LOWER EXTREMITY GRIP STRENGTHENING
We made it! This is the last part of the Grips and Holds blog series to conclude our complete guide for pole dancers. In this final instalment, we’re going to get into some fundamentals of hip strengthening and of course, the ‘piece de resistance’: we’re going to go over grip specific exercises for all our lower extremity holds - on and off the pole!
Hip strengthening fundamentals
The shoulder gets a lot of attention when it comes to strengthening for pole, but as we mentioned in Part two of this blog series, the hip is the same ball and socket joint as the shoulder that has small local muscles (commonly known as the rotator cuff for both) followed by superficial big mover muscles. When thinking about strengthening the hip, we can start by training the deep muscles of the hip to build a solid foundation and then work more globally with compound exercises that are sport specific. But we need to address a key group of muscles when training our legs too - the core!
What’s core got to do with it?
The core can be thought of as a house with the abdominal muscles as the front wall, paraspinal muscles make up the back wall, the diaphragm is the roof and the pelvic floor is the ground floor. When these muscles work together, they create active stability for the spine, pelvis and hips.
As pole dancers, we should especially be considerate of training our core muscles in conjunction with our hip muscles given how much we use our hips to hang in contorted positions. For example, the adductor muscle group that we use to squeeze the pole in sits and laybacks merges with the rectus abdominus muscle and its fascial system. And both muscle groups are co-activated with contraction of the pelvic floor. There is also a strong connection of our deep rotators with the pelvic floor and evidence suggests that co-activation of these muscles together during regular exercise programming can lead to increased hip and pelvic floor strength over time. Here’s some great starting exercises to help build both our hip and core strength:
Hip and Core Stability exercises:
Hip Setting in Wall bridge - when thinking about the “rotator cuff” of the hip, its job is to keep the head of the femur centered in its socket. This exercise can be done in any position (eg. sidelying, 4-point, squat, split stance) and helps create that connection
Supine Knee Fallouts - lying on your back with core engaged, allow one knee to fall out to the side in a controlled manner and then bring it back to starting position before alternating to the other side. Add a band to make it more challenging.
Tabletop knee Fallouts - Taking the previous exercise up a notch by starting in a “tabletop” position. Add a band to make it more challenging.
Supine Alternating Knee Lifts - This is a starter hip flexor strengthening exercise. Lying on your back with core engaged, alternating lifting your knee towards chest and slowly lowering back down.
Supine Heel Taps - take the previous exercise up a notch by starting in a “tabletop” position.
90/90 Clamshell - by putting your hips at 90 degrees, we can elevate a traditional external rotation strengthening exercise to help bias the deep rotators of the hip, namely the obturator internus. Add a resistance band to make it more challenging.
4-point Hip Extension - moving from a four-point position is a great way to challenge your hip mobility while maintaining a stable core.
4-point Hip Abduction - commonly known as “fire hydrants”
Prone Hip Extension - tuck the pelvis into a posterior tilt and extend the hip to engage the glutes.
Hip Compound exercises: Your everyday exercises are a fantastic way to create lower extremity strength for pole.
Grip Specific Strengthening - OFF the pole
Now it’s time to strengthen our grip holds off the pole. Here’s some great ideas you can use to specifically strengthen any grips you may be experiencing difficulty with:
Outside and Inside Leg Hang
Twisted Grips - Side Saddle & Remi Sit
Foot, Toe & Ankle Grips
Grip Specific Strengthening - ON the pole
Ready to take your strengthening to the pole? Alright! Let’s do it!
Hopefully these new exercise ideas have created a spark of motivation for you to work on your lower extremity strengthening to help you with your grip goals. If you’re having any trouble with some of the fundamentals of hip strengthening we mentioned at the start and/or you’re having hip pain, be sure to consult an appropriately trained physiotherapist to help you out.
Online telehealth appointments can be booked 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 'pole-tential'.
Thanks for joining us on this educational grip journey and we hope you find it a helpful resource for working on all your grips and holds dreams!
Until next time, train safe.
The Pole Physio