Updated: May 20
Warming up isn’t just important for us to get the perfect amount of sweat to grip the pole but it’s also necessary to prepare our muscles and joints for what it’s about to do. Whether it’s a climb, invert, handspring or even a spatchcock, by properly warming up, we reduce the risk of injury while we are doing those epic tricks on a pole or any other aerial apparatus’ (Naczk et al., 2020)
And without a plan in mind, your warm up could be missing key elements that will set you up to succeed whilst training!
But don’t fret, we are here to break down the absolute“Must-Haves” for your warm-up!
Now before you decide to skip the warm-up because it’s 30 degrees outside, let me explain why warming up physically is essential.
Warming up gradually increases the muscle’s demand for energy which in turn increases the body’s blood flow and muscle temperature. This ultimately primes your muscles and gets you ready to train those inverts, handsprings (or whatever your heart desires!). Which means sitting in 30 degree heat will not suffice as it does not provide you with the physiological benefits of a physical warm up!
So now I’ve convinced you to warm up your body, let’s break down the 4 absolute must-haves for your warm up!
1. Body Weight Exercise to Increase the Heart Rate General movement allows an increase in the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood to muscles (aka increase blood flow) which will power the muscles. Now before you all run around the pole, do star jumps and burpees - us dancers and aerialists don’t really need to do a “cardio” in the warm-up per se. We never really have to do anything resembling a star jump, jog or burpee on/off the pole (unless you’re doing an aerobic inspired routine!!).
As all physios say, keep it “SPORT-SPECIFIC”. This means if your sport is dance, pole dance or any other aerial art- keep the exercises relevant to your sport! You can dance your cardio and do as many body rolls as your heart desires to increase your heart rate!
2. Strength and Activation Every good warm up needs a strength component and this is where you can include strengthening for all of the relevant for the tricks you’re working on! Work on those squats or lunges to improve your glute strength for your brass monkey or your downdog for your handspring! Regardless of what you’re working on, this section should include strengthening exercises to target and wake up key muscles that will keep you injury free whilst you are doing insanely cool tricks on the pole! And these exercises will DEFINITELY get that heart rate rising!
While I am here, have you ever done a scapula push up on the floor? Wowee, this exercise gets you WARM! And while you are warming-up with this exercise you are also activating muscles required for shoulder stability, which have a HUGE impact on how you do most of your inverted or single handed tricks like an aerial music box dancer.
If you’ve ever been prescribed a rehab program by the Pole Physio or your local Physio, add that rehab/prehab to this section! It’s a great way to get that rehab in and get you back on the pole or aerial apparatus ASAP.
3. Joint mobilisation
Have you ever tried to do a hair flick cold and next minute you’re grabbing your neck thinking ‘urgh I probably should not have gone so hard’? Well, the point of this section is to avoid that feeling!
You should start by gently moving your joints through their available range of motion. This improves joint lubrication which will then allow optimal movement of your joints during your pole training session. This is usually the first thing I include in my warm up to expose the body to gentle movement. Some mobility exercises I often use include slow head rolls which can gradually get bigger to incorporate your shoulders and torso, wrist rolls, shoulder rolls, arm circles, hip circles, grinds etc.
4. Lengthening muscles The purpose of this section of the warm up is to prepare the muscles for positions of lengths you may potentially reach in a trick aerially. For example, we recommend exercising your hamstrings and adductors in a lengthened and warmed up state before getting into a plus sign.
But what type of stretching should we include?
There has long been a debate on the type of stretching we should be doing in our warm-ups (i.e static vs active vs dynamic). While there is a place for all types of stretching, your pole warm-up is not exactly aimed at improving your maximum splits range. If you’re hoping to improve your range, then this should be worked on in its own flexibility session.
Previously over the past decade, static stretching was considered to be harmful to performance, reducing your muscle’s ability to produce power, strength and endurance (Simic et al., 2013; Opplert & Babault, 2018). But we know better now! New research from Chaabene et al. (2019) suggests that short duration static stretching in a warm-up for recreational sports can actually reduce risk of injury due to its positive effects on flexibility. Yes you read that correctly!
In saying this, we’d recommend keeping static stretching to a minimum because you’ve just worked hard to raise the heart rate and body temperature, you wouldn’t want to be cooling down too much.
To prepare for flexible tricks on the pole and lengthen your muscles, you can also utilise dynamic stretching. This is when you gently move the joint through its range repetitively using just momentum and gravity to assist, gradually increasing the range while maintaining your heart rate. For example think leg swings, lunge kick-backs etc.. If you are interested in all things stretching, keep an eye out for our flexibility blogs coming out soon!
Now that you’ve done your training session, don’t forget to cool down
Do you call it quits after the perfect instagram video and walk out of the studio pretty chuffed with yourself and forget to cool down even though your instructor said “don’t forget to cool down and stretch!” Well let me tell you why you should’ve stayed at the studio for a little longer to cool down!
After a workout, your heart rate is still racing, your body temperature high and your blood vessels dilated. Cool downs are important to prepare your body to stop exercise and allow you to gradually return to your resting state. Whilst the evidence is still inconclusive, cool downs are thought to contribute to reducing DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness), stiffness, risk of injury and improve removal of exercise produced waste products like lactic acid and can improve/maintain your flexibility. Basically it helps you start to prepare for your next pole session! As if those reasons aren’t enough to convince you to cool down!
In order to reap the benefits of a cool down, be sure the exercises and movement you choose are gentle and allow your heart rate to gradually lower. I recommend choosing flowy movements with a focus on breathing to allow your body to calm down and relax. Be sure to add in targeted stretches which reflect the exercise that you just did. For example if you just did a pole workout, don’t forget to stretch the arms, shoulders and wrists because you most likely made them work hard whilst pulling and pushing your bodies around and up the pole or aerial apparatus.
So if you want to optimise your training and reduce the risk of injury, make sure you put aside time and commit to warming up and cooling down properly!
Are you feeling limited in your active or passive flexibility?
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'.
Until next time, train safe
The Pole Physio
Chaabene, H., Behm, D. G., Negra, Y., & Granacher, U. (2019). Acute Effects of Static Stretching on Muscle Strength and Power: An Attempt to Clarify Previous Caveats. Frontiers in physiology, 10(1), 1468. PubMed. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.01468
Naczk, M., Kowalewska, A., & Naczk, A. (2020, March 11). The risk of injuries and physiological benefits of pole dancing. Sports Med Phys Fitness, 60(6), 883-888. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.20.10379-7.
Opplert, J., & Babault, N. (2018). Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Muscle Flexibility and Performance: An Analysis of the Current Literature. Sports medicine, 48(2), 229-235. PubMed. DOI: 10.1007/s40279-017-0797-9
Simic, L., Sarabon, N., & Markovic, G. (2013). Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports,, 23(2), 131-148. PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2012.01444.x