Ahh, the good old invert. For beginner polers, it’s usually the first pole trick that can elicit actual gasps and firework-display-worthy “oooos” from non-pole friends.
And successfully nailing your invert is a bit like unlocking ‘mirror mode’ in Mario Kart. You know, the one that lets you play all the cups in reverse? By which, I mean that it immediately opens up a whole new kingdom of pole moves to add to your repertoire (and Instagram, obviously).
It started with a kick
For many of us, that first invert, as glorious as it may have been, was achieved with a little help from momentum.
Now, be honest. Who is STILL using a little kick or swing to get into their inverts? Lots and lots of polers, that’s who!
Personally, I wasn’t allowed to kick into my inverts. My pole instructor would only allow us to go upside down if we could do it without momentum. And although it may have been the most frustrating two months of my life, I’m sooo glad I learnt it that way now.
Kicking up can be a hard habit to break. I understand why people do it and I understand why a lot of instructors teach it that way, but the ultimate goal should always be to be able to perform the move without the help of a kick.
Not only is it safer and more controlled, but it looks a whole lot prettier and stronger, too.
I know the struggle. When I was banging my head against the brick wall that is learning to invert without a kick, I binge-watched tutorial after tutorial, trying to uncover some hidden tip or trick that I must have been missing.
Almost there, almost there… cue monkey foot scrabbling for contact with the pole. Urgh.
Eventually, I discovered what the secret to a no kick invert was. And it was nothing to do with technique. The technique is actually quite simple once you have this one secret ingredient.
The secret? It’s strength. Pure and simple.
No tutorial can teach you strength, it must be earned—and that means putting in some serious training time to build strength in the muscle groups that need to be strong to get you upside down without a kick.
It also means training those muscle groups in a way that reinforces the correct movement pattern for a safe, controlled invert. Knowing which muscles to engage, and repeating that movement pattern until it becomes second nature.
And whilst we’re on the subject of doing things properly, it also means training in a way that isn’t going to eventually create some kind muscle imbalance or weakness that will put you at risk of injury. And, yes, that means training your dork side, too.
The anatomy of a pole invert
The video below highlights all the primary muscles we use to create a momentum-less invert / chopper (or ‘V straddle / ‘Open-V’, whatever name it goes by at your studio).
Spoiler: there’s a lot more going on than you think!
As you can see, there is a lot of upper body pulling power that is required for an invert and this is where many people lack the strength and correct engagement through the shoulders and arms.
But if you are able to hold your bodyweight off the pole easily in the invert position and do multiple leg tucks, with proper shoulder engagement (i.e. chest lifted to avoid overly rounding the shoulders forward), it may instead be the combination of that correct shoulder engagement with the core and hip flexor strength required that is letting you down and preventing you from nailing that final, frustratingly elusive tuck that will get your hips to the pole in a controlled way.
I’ve included three of my favourite invert exercises below that you can start today to help you unlock your no-kick invert faster.
Bring on the next pole level… Ching, ching, ching.
FYI, these exercises are all included in my 8-week no-kick invert programme—it’s a progressive and balanced 8 week programme that includes on-the pole, in-the-gym and at-home workouts designed to target the muscle groups needed for a smooth pole invert/chopper—all delivered to you through the Pole PT app. You can find out more about it here.
Pole achievement: unlocked
No-kick invert exercise 1: Floor invert tucks
Make sure you keep both shoulders flat on the floor for this one – watch out for the shoulders lifting as you tuck! I’d recommend keeping your hands on your lower tummy, too, so you can feel what’s going on there. You want to maintain that ‘belly button to spine’ squeeze – if your tummy starts to dome out at some point in the movement, it’s a sign that you are losing that all important lower abdominal engagement.
This exercise may look simple, but perfect execution on this one is a crucial foundation for inverting without a kick.
To start, try 8 to 10 reps, 3 times through. Rest for 30 seconds in between sets.
No-kick invert exercise 2: Pike lifts over yoga blocks
This exercise works the quad and hip flexor strength (and active hamstring flexibility) required to hold your chopper at the end position – and sets a strong foundation for your straight leg invert later on.
For this one, I usually start clients with 5 reps on each side, for 3 sets, resting for 30 seconds in between sets.
No-kick invert exercse 3: Horizontal rows
Horizontal pulling strength is crucial if you want to take the kick out of your invert. It is strength in this pulling motion (coming primarily from the muscles in the mid-upper back) that will hold you in place as you lift your feet off the ground and allow you to control your body positioning as you tip backwards. The first row progression I usually use with my clients is this resistance band row.
Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions, resting in between as you need. Focus on form – keep your shoulders back! 🙂
Good luck with your invert mission! Please let me know how you get on – I’d love to see vids/pics of your hard work. Tag me on social media (@ptthepole on Instagram and @thepolept on Facebook) so we I can see! As always—feel free to ask if you have any questions at all!
Before you go! My 8-week no kick invert programme is my most popular and most successful online strength programme for pole dancers. It contains all the exercise drills you’ll ever need to get your no-kick invert and takes you through all the progressions week by week in a logical and super effective way. It also includes exercises to combat muscle imbalances, ensure proper engagement of the shoulders and help protect you from injury! Find out more here.