, used in every warm up with other mobility movements, eventually it equates to a lot of volume over time – which will have a positive impact on mobility in the long term.

Example warm up

Obviously, the movements you do in your warm up will change depending on what you are going to be doing in your workout, but a typical warm up for an intermediate pole strength-based session might look something like this:

General warm up 5-6 mins Movements to get the heart rate up – skipping, rowing, dancing etc.
Mobility based movements / activation drills 5-6 mins 10 of each exercise (10 on each side)

Hip / lower body:

Leg swings – side to side and front to back

Knee lift / hip circles to side

Cook hip lift – 2 second hold at top

Bridge lift with reach

Single leg reaching deadlift

Shoulder / upper body:

Full arm circles

Shoulder T (dynamic chest stretch)

Wall angels

Scapular pull downs

Rotator cuff external rotation

Pole based warm up 4-5 mins Basic spins, climb variations, pole tucks.

Alternatively, the exercise could equally be included as part of a specific flexibility and mobility workout.

To target the glutes and hip extension specifically, I might follow a pattern that looks something like:

(After warm up) Couch stretch (30 secs each side x 2), followed by 10 Cook Hip Lifts on each side (2 second hold at top) and 10 child’s pose leg extensions on each side (this is another great drill that puts the spine in flexion, forcing you to isolate your glutes rather than using your lower back, but this time working in the very end range of your hip extension = hello active flexibility!).

This would be a small part of a bigger mobility / flexibility workout, obviously! But hopefully that gives you some insight. 😊

So, that’s it – hip extension and glute strength in a nut shell. If you’re interested in this kinda thing, you might also like my post on the important difference between passive and active flexibility and the impact it can make on your pole moves.

As always, just holla if you have any questions at all and happy Sunday bumday! Look after that tush and you will reap the booty rewards. 👍

Neo x

Please remember, we are all different, with varying mobility and strength limitations and our own unique training schedules and lifestyles, so we all have a different starting point. My best advice? Become an expert in the basics! The Cook Hip Lift will help you do just that.

If you’d like a fully personalised programme to help you build strength for pole that takes into account your individual abilities and circumstances, you can find my online personal training programmes for polers here.

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