In my last blog, we used the ball to add an extra CHALLENGE to *progress* bodyweight exercises. Now we’re using the ball to *ASSIST* with and *REGRESS* pole movements instead. Yey, progressions = my favourite!

Using a stability ball as a support is AWESOME, because it means we can train in the position of a movement or pole trick without fully loading it. This is perfect for:

  • Learning the proper mechanics of a pole move before doing it fully loaded.
  • Conditioning to build strength for a move.
  • Slowly getting used to the pain of a new grip (superman, I’m looking at you, bro).
  • Building confidence in a move that freaks us out when we do it up the pole *cough, layback, cough*.
  • Deloading the movement so you can train a higher volume of it without overtraining.
  • Muscle balancing on ‘that side we shall not speak of’.

*To clarify that last point… We all know we *should* train both sides, but in reality, if you skipped the whole ‘train both sides’ thing when you started, or if you just never managed to ‘land’ a trick on the other side, it is normal that you may only be able to perform certain movements on one side.

Using the ball to train the ‘other’ side is a good way of starting to even-out that imbalance and train the same muscles you are using on the ‘better behaved’ side, without needing to be able to execute the full movement.

+ If you are running a routine, this is a great tool you can use to start to address the repetition of performing a movement on one side, without adding too much additional load and stress to your body. Magic.

Here are some examples of this in practice…

Pole move 1: Chopper / invert

Here’s a great example of using the stability ball to assist with a movement pattern that requires some pretty advanced shoulder and core co-ordination. When learning to invert, often we are so focused on just getting upside down that we can’t/don’t think about which muscles need to be engaging at what point in the movement. Using the ball allows us to drill this movement while really focusing on our shoulder and core engagement – it is the perfect way to build body awareness and train our muscles to fire in the correct pattern so that when we do it for real up the pole, we automatically know what to do.
Setting up good movement mechanics using a Swiss ball is a fantastic approach for beginners, and this exercise is a good way of building strength in that final isometic hold of the ‘chopper’ position, too. But this is exercise is also awesome for more advanced pole dancers who might want to perfect their invert technique or undo bad habits that they have picked up along the way.
Cues: stability ball invert / chopper
  • Think about keeping the chest lifted, so you are not rounding the shoulders forwards. Set this shoulder position at the start and try to maintain it throughout the movement. In the chopper position, check in again and make sure you still have your chest lifted and aren’t letting your shoulders round forwards. To train isometric strength in the end position, you can hold the chopper position for a set number of seconds – you can practice taking more weight into your arms by pulling and lifting your hips slightly off the ball.
  • Tuck the knees first, then tip back as you straighten your arms – it is this co-ordination of the tuck and tip backwards that many people struggle with when first learning this move. This is a great way to practice it safely without even leaving the floor.

Pole move 2: Lay back

Using the stability ball for a lay back is a good example of how we can use the ball to support some of our weight while we build confidence in a move. For many, a lay back (especially a straight legged one) summons up a certain amount of trepidation. Performing the movement on a Swiss ball means you can start to condition the leg grip while also getting used to the feeling of laying back, minus the obvious danger of being in the air!

This is also a great option for learning lay backs if you don’t have a spotter.

Cues: stability ball lay back

  • Come into a pole sit a little higher than the ball, cross the ankles and squeeze the legs together.
  • Your legs should be tightly engaged – squeeze your quads and create some internal rotation (imagine you are rotating your knees towards each other) – this will help you to ‘lock’ the grip between your legs.
  • If you have grip on the pole, you can release the hands from the pole and slowly lower back onto the ball, maintaining that leg engagement the whole time.

Pole move 3: Superman

Superman has to be up there in the ‘top ten most painful pole moves’ to learn. So using the stability ball is an awesome way to condition the superman grip position. It will allow you to get into the final superman shape so you can become accustomed to how it feels, without all that fumbling about on the pole. You can build up to doing the same thing on the floor without the ball, but using the ball will support some of your weight so you can slowly adjust and condition for the final move.
It’s a great progression in the journey to a full superman and a good muscle balancing exercise if you can’t do your superman on the ‘other’ side!
Cues: stability ball superman
  • Not the most graceful of entry points, but you want to place the ball against the pole and lower into a plank position with your torso on the ball and crotch close to the pole. From here, take one hand onto the pole. Then lift one leg so your foot ends up around level in height with your hips – squeeze it against the pole!
  • Bring the other leg up to join it so you can squeeze the pole between your legs and then push your feet towards the ceiling. If it feels okay, you can release the hand from the floor. Voila: superman!

Pole move 4: Shoulder mount

The shoulder mount is a tough move to crack and this exercise with the stability ball is a great progression you can use to build strength in that final straddle hold. It also gives you a chance to play around with engagement and build good body mechanics in this advanced position and allows you to condition the grip and feeling of the pole on your shoulder – all without ever leaving the floor!
Cues: stability ball shoulder mount 
  • Come into your shoulder mount position with your weight supported by the ball – think about starting with your body already pretty much horizontal to the floor – it is the final tuck and straddle position we are working here.
  • Use a cup grip and make sure the squidgy part of your shoulder is on the pole, not the bone! Tuck knees to chest, then pull and come into your straddle. You can hold the end position for a set amount of time and/or play around with lifting your hips off the ball, so you are taking more of the weight into your upper body.
  • Think about keeping the chest lifted – try not to bring the elbows together but keep them wide and squeeze the shoulder blades together to avoid rounding the upper back.

Pole move 5: Iron X

Using a stability ball is a great tool to work on advanced grip positions like twisted grip, without loading it with your whole body weight. If you want to use twisted grip in your pole practice – whether it is for handsprings, Ayeshas or Iron X’s – building up the use of that grip position gradually is the best approach to progressively condition the muscles, ligaments and tendons of your shoulder so you can reduce the risk of injury.
This stability ball Iron X hold is a tough isometric challenge that works a lot of the same muscle groups we use to hold an Iron X, so it’s a great strength exercise, a good way to condition the push and pull of the twisted grip hold, and an awesome way to train your non-dom side if you can only do your Iron X on one side right now.

Cues: stability ball Iron X

  • It can be a bit tricky to get the right positioning for this one, but you want the ball to end up around hip level, so it is supporting your weight.
  • Take one hand high and one low – you can do this in any bracket grip (I am using twisted grip in my demo). Keep the bottom foot on the floor until you find your balance, but engage the quads and take the legs wide if you can.
  • Push through the bottom arm – imagining that push coming from the shoulder, not just the arm, and pull with the top arm, imagining you are pulling your top hip towards your top hand.
  • *If you are new to twisted grip or are unsure about whether your shoulders are ready for it, please check out my blog series: Twisted Grip, is it really so bad?*

Stability balls, used creatively, really can add a whole new dimension to your pole workouts. I LOVE them for progressions as well as for adding stability challenges to off the pole exercises. Have fun and keep me posted if you try any of these!

If you enjoyed these stability ball progressions, you’ll LOVE my progressive online strength programmes for pole dancers, including ‘Pole Proof Shoulders’, ‘No Kick Invert’, ‘Shoulder Mount’ and ‘Strength and Stretch for Splits’ – all provided on the Pole PT app with weekly workout schedules, new workouts each week and accountability to keep you on track!

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