Understanding the Spatchcock - Spatchcock Series Part 1

Updated: 6 days ago

August 15th, 2020

Now you really know you’ve really made it as a pole dancer when you’re starting to train your spatchcock, let alone when you achieve it. Not only do you require an insane amount of flexibility, but the control, strength and co-ordination required to perform this trick is next to none.

One of the most incredibly elusive pole tricks there is, the spatchcock is not a move that everyone has in their repertoire due to the specific flexibility skill set that’s required. Which is one of the reasons that makes it so desired. There is also very little margin for error in this trick due to it’s precarious positioning, so you want to ensure that you are readily at this level on the ground before you even attempt it.

Let’s first start with the origins of how it came to be..…

History of a Spatchcock

Debuted at Miss Pole Australia 2008 by it’s creator Dame Felix Cane, this trick hit it’s peak fame shortly after at the World Pole Dance Championships in Jamaica 2009. It has been reported that Felix debuted this trick only two weeks after it’s creation and named it Spatchcock after feeling the intense pressure of gravity opening up her body. Similar to the butterflying of a chicken when it’s cooked it flat and the backbone is removed. And to be honest, the trick doesn’t look that far from this description!

FIGURE 1: FELIX CANE SPATCHCOCK
FIGURE 2: FELIX CANE SPATCHCOCK.



















FIG1+2 PRODUCED WITH PERMISSION FROM VERTIGO PHOTOGRAPHY


The spatchcock’s history hasn’t always been smooth sailing though, as there was a time when it caused some great debate due to it’s aesthetics in the world of pole sport. But whilst the trick isn’t to everyone’s taste, you have to admit it is still is high on most pole dancer’s top dream tricks to achieve along the likes of a phoenix, bird of paradise and the eagle to name a few. The spatchcock is also referred to as the crossbow by the International Pole Sports Federation for those of us more into the pole sport side of things. 

Pancake vs Middles 

A super quick orientation to shape of the spatchcock. To perform this move we require a folded middle split position known as a pancake where the legs are positioned outwards in a straddle/V position. Some gymnasts/ calisthenics clubs or even pole artists refer to a pancake as a middle split, so I thought it important to clarify this point for the purpose of this blog. See pictures below to differentiate a middle to pancake.

FIG 3: MIDDLE SPLIT
FIG 4: PANCAKE SPLIT






The Requirements of a Spatchcock

In physio terms to be able to execute a beautiful looking spatchcock, your body will need to perform:

  • End of range hip flexion, abduction and external rotation (pancake position)

  • Anterior pelvic tilt

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

  • Shoulder blade retraction (squeeze)

Confused by what this means? Well, effectively you need to be able to perform a pancake position whilst arching your lower and upper back slightly on the pole! Easy right? (haha no!)

Don’t have a pancake yet? Then I would recommend focusing on training this position until you feel extremely comfortable in it before even thinking about taking it up the pole. Once you’ve nailed your pancake it’s important to learn how to position your back and pelvis whilst maintaining a pancake as described later on in this blog.

FIG 5: PANCAKE WITH THORACIC EXTENSION

Bend but don’t break!

As this trick requires extreme flexibility and strength, you don’t want to feel like you are just managing to push yourself into it at the end of your passive range of motion. You should aim to have extra stretch/range of motion in this position to reduce the likelihood of injury. I.e. if you stretch an elastic band to 80% it won’t break, but if you stretch to 100% of passive range then the risk of breaking significantly increases. The same goes with muscles.

As shown in figure 6 below, when the muscle/tendon is stretched to it’s end of range (above 8% strain), there is microscopic tearing of muscle & tendon fibres from the increased strain. However when the muscle is stretched beyond it’s 100% capacity there is macroscopic failure & potential for rupture or irreversible damage. This is known as the creep phenomenon. This is why we never want to perform a trick at the end of our passive range. We always want some room for error and movement into a trick. This is why it’s important to be quite flexible into your pancake before even attempting this trick.

FIGURE 6: THE CREEP PHENOMENON. GRAPH FROM BELDJILALI-LABRO ET AL., 2018

So before trying to take a spatchcock aerially I would encourage you to work on it on the floor first. Once there you can even position yourself around a dowel rod or broomstick to train yourself to maintain active engagement in this position. This will help reduce the risk of slipping when you are aerially 

FIG 7: CORRECT FLOOR SPATCHCOCK

I don’t have my full pancake/middles yet, can I still spatchcock?

  Technically yes, you don’t need a flat line spatchcock to place yourself in this position, but I would encourage you to achieve a full pancake before trying a spatchcock to reduce the risk of injury.

Correct technique

To perform this trick correctly the points of contact should be behind both ankles and through the mid upper back. No contact should be placed through the neck/top of the shoulders and the trunk should be at a least a 90 degree angle to the pole.

If you don’t have the range of motion required to hit a pancake (or back extended pancake), then it’s quite likely your point of contact will end up on the neck, your spine won’t hit the required amount of lumbar and thoracic extension and the pelvis may remain posteriorly tilted. This places the back in a curved flexed position instead of a beautiful extension and can load up the back, shoulders and neck and risk injury.


FIG 8: INCORRECT SPATCHCOCK
FIG 9: CORRECT SPATCHCOCK




















No one does it quite like Felix 

Well that’s mostly true, a lot of people have now nailed their spatchcock, but she just makes it look so damn good! Since the spatchcock debut Felix has once again upped the trick by introducing a lower back version. Instead of placing the pole across the middle of the shoulders, Felix is able to position the pole along the arch of her lower back, giving us all something further to aspire to and drool over! Absolute goals.

FIG 10: FELIX CANE LOW BACK SPATCHCOCK
FIG 11: LOW BACK SPATCHCOCK



















Think you’ve understood the basics of a Spatchie from today’s blog? Then hold tight, because next week I will be releasing the breakdown of the Spatchcock anatomy including all of our awesomely nerdy anatomy pictures! Make sure you tune in then to learn the in’s and out’s of a spatchcock.

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 yohttps://www.thepolephysio.com/anatomy-of-the-spatchcockur '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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Please Note:

  • Any artwork on this or other pages of https://www.thepolephysio.com is copyrighted and is not be reproduced without written permission per the terms of use and conditions.

  • 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.

  • This page has been created to provide wonderful knowledge with the pole community and sharing of this page to pole friends and pole related facebook groups is actively encouraged.

References:

  • Beldjilali-Labro, Megane., Garcia Garcia, Alejandro., Farhat, Firas., Bedoui, Fahmi., Grosset, Jean-François., Dufresne, Murielle., & Legallais, Cecile. (2018). Biomaterials in Tendon and Skeletal Muscle Tissue Engineering: Current Trends and Challenges. Materials. 11. 1116. 10.3390/ma11071116.