Oh hello, what’s this?! A new pole biomechanics video! Featuring our spectacular Pole PT Advanced Instructor, Colleen Jolly! Yay!
Are you working on your Bird of Paradise? Then let’s anatomy nerd!
Rather watch than read? You can check out the full biomechanics video below…
If not, read on!
Bird of paradise – bottom leg!
Let’s take a look at the bottom leg first!
While there’s obviously a high degree of hip flexion happening here (that’s the movement of bringing the leg towards the torso), note that the bottom leg in the bird of paradise is also abducted (that means it’s slightly out to the side of the torso) and we’re engaging that leg in external rotation, too (like a turn out).
For this combination of hip flexion, abduction and rotation, obviously, the hip flexors will be working hard, but we’re also using the TFL and other deep hip rotators, as well as the glutes … not to mention the quads which are keeping the leg straight as well – and of course the calves which are involved in the tootsie pointing!
If you want to bird of paradise one day, you’ll need a high level of flexibility to achieve this position – and because the leg is a little abducted, note that it’s a slightly different position to a strict front split, so it’s the more medial hamstrings where you’ll feel the stretch – as well as the adductors, too.
Bird of paradise – top leg!
Now, the top leg!
Whereas a ‘true’ front split position puts more emphasis on stretching the hip flexors, because the bird of paradise requires a more open split position, you’ll see our skele is not actually in a huge amount of hip extension here.
Our glutes and hammies are still working hard to keep that leg in the air, engaging in the direction of extension and external rotation, but the stretch is more focused on the adductors than the hip flexors.
Bird of paradise – torso!
As you can see from our pole dancing skeleton’s spinal position, there is A LOT of lateral trunk flexion involved in this move – i.e. side bending! There is also a lot of spinal rotation, as the chest opens out to get that bottom arm behind the pole…and the spine is extended, too!
In other words, the bird of paradise places a HUGE demand on our spinal mobility, core strength and control.
Here are some of the key muscles making this magic happen…
- The QL (Quadratus Lumborum) on the side nearest to the pole plays a big part in the control of that side bend;
- On the side nearest to the pole, our internal obliques will be contributing a lot to that lateral trunk flexion on that side as well – and the internal obliques on the other side are helping a little more with the rotational part of the movement;
- The external obliques are important here, too. Our model here shows the whole of the external obliques wrapping around the torso, but it’s the side nearest the pole that will be working mostly to rotate the torso the opposite way and assist with that side bend as well.
- The erector spinae are the main muscles involved in that spinal extension.
Bird of paradise – shoulders/arms!
The shoulder mobility and strength requirements of this move are pretty extreme, too!
Just look HOW overhead that bottom arm is! Holy shoulder flexion!
And there is a lot of rotation here, too!
Of the countless hours it took me to edit the video for this piece, I must have spent at least 90% of that time sitting at my computer with one arm up in the air, rotating it around and muttering quietly to myself trying to decide what direction that rotation was in! Ah, the life of a body nerd! But if you look closely, you can see on the image below that Colleen’s elbow is pointing to the floor/behind her – and because she has to bring that hand forward to clasp the other hand in front of the pole, this position requires her to internally rotate that bottom arm.
If you’ve read my book or other posts here, then you’ve probably picked up already that overhead flexion combined with internal rotation (like the position we use in twisted grip, for example) can be tricky for our shoulder. I’m not going to go into that all again here but if you’re interested in learning more about that, please do stay tuned for my upcoming Ayesha anatomy video where I’ll be talk a little more about this!
Until then, just know that overhead flexion + internal rotation is not exactly a shoulder’s happy place, so it deserves some extra consideration and gradual conditioning to help minimise risk of injury!
The key muscles working for that overhead flexion will be our anterior deltoid, plus the serratus anterior and trapezius which are working together to upwardly rotate the scapular. Our rotator cuff muscles are working hard to stabilise the shoulder too!
Last but not least, the finger flexors are in full *raaaaahhh* hench mode to maintain that strong hand clasp!
What does this all mean for our bird of paradise?
Now, obviously, these are not the ONLY muscles and movements involved. For the sake of my own sanity, if nothing else, this is just an overview! But this is absolutely enough for our purposes here, which is: Strength and Conditioning for Pole, yay!
The reason I like to breakdown moves and look at biomechanics like this is purely for strength and conditioning purposes; it allows you to:
- Understand what’s involved in the pole trick;
- Consider what your strengths and weaknesses are in those areas;
- Analyse which of those areas you might need to focus on in your training;
- Create relevant ‘off’ and ‘on the pole’ progressions to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.
Remember, bird of paradise is an advanced trick with a lot of demanding strength and flexibility elements, but I hope this little nerd sesh has helped give you some clues about where you need to focus your training if you want to be rocking this beautiful birdy yourself one day.
Stay tuned for some off the pole and on the pole progression ideas for your bird of paradise training!
…and if you like nerding about pole biomechanics / want to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, you might like my book, Strength and Conditioning for Pole which is available to puchase in paperback or downloadable ebook format!
Thanks for reading – and best of luck with your bird of paradise mission!
Strength and Conditioning for Pole – Paperback
Exercises and information on this website is provided for educational 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.