Anatomy of the Spatchcock - Spatchcock Series Part 2

Updated: 6 days ago

August 22nd, 2020


As always, I just want to start the blog with a quick disclaimer that this series is not here to teach you how to enter or perform this trick, but instead it’s here to explain the anatomy and individual components required to nail this trick. But most importantly it’s here to help you avoid injuries by understanding how to perform it well. Please do not attempt this trick without your instructor. They are best trained on how to correctly teach you the technicalities of this move.

FIG 1: SPATCHCOCK, LAUREN PEILEE BY DON CURRY PHOTOGRAPHY

The Anatomy Breakdown 


In our first blog of the series ‘Understanding the Spatchcock’ we broke down the basic requirements and key points of a spatchcock. So we’re able to understand that this move is effectively a pancake position on the pole whilst arching the lower and upper back slightly. The first blog of this series should be read prior to continuing on and can be accessed here. Otherwise you risk missing a huge chunk of information (don’t tell you I didn’t warn you!) Most importantly we learnt in Part 1, the four main requirements of executing our spatchcock are:

FIG 2: PANCAKE - BIRD’S EYE VIEW
  • End of range hip flexion, abduction and external rotation (pancake)

  • Anterior pelvic tilt

  • Thoracic (upper back) and lumbar (lower back) extension

  • Shoulder blade retraction


Right, it’s now time to up the ante and get more technical. This blog (part 2) endeavours to break down the different movements required and the muscles used to perform this trick so we can further discuss in our third blog how to effectively strengthen our body in preparation of our elusive spatchie.

So let’s start the anatomy breakdown..…

Nailing the Pancake

As mentioned earlier, a spatchcock is effectively a pancake on the pole with a few slight positional changes. The pancake is quite a complex movement and is in itself is a series for a whole different day, so I won’t get into all the nitty gritty pancake specific related details just yet.

But to gain entry into our spatchcock, we must have the pancake finessed. So to keep it simple for today, it’s important to understand that the main requirements of a pancake are:

  • Full hip forward fold

FIGURE 3: PANCAKE ANATOMY - SIDE VIEW
  • Good mobility of your nerves

  • End of range hip joint mobility into flexion (leg lift forwards), abduction (leg lift outwards) and external rotation (rotation of the hip/leg outwards)

  • Good hamstring, glute and adductor muscle length

  • Strong engagement of the hip flexors, abdominals, shoulder blade muscles (rhomboids, serratus anterior and rotator cuff)

Whilst that’s a super brief summary, that’s enough of the pancake covered… for now. Let’s instead turn our attention to the key factors that will help transition our pancake into a fully fledged spatchcock!

The Back and Pelvis

First let’s get to work on your back extension and (anterior) pelvic tilt. As discussed in blog 1 (understanding the spatchcock) the spatchcock should aim to have a slight upper & lower back extension and anterior pelvic tilt. This will give your spatchcock the appearance of a slight back arch and keep you out of a flexed spinal curve. Serious control, strength and mobility into this end of range position is required and is certainly not easy to develop. Not sure what I mean by an anterior pelvic tilt? Check out figure 4 below.

FIG 4: A - NEUTRAL PELVIC TILT, B - POSTERIOR PELVIC TILT, C - ANTERIOR PELVIC TILT

Got your pancake and ready to add in a back extension & anterior pelvic tilt? In a floor pancake, aim to lift your neck and chest off the floor whilst keeping your stomach and lower ribcage in contact to the floor. Also aim to keep your pubic bone pressed into the ground as you lift your tailbone off. A strong and deep engagement through the spinal and shoulder muscles is required to sustain this position.

FIG 5: PANCAKE WITH THORACIC (UPPER BACK) EXTENSION

So which muscles control this back & pelvis position?


The motion of back extension usually occurs from 4 main muscle groups; the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, latissimus dorsi and paraspinals (erector spinae).

However in our spatchcock position our hamstrings and glutes are completely stretched out so they don’t assist in the back extension.

Therefore this motion is reliant on our paraspinals and latissimus dorsi. The paraspinals are a group of lots of thin muscles that run the length of the entire spine. To allow a back extension motion through our paraspinals & lats, our abdominals are also required to lengthen eccentrically.

In addition to performing a spinal extension motion, the pelvis is required to position itself into an anterior pelvic tilt (refer to figure 4 for assistance). An anterior pelvic tilt is performed by concentrically contracting the lower spinal extensor muscles and the hip flexors (iliopsoas/quads). The hamstrings, gluteals and abdominals are required to eccentrically lengthen to perform an anterior tilt. This movement can and should be strengthened out of a spatchcock/pancake position.


FIG 6: SPATCHCOCK - FRONT VIEW
FIG 7: SPATCHCOCK - BACK VIEW














Managed to nail your pancake, back extension and anterior pelvic tilt whilst on the floor? Awesome! Now all of this needs to be transitioned onto a pole. All whilst you’re breathing, fighting gravity and trying not to slip in all the sweaty mess. Complicated right? Haha exactly! You can understand now why it’s so elusive for many pole artists.

Don’t have this movement yet? Don’t you worry - we have your back. Hang tight for part 3 of our series which will show you how to work towards it!


The Arms/Shoulders 

FIG 8: TRADITIONAL SPATCHCOCK ARM POSITION

Next we move onto our upper body which is a tad more straight forward to understand. Once our upper body is threaded through into a spatchcock position the arms can be placed in a few varied ways to provide exquisite lines. Traditionally, the arms are placed in slight horizontal extension (behind the pole) to assist with the opening of the chest and thoracic extension motion, but can be varied such as figure 1.

Most important to note in regards to the anatomy is that the shoulder blades are retracted (pulled together) in a spatchcock which will concentrically activate the muscles of the rotator cuff, rhomboids, trapezius, posterior deltoid and serratus anterior.

This retracted position will help to engage the posterior shoulder muscles and provide the shoulders with a sense of stability in this position. These shoulder muscles are also synergistic (helpers) and will assist in providing an upper back extension.

How do we train for our Spatchcock?

Well, like any pole trick we break down the different elements required to perform the movement, train them separately before bringing them together first in a modified position (i.e on the floor or standing). By this I don’t just mean training a pancake position (although that is part of it). We want to specifically isolate and target the muscles required to perform each of the components of this trick. And only when ready can an aerial attempt be made. Ready to learn how to target each component of the spatchcock? Well now that we know which muscles and movements are required, tune into part 3 of this series to learn how. 

Have you been working hard on your spatchcock and not seeing any process? Or attempting your pancake and can’t seem to find the floor with your stomach?


Online telehealth appointments can be booked with the Pole Physio via our ‘Book Online’ page that can be found here. Assessment and tailored rehabilitation are provided in accordance with best practice and evidence-based treatment to help you unleash your 'poletential'.

Got a burning question??? Then leave a comment at the bottom of this page or via @thepole.physio instagram page.

And lastly don’t forget to tag @thepole.physio on instagram in any spatchcock videos you post. We absolutely love seeing people from all over the world challenge themselves with some great exercises, so make sure you let us know what you’re working on!  Until next time, train safe. 

The Pole Physio

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  • A Spatchcock is an elite level trick and conditioning should ONLY be undertaken if your instructor has deemed you ready to work on this trick. This information is general advice only and we are not liable for any injuries that may occur during training.

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* Note - Figure 8 is shown by Felix Cane, photo by Vertigo Photography