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Myth Busters: Part 3 - All the things you said!

Welcome to our final Myth Busting Blog – Part 3 – the nitty gritty, the little things we say, motivational statements that are… not that motivational. Ever wondered why ‘no pain no gain’ never quite made sense, why absolute statements like ‘deadlifts are bad for my back’ and ‘knees behind toes in lunges’ doesn’t quite resonate when you are trying to get up and down off the floor in heels in a class?

Well in our latest blog we are going to deconstruct common phrases used to describe pain or activities – and cut through some of the ‘influencer’ statements out there.

We hope you have your appetite for myth busting ready, because we are ready to dish up the goods!

‘No pain no gain’ – why is it always about pain?

We have all heard it, and maybe even said it to others after a particularly challenging training session; ‘no pain, no gain’. This saying alludes to always needing to experience pain to get improvement – a false statement in many different ways, and to deconstruct this myth we need to add a definition to the word ‘pain’.

Pain as defined by the International Association for the study of pain (IASP) as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage (Srinivasa et al., 2020).

Simply – pain can be a warning signal that something is wrong – so we do not want to feel it. But sometimes it can be a helpful warning system. Confusing right? Hold onto your cuppa because we are going to pull it apart a little more.

I know you are all thinking, ‘but what is the sensation that I feel when training and I am nudging my limits?’

It can often be explained as discomfort. You know, that feeling when we are pushing our bodies to its maximal potential. You might feel that discomfort when you are cross training at the gym, on the last few reps in the final set as you are progressive overloading (cross training for pole workshop attendees – you know what I am talking about). You may feel that discomfort when you are trying to pick up your pace on a run (yes.. running… some of us still do it). Or at pole? That discomfort may come from trying to hold a trick for another spin rotation, straddles or shoulder mounts with straight legs or when an instructor tells you to slow down on a trick entry. That feeling is not a bad feeling – it is what our bodies needs to continue to improve.

But what about the ‘pain’ after exercise? When we are challenging our bodies limitations, we can often experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) – a sore or aching feeling in muscles after unfamiliar and unaccustomed intense exercise (Cheung et al., 2003). These symptoms may vary and often present 24-72 hours following activity. During this time range of movement and overall muscle performance is reduces as the body recovers. The important thing to be aware with DOMS is that you should not experience it for more than three days – if it is longer than that you have pushed your body to the upper end of its limits, and it is not recovering adequately.

So, let us definitely serve this myth up on a platter with some coconut oil and toss it in the bin – you should NOT be feeling pain with any form of training – BUT it is ok to feel discomfort during or DOMS following exercise.

‘Pain = Damage’

Sticking with the pain theme, lets toss pain = damage into the wok and heat it up.

When we gave reference above about the pain definition and that pain can be an early warning sign that something may be wrong, everyone has a different definition of pain – and it does not always mean that damage HAS occurred.

When we are training muscles – we need microtears to occur to continue to promote muscle growth (McHugh & Tyler, 2019). This is normal physiological process and not causing damage.

However, if we oversplit during a front split and feel a muscle strain and associated pain, that is our body letting us know that the pain we are feeling indicates there may be some damage and we need to back it off.

So how do we know the difference? As polers talking to your instructors about what you should feel in a trick is a great starting point. And if you are concerned reach out to our team of expert pole dancing health care professionals - head to the book online tab for more information.

‘I slipped a disc’

How many times have we heard this statement thrown around?

Our discs do not simply ‘slip’. They are incredibly robust and highly adaptable tissues that respond to the forces and load we expose them to (Ruffilli et al., 2023). Yes – there are injuries associated with our discs, but they do not just ‘slip out’.

We will not be covering the natural of disc related injuries in this blog, but it is important to know that there are many different factors that lead to disc related injuries. And to put it simply, ‘slipping’ is not one of them. We will not sugar coat it: some disc related injuries are uncomfortable and can lead to longer term problems. Which is where it is important to speak with a health professional early to allow for a safe return to pole.

If you are concerned that you have an injury to your discs or spine, it is important that you speak with a qualified health professional in regards to how to best manage your injury. As mentioned earlier, our team of pole physios are ready to give you a helping hand.

‘Bad technique is always the reason for my injuries’

How many times have we seen someone complete a trick and wondered how on earth they have not injured themselves?

How about how some polers do the same trick in a slightly different way to achieve the same result?

And why is the first thing out of polers mouth when they have an injury that ‘they must have bad technique’.

Rarely is bad technique the causative factor for an injury alone. So why do we always say it is? Because it is the easiest thing to blame. If we actually look at the components of an injury (outside of traumatic injuries) – there are multiple contributing factors.

  • Do you have the strength and flexibility for the trick?

  • How are your fatigue levels?

  • Were you training at the end of your session, did you sleep well or is your muggle (non-pole) life overwhelming at the moment?

You do not always have to ask these questions of yourself. A good health professional will be checking for the bigger picture.

Sometimes it simply comes down to not having the foundational strength, range of movement or skillset to try the new tricks. But why can some people make a trick look a certain way whilst it looks different on others? Because all our bodies move in many different ways. Have a look at the differences between pole, ballet and crossfit. So many different movement patterns, yet ‘poor technique’ is not the precursor for injury.

So next time you say bad technique caused your injury, take a moment to think, what are the other factors at play and ask yourself: is it ‘poor technique’ alone?

‘Gym deadlifts are bad for my back’

This statement has been one of many discussion points amongst health professionals over the years. And the consensus? Deadlifts are definitely not bad for your back. Most of us use a deadlift technique to pick something off the floor, get an item out of the boot of the car, or to pick up a child from a cot. If we didn’t, we would be probably still walking around like apes or potentially like robots.

Where this myth came from is the number of injuries sustained from ‘deadlifting’ positions. When if we actually look at the history of deadlift injury, it was more often associated with load and fatigue (just like a bad technique does not automatically equate to an injury).

Do you realise with some really common pole tricks there is a deadlift movement pattern involved?

  • Getting up off the ground leading with the hips

  • Straddle inverts

  • Shoulder mounts

  • Iguana – just to name a few

As an added bonus for pole dancers, adding in deadlifts at the gym is a great way to improve the strength and length of your hamstrings, which in turn is a great way to improve split flexibility. So don’t skip deadlift day!

Deadlifts are not bad for you, they just get a bad wrap (like egg and lettuce on a hot day). When you are using appropriate loading strategies – you can learn to love them 

‘My back pain is caused by a weak core’, ‘my core won’t turn on’ ‘My glutes just won’t Fire’

Ahh, how many times as health care professionals we have heard….

‘My core is weak and it causes my back pain.’

‘I can’t turn my core on, my glutes just won’t fire and it is why my back is sore.’

Let’s just stir this all up into one big pot and dish it out, and while we are at it just clarify your glutes do not just fire like lighting up a gas stove…

There are a few reasons why we often feel we are not engaging the right muscles.

  1. Incorrect movement patterning to recruit muscles (our muscles do not work in isolation..)

  2. Lack of movement to engage muscles

  3. Utilising load too high for muscle capacity

Now some of you may say ‘when I have an injury or experience pain – it is harder for my muscles to activate’. This is actually true. For example with back pain, The evidence as proven that our muscles display inhibition (inability to recruit properly) (Russo et al., 2018). This is a normal response to pain and our bodies protecting itself. The muscle are not weak; the pain is reducing their capacity to function.

So next time you are trying a jade split and you are blaming your glutes for limiting your back leg lines think about it differently. Do you have enough hip extension MOVEMENT to allow ALL your extension muscles to work effectively to give you those long lines? Are you being active with your movement or passively using gravity?

But what about when have ‘weak core/glutes wont fire’ and train them for a few weeks and suddenly boom – you feel like they are stronger? This is known as neural adaptation – and important factor for building overall muscle strength (Hedayatpour & Falla, 2015). This phenomenon has nothing to do with isolated muscles ‘firing’ and all to do with improving the neural pathways to the muscle, so that more of the muscle fibres can be activated.

So in dishing this information up to you today, have a think about what do you need to season your training with? Focusing on utilising movement patterns instead of isolating muscles when strengthening is a great place to start.

‘Sit ups/crunches are bad for you’

How do we get out of a layback? We do a sit up…

How do we go from a shoulder mount to knees on the pole? we do a reverse sit up

How do we get out of brass monkey? (most of the time) we do a sit up – but for those that do a shotgun lower – it is a reverse sit up!

Sit ups are NOT bad for you - as you have seen the theme in this blog lies around do you:

  • have the strength; and

  • trained the movement patterns to be able to one?

When was the last time you had sit ups in your conditioning program? If you haven’t yet then it’s a great time to start adding them in.

And for those who are wondering WHEN sit ups are bad for you? If you have an acute injury that the action of loading your abdominal muscles or creating spinal flexion will cause further exacerbation of an injury, then sit ups may temporarily exacerbate your pain. However your treating health care professional will be able to explain whether you can continue with them or when you can return back to them.

So ditch the snickers, and get crunching…

‘My knees should never go over my toes in lunges’

This statement can be misleading and we need to have some context for this.

If you are coming back from an injury associated with the front of your knee (e.g. patellofemoral joint), then you may limit how far your knee travels past your toes (if at all) until you can improve your pain, control and overall strength. But then we start challenging that movement.

Otherwise, we need to think about the why we would want to restrict our range of motion. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Is this movement painful for you?

  • Do you have enough ankle range of movement?

  • Do you have the strength to support the ankle and knee in this position?

  • Do you have the strength/control to return back from this position?

  • Are you in heels?

Overall, your knees can safely move past your toes in a lunge and this isn’t to be avoided unless it causes pain or discomfort. But as with anything causing you pain, touch base with our team of online health care professionals and they can guide you back to a pain free knee and full knee over toes movement.

‘I pee a bit when I exercise. This is normal’

We cannot emphasise enough that LEAKING IS NOT NORMAL WITH EXERCISE. PERIOD.

If you are experience leaking with exercise, then it is likely associated with overbearing on your pelvic floor due to changes in abdominal pressure (often breath holding) at pole. Whilst breath holding is something that is OK when learning new tricks, it should not be a foundational habit with all pole moves.

Makes sense right? So how do we make sure we do not leak?

  • Check your strategies with tricks – have a private lesson with your instructor

  • Work on overall strength to achieve the tricks then breath holding

  • Speak with a health care professional (including pelvic floor physios if required) to address any other underlying causes.

For polers who are pregnant or post-partum: some leakage may occur if you have pelvic floor dysfunction. For anyone experiencing urinary or faecal incontinence, work with a pelvic floor physiotherapist to address underlying causes. There is wonderful evidence to support the effectiveness of pelvic floor therapy guided from a knowledgeable health care professional.

‘Professional pole dancers train all the time.’

Professional polers instagrams may LOOK like they train all the time, posting content, promotions, performances, lessons, but just like any sporting professional, they do not train their core sport (pole) all the time. Professional pole dancers will often train on the pole specific skills 2-4 x per week, but will have a balance of off the pole training and recovery.

Why? Because as we have mentioned in our last myth buster series, our bodies need time to recover, muscles near time to adapt and our brains need time to continue to develop the neural pathways that are challenged in learning new skills.

So when it comes to scheduling your training, schedule your rest days first and ensure you’re listening to your body. Training pole every day is a sure fire way to get injured.

That’s a Wrap!

And that’s our myth busting part 3 blog all wrapped up! We have well and truly served up the tea in busting some sensational myths over this 3-part series and we hope you have some more food for thought and consideration around some statements we commonly hear and practices we commonly see.

Injured or wanting to create a tailored training schedule?

A reminder that our online team are always here to help. We understand pole dancer's training loads and injuries like very few other healthcare professionals.

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'.

Until next time, train safe.

The Pole Physio



  • Cheung, K., Hume, P., & Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Treatment Strategies and Performance Factors. Sports Medicine 33(2): 145-164

  • Hedayatpour, N., & Falla, D. (2015). Physiological and Neural Adaptations to Eccentric Exercise: Mechanisms and Considerations for Training. BioMed research international, 2015, 193741.

  • McHugh, M., & Tyler, T. (2019). Muscle strain injury vs muscle damage: two mutually exclusive clinical entities. Translational sports Medicine 2(3): 102-108

  • Ruffilli et al (2023). Mechanobiology of the Human Intervertebral Disc: Systematic Review of the Literature and Future Perspectives. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 24, 2728

  • Russo, M., Deckers, K., Eldabe, S., Kiesel, K., Gilligan, C., Vieceli, J., & Crosby, P. (2018). Muscle Control and Non-specific Chronic Low Back Pain. Neuromodulation : journal of the International Neuromodulation Society, 21(1), 1–9.

  • Srinivasa et al (2020). The revised International Association for the Study of Pain definition of pain: concepts, challenges, and compromises. PAIN 161(9): 1976-1982

1 commentaire

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