Building Pole Strength + Endurance: Part 1
When listening to your favorite song, those 3-4 minutes always seem to fly by! However, when it comes to endurance for routines, that same 3-4 minutes can seem like an eternity, leaving you exhausted, weak and out of breath. If you often feel like you’re lacking the endurance for routines, you are not alone! Building up the necessary strength and endurance to get through a 3-4 minute routine is often more challenging than choreographing the routine itself. I mean, there’s tricks, transitions, flexibility, dance, emotion…so much that needs to packed into such a short amount of time and with precision at that. I know what you’re thinking: WHY is it so hard?!?! The answer is your level of strength and endurance, or for simplicity: your conditioning.
Since your first day in class, you’ve learned a collection of moves, that individually look and feel great. The trouble tends to arise when it’s time to combine them into combos, a freestyle or a fully-choreographed routine that requires stamina. Why is that? Well, if you were to watch a video recording of an entire class, you’d likely discover quite a bit of downtime where you’re listening to and watching your instructor, waiting for a spot, socializing, drinking water, posing for a photo, or just trying to steal a moments rest. In a routine, there is no downtime.
One solution I often hear thrown around to improve endurance is: do more cardio. Sorry to say, but this is NOT the solution. While cardiovascular endurance does play a role in your pole endurance, it is only part of the solution. Cardio endurance differs from pole endurance. Although stepping up your cardio game won’t hurt, and will have some appreciated benefits in the waistline and in your cardiovascular health, spending countless hours on the treadmill or track won’t build the necessary endurance needed on the pole.
So why is strength and endurance training (conditioning) important anyway? Strength and endurance are key for efficiency. If we are struggling to get up the pole (lyra, trapeze, silks, rope, etc) then we won’t have the energy required to execute the move efficiently or to add personalized flare. The lack of efficiency also makes it hard to work on the uber important things including straight lines, fine tuning, accents, holding moves longer, and being able to play and explore new transitions into/out out of the move or new variations of the move. All key things that judges look for at competition – wink wink!
Right now your probably wondering: do I really need super hulk strength to put on a great performance? Well no, but you do want strong and conditioned muscles that support your performance movement. Fatigued muscles often lead to broken lines, especially when it comes to straight legs and pointed toes. Having the necessary strength and endurance (let’s also highlight core strength and active flexibility) can make a huge difference in your performance ability. This allows for less struggle into and out of moves, proper muscle engagement, stability and much more. Learning to build muscle endurance will help supercharge your muscles to activate and stay active throughout your dance.
So how do you build up endurance needed for performances? The answer is conditioning through strength and endurance building. These are best done as drills that target the muscles usage required for pole/aerials and the specific moves you’re planning to include in your routine – although things like HIIT, TRX, Crossfit and cardio-core workouts can also be beneficial. As an instructor, endurance and strength building are a standard practice in ALL of my classes. Our warmups include intense core work and conditioning combos. I design these at various levels, with progressions to help strategically build strength and endurance. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: I’ve got the why…now tell me HOW! (Please) I got you boo! I’m going to share some of my fav and most used tips and drills to help you. I’m going to share this with you in three parts, so it’s easier to digest and work on without body and memory overload. Part one (which you’re reading now) will touch on breathing and dance endurance. In part two I’ll share some key off the pole strength and endurance exercises using my Rubberbandtiz resistance bands. Part three will cover drills you can do using your pole at home or at the studio. Leggo!
Be aware of your breathing. This may sound silly, but it can actually be a challenging task because our bodies have always done this automatically, meaning that we have likely given little to no thought to the process of breathing. When we dance, we require additional oxygen to support the increased muscle movement we are putting our bodies through. Breathing supports our movement and without proper oxygen intake our body will tire more quickly, leaving us fatigued and without the necessary stamina to perform efficiently. We must learn to be aware of and control breathing patterns while in motion. Connect your breathing to your movements. Practice inhaling when you grow your movements (moving away from the body or moving upward) and exhaling when shrinking your movements (bringing them into the body or down towards the floor). Likewise, do not hold your breath. This is a common occurrence I see when people are trying to hold a move and one that is extremely counterintuitive.
2. Just Dance
One of the best ways to get better at having the energy to perform is to just dance. Scratch that, get yo boogie on! Yes just by dancing you can build up your endurance. Nothing fancy, simply work through a freestyle freestyle. Can you dance continuously and comfortably for 4-6 or even 5-7 minutes? Step it up a notch by challenging yourself to work on just floor work, or around the pole work (nothing higher than your head), and then aerial work up the pole. Then combine all three. This will help with your cardio pole needs. Be sure to pay attention to your breathing throughout your dance. Don’t leave yourself waiting to exhale.
Ready for more? Check out part two for my resistance band workout with Rubberbandtiz!