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Do you know how your body responds to stress? And how you can use that stress response to maximise your pole training wins? Well, then let’s nerd on, pole friends…

‘General Adaptation Syndrome’ is the widely accepted theory describing the physiological changes our body goes through when under stress – and it underpins all structured training programmes, including those we follow here at The Pole PT…. but what *is* it?

In this blog post, I want to help you visualise this process in a way you can apply to your own training.

Programming progressive training can seem complex and overwhelming, but I promise that simply understanding this process and starting to structure your training based on it will go a LONG way to optimising your training for pole (even if you’re just doing it more intuitively, rather than follwing a prescribed programme…. ssshhh!).

That ‘stress response’ process generally follows the pattern:

Alarm  —> Adaptation —> Super Compensation —> Exhaustion


You know that feeling the day after trying a new HIIT workout or your first *HEAVY* squats? I’m talking walking sideways down the stairs like a crab / getting snagged in your own jumper kinda muscle soreness? Let’s use that as an example of your body in the first stage: alarm!

But get your recovery right and continue to apply this training stress in a sensible and progressive way -and something magical happens…

Our bodies are sneaky clever. They’re all like “Oh, we’re doing this on the regular now? Then we gonna need some bigger guns up in here!”.

Our body ADAPTS so it can better cope with the new stress. This is the second stage: adaptation!

Continue with this progressive overload (remember, with appropritate recovery strategies!) and your body will keep adapting. So much so that it can *over* compensate.

Yup, you are now Wonderwoman/Superman! Welcome to supercompensation! This bit feels AWESOME!

BUT if we keep pushing our body with the same stress, without appropriate recovery, it can eventually become overwhelmed. Welcome to the final stage: exhaustion! Here, we can plateau and even reverse our wins. That’s bad news for our resilience, our progress and our pole mojo!

Progressive training in pole dance

Let’s take a closer look at this stress/adaptation process!

General adaptation in pole fitness
Progressive overload in pole dance


Remember the day after your first pole class when putting on your jumper suddenly became a 2-man job? What was happening in your body? Why do we get delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)? And what is with that dreaded “okay, my arms no longer belong to me” moment after training pole?

Quite simply, when we apply training stress – through pole, lifting, cardio, or any other activity that challenges us physically, we put our bones, joints, muscles, connective tissues, heart, lungs and nervous system under more strain than they are used to.

We can think of this ‘overload’ as the ‘stress’ which causes the ‘alarm’ stage (of General Adaptation Syndrome – the bit of fitness theory that explains how we get better at physical activities over time).

The things that are happening within our body (like muscle fibres reacting to the overload we just subjected them to, causing that DOMS) are a completely normal part of our body adjusting to new stimuli.

Our body NEEDS overload in order to start the process of adaptation.

But it’s important to mention here that although I’m using extreme post-workout feels as a way to help you visualise the application of overload and adaptation, ‘no pain no gain’ is NOT a mantra that I agree with. We tend to wear our DOMS like a badge of honour. I get it. Hey, we worked hard for that sweet, sweet muscle soreness! But please know that your workouts absoultely do NOT need to end with you crawling out of the gym on all fours in order to be effective!

LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE AT THE BACK: Your level of post-workout soreness is not a reliable indicator of how effective your workout was!

Overload doesn’t always have to feel that drastic – in fact, it’s sometimes more effective if it doesn’t! The ‘right amount’ of overload and the ‘right amount’ of recovery is crucial – and that sweet spot is very individual!

Thankfully, soreness/weakness from overload doesn’t last forever. If you hit that recovery/overload sweet spot, your body will start to adapt and before you know it you’re in the next stage of the process: Adaptation!

Strength and conditioning for pole


Have you ever noticed that you don’t ache as much after training pole as you did in the early days? You wake up the day after pole class expecting to need assistance putting your jacket on… but instead you are able to spring out of bed like the independent, badass adult you are!

Why is that? Adaptation!

If we apply training stress to our body consistently over time in a gradual and progessive way *with appropriate recovery*, our body is sneaky clever: it adapts! Our body makes changes – to our bones, muscles, heart, lungs and connective tissues – in order to cope with the overload. Bring on the pole gains!


You know that feeling when you’re in the groove with your training – everything feels good, and you feel so strong you’d give Wonderwoman a run for her money?

This is actually completely normal – and part of that stress response process we’ve been talking about.

This is… the best bit… Supercompensation!

Training for pole dance

The theory of supercompensation goes along these lines: Eventually, if you keep gradually progressing your training overload, combined with appropriate recovery strategies, your body doesn’t just adapt to deal with the ‘stress’, it gets a step ahead of itself and OVER compensates.

It ‘supercompensates’ in anticipation of a greater future training load. Magic!

This over-adaptation is where we are at peak performance. It’s the sweet spot that athletes try to ‘hit’ on the day of a competion or performance.

The performance holy grail!


But as with most things in life, what goes up must come down! Unfortunately, if we keep pressuring our body with the same training stress without appropriate recovery, we end up in the final stage of the ‘stress response’ process: exhaustion!

This is where our pole gains can start to plateau and regress – and where we’re at an increased risk of injury. THIS is why rest and recovery between periods of high intensity training is SO important.

Because we polers are so tenacious, dedicated and goal-driven *hello fellow overacheivers!* nailing this rest and recovery part is harder than a dork-side rainbow marchenko!

Structuring training for pole

How do YOU incorporate rest and recovery into your training routine? Do you do it intuitively, taking time to rest when your body tells you it’s tired? Or do you have a more structured rest and recovery routine?

Optimising your training for pole

If you’re a recreational athlete without the pressure of having to ‘peak’ for a competition or performance, IMO you don’t need to overcomplicate your training plans with the finer details of periodization, but understanding this Stress/Recovery/Adaptation principle (at least in overview) will give you such a good template to help you structure your training patterns and make sure you’re training for pole in an optimal way.

My goal with this blog post was simply to help you visualise the process of adaptation that underpins exercise programming, so you can:

a) start to recognise whereabouts in this process you might be at with your own training; and
b) consider how you might be able to adjust your training to optimise it around this process.

You don’t need super complicated training periodization to do this – you just need a little structure!

Making sure that you…

apply your training overload gradually and progressively; and

balance that with appropriate rest and recovery

…will go a long way to help you create those sweet adaptations that will make you stronger, without overdoing it and ending up in that exhaustion phase!

Do you recognise the stages of adaptation in your own training? Are there any tweaks you can make to the structure of your training so you can work WITH rather than AGAINST this natural flow?

If you want to learn more about how to structure your training for pole around these principles of exercise science, I think you’ll love my book Strength and Conditioning for Pole which is available in ebook and hardcopy format!

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

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