We talk A LOT about pulling strength in pole.
And that’s no surprise given the amount pulling we actually do on the pole!
Getting strong as hell in pulling exercises like chin ups and pull ups—and strengthening the shoulders and back with exercises like rows and band pulls—is always going to be a crucial part of every pole dancer’s training repertoire.
But today, I want to talk about something that is often neglected—the exact opposite of pulling: PUSHING!
AHHH, PUSH IT. P-PUSH IT REAL GOOD.
Sorry… I’ve had that song stuck in my head since I started writing this post, so I’m just gonna leave that ear worm there. You’re welcome. 😉
Why are pushing exercises important for pole dancers?
There are two key reasons why getting strong at pushing is super important for pole dancers:
1. Muscle balancing
In order to keep our joints, muscles and soft tissues healthy and reduce risk of injury, we should always strive for balance in our training.
Spins, inverts, climbs… they all involve pulling! So we ought to be doing some PUSH exercises to balance out all that PULLING we do on the pole.
Incorporating appropriate pushing exercises into our training will work the opposing (antagonist) muscles and help us to create more symmetrical strength and mobility.
As a personal trainer, I often see the opposite thing with guys in the gym…
Gym bros basically tend to do lots of bench presses and pushing exercises that work the “mirror muscles” (the ones you can see in the mirror) at the front of the body – and they neglect the back muscles that are worked with pulling exercises.
Pole dancers tend to have insanely developed back muscles from all the pulling we do (you may have noticed your magnificent back ripples last time someone took a photo of you from behind), and we need to make sure we’re balancing that out with pushing exercises, too.
When we progress through beginner to intermediate levels in pole, we are gradually building up our pulling strength by learning to spin, climb and invert. But once we get UP the pole, and especially once we get upside down, we need to be strong not only at pulling, but also at pushing.
This is because many of the intermediate tricks and manoeuvres we do up the pole require both a push AND a pull.
In my experience, for many pole dancers, it’s their pushing strength that lets them down at this point because they haven’t worked through the same gradual progressions to develop it.
Could your pushing strength be the missing link in your pole training?
Here’s a short video with some more info…
If your pole progress is stalling and you know that you really struggle with pushing exercises like push ups and overhead presses, it’s quite possible that you will notice a massive improvement in your pole performance if you build up that basic pushing strength to match your pulling strength. Plus, you’ll be helping to ward off muscle imbalances, too. Bonus!
Pushing exercises for pole dancers
As always with strength training, there’s nothing fancy about this. Try not to get distracted by the quirky, bonkers-looking stuff!
I know, I know, we’re pole dancers, being extra is basically our entire ethos and we’re not happy unless we’re upside down and dangling by a knee or elbow pit, but always, always, get a solid foundation in the basics first and build gradually from there.
Trust the process, be consistent and you WILL get stronger!
I could ramble on about the topic of pressing exercises for pole dancers all day, so I’m going to split this into two parts.
Part 1 below covers my favourite horizontal pushing exercises for pole dancers, starting with the basics – push ups!
I’ll explain how to modify them to make them easier and also give you some progressions to make them even more specific to pole if you want to build strength for split grip moves like the extended butterfly, inverted D and Ayesha. Please only try these progressions once you’re acing the basic press up movement!
**UPDATE: You can read about vertical pushing exercises for pole dancers in Part 2: Balancing the vertical pull**
How to programme pushing exercises into your pole training?
I get asked this question every time, so I’ll address it; but it really is a tricky one to answer!
It depends on so many factors, including your current level, your training history and what other training you are doing.
As a very rough guide, you could start by adding 3 sets of 8 press ups to one of your training sessions– with hands elevated if you need to. Over the weeks, as you get stronger, you can gradually start to reduce the height of your hands until you are able to do all 3 sets on the floor.
You could then progress this from 8 to 10 repetitions per set. You could then start to add some of the progressions I mentioned in the video above.
This whole process may take weeks/months. I told you it wasn’t sexy! But it will get you results!
Progress logically in this way and you WILL build strength and start to balance out your pushing and pulling strength for a more well-rounded, less injury prone pole dance existence.
**UPDATE: You can now read my follow up post covering vertical pushing exercises for pole dancers in Part 2: Balancing the vertical pull**
If you need help programming your training, my customised online strength coaching for pole dancers will allow you to progress in a logical, effective way and comes with all the accountability you need to keep your eyes on the prize and stay on track! Click here for more info!