If you missed my biomechanical breakdown of the bird of paradise, you can scurry on over and check that out here – or take a couple of minutes to watch the video below for a quick reminder! The exercises in this post will make a lot more sense if you understand the ‘BUT WHY?’ behind them!
Do you know YOUR bird of paradise strengths and weaknesses?
Just a quick glance at the biomechanical shopping-list for the bird of paradise and it becomes clear why this stunningly jaw-dropping trick firmly deserves its place in the ‘advanced’ category of pole tricks…
- A massive amount of hip flexor, quad and glute strength;
- An advanced level of flexibility in the hamstrings (especially the medial ones) and adductors;
- Ninja core strength and spinal mobility in rotation, lateral side bending and extension;
- Shoulder mobility and strength in an overhead and internally rotated position.
If you want to bird of paradise one day but aren’t sure where to start with your trick-specific training for it, a good place to begin is with an analysis of the specific demands of the trick. From there, you can start to identify where your own unique strengths and weaknesses are in these areas to lead your training focus in the right direction.
For example, if you’re an advanced pole dancer, your front and middle splits are on point and you have the enviable overhead mobility of a wacky waving inflatable tube man…
…but you’re still struggling to get to grips with your bird of paradise, perhaps it’s your mobility/strength in the torso rotation/side bend that needs a little extra focus.
The exercises in this blog post are ‘bird of paradise specific’ – they are designed with bird of paradise biomechanics in mind, but they are not specific to YOU. It’s important that you explore and identify the areas you need to focus on to create the right conditioning exercises and progressions for your own unique strength and skill level.
My intention with this post is not to dictate to you the exercises that you need, but rather to give you some ideas and set you on the right path towards your bird of paradise dreams.
Let’s head there now!
Off the pole exercises for the bird of paradise
The exercises I’ve chosen below focus on the key areas of mobility and strength required for your bird of paradise. At the end, you’ll see an example of how these exercises might look when compiled into a single workout.
Bird of paradise exercise 1: active hip flexion, abduction and leg extension
This exercise is working the strength and engagement for the bottom leg in the bird of paradise. We’re working in flexion, with a little abduction and external rotation, keeping that bottom leg active – just like we would in our bird of paradise. The band adds resistance, but if this feels like too much at first, you can stick with this same movement but ditch the band until you’re ready for it.
Bird of paradise exercise 2: active hip extension (open splits)
Here, we’re working the glutes and hamstrings for the top leg of our bird of paradise, in an open split position, gradually building in a little of that side bend/rotation towards the bottom leg. Don’t worry if your leg isn’t getting quite as high as Colleen’s here yet – just work in your own end range position. You can build this up over time!
Bird of paradise exercise 3: Spinal rotation with active pull apart
Here’s a little twist on the ‘usual’ set up for this rotation exercise, combining thoracic rotation with an overhead ‘pull apart’ to mimic the bird of paradise set up.
Bird of paradise exercise 4: Side bend and rotation – strength!
The windmill is one of my favourite weighted exercises for pole dancers. Okay, okay, I know I say that a lot – but it’s hard to choose a favourite child isn’t it?! The reason I love the windmill is because it combines a side bend with spinal rotation AND overhead shoulder stability – this one has bird of paradise written all over it!
If you’re new to this movement, you can start first without weight and add a kettlebell or dumbbell later. And once you’re bossing the kneeling version, you can progress to a standing version!
Please bear in mind that I haven’t included mobility work for the overhead aspect of the bird of paradise in this workout! If you can’t reach 180 degrees of overhead shoulder flexion, you’ll need to work on this first, before gradually building in strength exercises in that overhead position, like the windmill above.
Bird of paradise exercise 5: Abduction, flexion and torso rotation – active stretch!
Here, we’re combining the hip abduction, hip flexion and that torso rotation and lateral flexion that’s needed for the bird of paradise.
Bird of paradise exercise 6a and 6b: Humeral rotation
Given the amount of rotation required in the bottom arm (in an overhead position, no less!), I couldn’t leave this bird of paradise workout without at least one rotator cuff strengthening exercise! Here, we’re working first into external rotation and then into internal rotation with the second set up.
Bird of Paradise Off the Pole Workout
Here’s an example of how you might pull these exercises together into a workout…
1. Warm up (5-8 mins)
2. Rotator cuff drills (Exercises 6a and 6b): 2 x 10 each side
3. SUPERSET 1: Exercise 1 and Exercise 3 (10 reps on each side, with 3 second pause) x 3 sets
4. SUPERSET 2: Exercise 2 and Exercise 4 (10 reps on each side) x 3 sets
5. ACTIVE STRETCH: Exercise 5 (30 second hold x 2 each side)
6. Cool down stretch
Don’t forget to include a warm up at the start – around 5 to 8 minutes should be enough. You’ll want this to be a full body warm up because we’re working legs, core AND upper body in this workout! Remember, your warm up is to prep your body for the movements ahead, so including some light spinal rotational work as well as some light dynamic hip flexion and extension (bringing the legs out in front and behind you), hip abduction (bringing the legs out to the sides) and overhead movements in your warm up is a good idea.
Add a 5 minute cool down stretch at the end and you’ve got yourself a nice little off the pole bird of paradise workout!
I hope this gives you some ideas about how to move forwards with your bird of paradise training!
If you like nerding about pole dance biomechanics and training, you might like my book, Strength and Conditioning for Pole – available now in paperback or downloadable ebook!
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.