fbpx Skip to main content

When I first started pole, I was that ‘Goonies never say die’ student in my class. The one trailing behind everyone else. Cheering on my class mates as they moved onto leg hangs and butterflies, watching all the pretty inverted fun with my own two feet planted very firmly on the ground.

I didn’t have the confidence for the ‘controlled leg swing’ my new pole buddies made look so effortless, and I really REALLY wanted to do what I’d been told was the ‘proper’, ‘strict form’ invert.

The thing that got me was that I felt (very naively but very strongly indeed) that I SHOULD be able to do it. I was already a personal trainer at the time, spending a large part of my day training or training others. I was pretty strong… or so I thought!

The truth is, I WAS pretty strong – and that training history helped me progress fairly quickly and safely onto more intermediate and advanced moves once I got my pole groove on, and—let me tell you—when I finally did get that invert, ohhh it was an invert! Boom! Confidence in my entire identity restored… phew! But back in those early struggle bus days, with my ego taking a hit at pole class every week, I lacked two very crucial things.

Firstly, the training I’d done up until that point wasn’t programmed with pole in mind. In particular, I’d been lazy about my pulling strength – and it showed! And while I could push up and plank challenge like the gym floor PT stereotype I was, I’d never had to use that strength in an aerial context.

Secondly, like all beginners, I had A LOT to learn when it came to the very technical skill of pole dance. I just didn’t understand the very unique movement patterns of pole.

For all beginners (and beyond), it’s these two elements combined—strength and skill— which pave the way to success in pole. If you’re a beginner pole dancer struggling with your invert like I did, I want to provide you with some things I never had access to as a beginner and which would have saved me a lot of frustration, time and energy:

To help you understand the skill: A detailed breakdown of the mechanics of the invert – so you can understand the muscles and movement patterns you need to master it. Prefer to watch? Join me on my 30 min nerd-fest of a video breaking down pole invert mechanics! Rather read? You might prefer to read my blog post breakdown of the pole invert instead!

To help you build strength: The exercises I use with my clients to help build the very specific kind of strength you need to absolutely boss your no-kick invert. Today’s post is focused on the ‘off the pole’ exercises (p.s. you can find some ‘on the pole’ exercises right here, too)!

You with me? Then let’s do this thing!

The exercises below haven’t been picked at random. Throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks is never an efficient approach when it comes to strength and conditioning. With skill training, we get to be weirdly specific about what we train so we can make it SUPER effective! I’ve chosen the exercises below based on the key elements we need to perform the invert (if you missed that part, you can nerd-out on the elements of the pole invert here!).

Exercise 1: Lying Invert Tuck

Move slowly and really focus on the lower abdominal engagement, keeping your hands on your belly to feel what is happening there as you move. This is one of those exercises that looks easy, but getting it right is challenging! The exploration of core engagement will really help you SO MUCH later on!

Rep and set suggestion: 3 sets of: 8 to 10 reps.

Make it easier: Keeping one foot lightly down on the floor (leg bent) will take away some of the load.

Add more challenge: My favourite pole invert-focused progression is to combine the leg tuck with an upper body pull either on the floor using the pole (click here for a video), or combining it with the Exercise 2 pull below.

Exercise 2: Vertical Pull

This exercise is a modification of a chin up progression using a resistance band. In the video, I’m demonstrating the full range movement, but Instead of moving though this ‘full’ pull up movement, for extra ‘invert’ bonus points, just hold the pull in the bottom position (which is a little more similar to the
isometric contraction we use in the invert).

Find some resistance in the band, pull down and hold the isometric contraction, noting how it feels to keep your arms by your sides against the resistance of the band without overly rounding your shoulders forwards. I tend to cue ‘keep your chest lifted’ rather than ‘shoulders back’ to help with this.

Rep and set suggestion: 3 sets of: 5 x 5 second holds.

Make it easier: Use a lighter band / tie the band only at one end to provide more ‘slack’ in the band and/or see how it feels to just do one side at a time.

Add more challenge: A great way to progress this one is to combine the pull hold with the lying invert tuck (Exercise 1). It will look something like this. You can also add a lateral element to the pull by bringing your arms to one side into a position that is more similar to the invert hold!

Exercise 3: Eccentric Bicep Curls

Once you are familar with this exercise, you can use a really heavy resistance on the band and do one arm at a time, to add more challenge. For that ‘single arm’ version, you can use your opposite hand to help get the band into the top position, then slowly lower it down with control. Keep your arms by your sides as well as controlling the elbow extension!

Rep and set suggestion: 3 sets of: 5 slow lowers on each side (single arm) / 10 slow lowers (bilateral).

Make it easier: Use a lighter band / tie the band only at one end to provide more ‘slack’ in the band, and/or reduce the count for the slow lower

Add more challenge: If you have weights, you can use dumbbells, progressing to a heavy weight – but you’ll need a spotter to help you get the dumbbell up to the starting point so you can focus on the lower! Suspension trainer bicep curls are also a really great invert-specific progression! If you’re working with bands, just progressing to a heavier band is great!

Exercise 4: Horizontal Pull

The video above demonstrates the full range pull. But, just like with the vertical pull, rather than performing the ‘full range’ of the pulling movement, pausing and holding at the end of the pull is a great way to make this more isometric – just like the contraction in the invert!

Rep and set suggestion: 3 sets of: 5 x 5 second holds.

Make it easier: Use a lighter band / tie the band only at one end to provide more ‘slack’ in the band and just do one side at a time.

Add more challenge: There are so many great progressions for horizontal pulling! Suspension trainer pulls and bent rows are two of my favourites. If you’re working only with resistance bands, changing the impact of gravity by standing and leaning your torso forwards (same set up as the bent row) so you are pulling the band from a low anchor point (still horizontally) from below is a great progression!

Exercise 5: Resisted Hip Flexion

This is a great way to start working on hip flexor strength for the knee tuck in the invert. Try to keep your pelvis level (so you’re not ‘hiking’ up the hip on one side as you move).

Rep and set suggestion: 3 sets of: 8 to 10 reps.

Make it easier: You can make this easier by performing the exact same movement but lying on your back on the floor.

Add more challenge: My go-to progression for this is to add a little more load by holding a weight (supported by your hands) on your thigh – it will provide a little extra resistance!

What next?

Need a little more support on your invert mission? You can download my 6-week No Kick Invert training program here! It contains the full invert breakdown, an overview of the ‘why’ behind my exercise selections annnnnd all the exercises above combined with my 3 favourite ‘on the pole’ invert exercises into a kick ass invert training programme, including warm ups and cool downs! No Kick Invert – let’s have at it!

If you love nerding about pole and how to train for pole, you might also enjoy my book, Strength and Conditioning for Pole – a comprehensive guide to help you build your own pole strength training programme!

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

Join my mailing list for free training advice direct to your inbox!

…including my FREE EBOOK “Grip Gainz – Grip Training for Pole Athletes” – with training drills and programming to help you achieve a vice-like pole grip.

* indicates required

I hate spam, too! When you join my mailing list, I’ll also notify you about new blogs and Pole PT updates that I think you might be interested in, but I’ll keep it to a minimum! You can unsubscribe at any time!