6 Reasons to Walk on Stage: thoughts on pole dance performance and competition

Everyone should dip their toes in the performance pool at least once. Here are 6 reasons to stop putting it off and step in to the spotlight…

By Dylan Mayer

Pole is amazing – it brings together people from all walks of life, connected by the profound love of making pretty shapes on a metal bar. For anyone with a background in creative arts, performing might seem natural, however for the lawyer or electrician on the pole next to you, the idea of entering a competition may be seriously outlandish!

Whether you’re 15 or 50, a ballerina or paramedic, a serious competitor or just in it for experience, that 3 minutes on stage has so much to offer you.

Reason 1: It will make you fitter and improve your technique. Putting together a routine requires so much dedication, practice and stamina it pushes you much further than in normal practice. It will force you into good habits (e.g. pointing your toes!) and get you fitter than you have ever been! After your show make sure you look back at early run-throughs and acknowledge your hard work.

Reason 2: You will make friends. So many friends! There is nothing like adrenaline, fear, no sleep and 6 energy drinks to help make lifelong friends. Especially if you train at home, entering competitions will connect you to the pole community like nothing else! It’s like one big family reunion, even if you’ve never met anyone. Nearly all of my closest pole friends have been made backstage.

Reason 3: You’re never going to feel ‘good enough’. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard people put off showcases, competitions or even sending in a video audition because they wanted to wait until they are ‘better’. News flash: you are never going to feel ‘good enough’. Not implying you are literally not good enough, but that most people are their own worst critic. Realise that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and when you watch a competition it’s a display of each artist’s strengths. Don’t forget that there are performance opportunities for every level!

Reason 4: You will become a better performer. You will learn to harness nervous energy and control the ‘this was a terrible decision I don’t belong here’ voice. You will grow every single time you step on stage, and learn to love the sea of nameless faces, bright lights and swelling anticipation. The less you focus on failing, the more you can connect with your music and the audience. There won’t ever be a time where you don’t wish you could run out of the theatre and get back into bed, but you’ll learn to make peace with the raging butterflies in your stomach. Make sure someone films your routine, especially if you are a chronic self-doubter. Trust me, you will have done better than you think.

Reason 5: Your skin will get thicker. Especially if you are getting serious about competing, you need advice. Copious amounts of good advice. And you’ll also find that the best advice can sometimes come in the harshest, hardest-to-swallow packages. If you can, find a good coach and trust him/her with your life. Good routines are only half talent – the other half is learning to make good choices about utilizing that talent. Your coach’s job is to help make those decisions easy.

Reason 6: You will inspire someone. Regardless of your age, gender, weight, pole prowess or style there will be someone in the audience who will go home and register for a competition or showcase because they saw you perform. Someone will try out a move they saw you smash on stage. Someone will decide to try their very first pole class. Performing is a gift for you and your audience.

One of my favourite things about pole is it gives adults who have never had the chance to step onto the stage the opportunity to do so. Pole fosters a wonderful culture where anyone, of any level of experience has the chance to get up and be a total star.

So next time your instructor tells you about a showcase or competition don’t rule yourself out. Ask ‘do I want this?’ and if the answer is ‘yes’, start now, it will only lead to good things! 

Dylan is the newest blogger to join the indi pole wear team! Dylan has been pole dancing since 2012. She is part of the Australian Pole Championships & Australian Pole Training Expo management team, and can be found with her pole family at Aerial Pole Academy in Canberra. Her ultimate nemesis move is the Twisted Grip Handspring (2.5 years trying… and counting) and her favourite tricks include the Sneaky V and the Janeiro! Outside of pole, she studies a mix of science and humanities, eats as much marzipan as is humanly possible and works breeding Showjumping Horses.

How being a poler makes you better at life!

By Sveindís Þórhallsdóttir, Iceland

Pole dancing is such a great sport! It is a totally new and different way for you to exercise and get healthier. Pole dancing for fitness has been becoming increasingly popular in the last 10 years and it definitely is a fresh breeze in the fitness world, offering us  diverse ways of keeping ourselves healthy and staying in shape. Because of that, pole is a wonderful sport to be embraced and celebrated.

BUT apart from that, I like to tell my non-poling friends these simple reasons why they should take up pole dancing. Because it makes you better at life!

Reason 1: It blows your confidence out of the roof!

Unfortunately women are everyday bombarded with information on how they should look, dress, do their hair and make-up, behave and breathe, to be the “ideal woman”.

Ridiculous beauty standards established in photoshopped ads and magazines all over the world also do not help build women’s confidence. Many of us constantly tear ourselves down, criticize ourselves and our bodies just because they are not somehow different from how they actually are. In addition, society has imprinted in women that showing their bodies is wrong and that covering up is being a “good girl”.
 This is why pole dancing is so wonderful. You are required to wear short shorts and a top as a safety precaution; otherwise you don’t have enough grip on the pole. It can be tough for a beginner because we are not used to it, and we feel we are breaking the unwritten good girl rule of society.

I for one felt awkward the first time I walked into my pole class and had to wear clothes that left me feeling almost naked in front of a large group of total strangers, and then they even expected me to do some graceful (not quite) maneuvers around a pole, at the same time I was busy being self-conscious!! Luckily I was brave enough (and pole was too interesting) to quit and I kept going – with each class I was forced to look at my body for longer, while constantly developing and increasing my skills. As a result, watching my body more and more actually helped me to appreciate it more. After all, it’s just a body, everyone has it. And it’s the only body I have. What standards should my body fulfill but my own? Why waste my life on hating it for what it isn’t, instead of loving it for what it is? Pole helped me realize that, and for that I will forever be grateful. And you’re anyways WAY to busy trying to actually do a trick, spin or combo without falling off the pole to spend your precious pole time worrying about how you look. Instant success!

My body might not be like the ones in the magazines…But it’s mine, and it’s strong, and it’s beautiful.

Reason 2: It broadens your perspective

Pole dancing increases your positivity towards others.

I love this aspect of pole and I think it is a huge one. When you go into your class, join a group of people who are of all shapes and sizes, all ages and both sexes, all on the same quest to mastering pole tricks; be that climbing the pole, managing to sit it for longer than 2 seconds without gritting your teeth with the pain (a HUGE accomplishment right there!) or learning how to invert, you realize how great and unique we all are and you become more accepting towards others. When you get the pole bug and join all pole groups there are to find on social media (it will happen, I promise you!) you appreciate watching other people from all over the world accomplishing astonishing things on the pole. You even start giving compliments to total strangers, even though this is totally unlike how you used to be; now it is normal to you because you share a special bond with the person; he/she is not a stranger anymore – you two are connected through pole.

Being involved in the pole world and hearing other polers stories also opens your mind to different cultures and different ways of thinking from your own. Maybe your culture is not big on pole dancing in heels (such as mine); you still love to watch the talented polers who do wear them swing around the pole in an effortless way and you respect them deeply because you can only imagine how hard it is! 
It is clear that sending out more positivity and being more open minded towards others only gives you back a hundred times; as we all know – karma is a real thing!

We come in all shapes and sizes, we support, encourage and appreciate each other!

Reason 3: It increases your happiness

Studies have shown that the biggest motivator to beginning exercise, and better yet, keeping exercise as a lifestyle habit, is in fact our happiness.

Poling makes us feel so happy!  It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Finding the motivation to start physical activity is very hard, but getting your tush off the couch and out for a run can be an unbearable chore when you actually kind of don’t like running … at all.

This makes pole dancing the ideal exercise for us – because we inherently enjoy the time we spend in the studio or at home, working towards our goals, whether they are to learn to do the splits, master the invert or jump into a hardcore spatchcock! There are always goals to work towards, always something new we want to be able to do, which constantly keeps our interest, motivation and enjoyment high. The workout stops being a chore you need to check off of today’s to-do list, instead becoming something you look forward to do, something you very much enjoy. You fall in love with exercise. And all the while you are staying in shape, getting healthier and happier! Life is a lot easier when you are happy. As they say, smile towards the world and the world will smile back at you. Karma guys, it works!

No more words needed.

Reason 4: It makes you st-st-st-stronger!

New polers immediately discover this amazing by-product of beginning their pole journey.

Pole power! The body weight exercises required in pole dancing instantly make you stronger and more stronger! All of a sudden you need to use muscles you had no clue existed before (heck, your muscles even have muscles since you started pole!) you discover how super strong and awesome your body really is and how it is capable of much more than you ever dreamed of. And let’s just mention a few extra benefits this offers for daily life; you no longer need help carrying heavy items long distances (now it’s something you do for fun), you can now lift your kids or little siblings (possibly even your husband) high up in the air without breaking a sweat (much to their joy) and you can even climb lampposts (which will be very handy if a zombie apocalypse ever breaks out!).

Woo! Awesome party trick! (and also useful if you ever need to hide from someone).

There you have it, lovely reader; I could probably go on for many more pages, but I think we’ve established how wonderful and amazing pole is, and better yet, how our sport makes us better at life! We are more confident, healthier, happier, stronger, more open minded and friendlier. All thanks to pole. And we sure pay it forward!

How to find motivation after time off the pole…

By Sveindís

No matter how much you love pole dancing, how big a part it is of your life and identity, there will still be times in your life where you can’t make it to practices as much as you did before. We all know this. Sometimes life gets in the way. You might be moving between apartments, cities, even countries, you might have A LOT to study for finals, work can be hectic, your family needs you, you could have a temporary or even a chronic injury that limits you, or you might suffer from a disease that sometimes slows you down a little.

Of course, losing your workout rhythm can be demotivating and limiting. The negative voice we all seem to have in the back of our heads sometimes jumps up and gets very loud, and unfortunately sometimes it does get the best of us. We start to believe it, even though the message it usually offers us is negative and untrue. I, same as everyone else, am guilty of sometimes falling into the trap of listening to the negative voice and for criticizing myself beyond what I deserve. Therefore I feel it’s important that we know a few ways to shut the negative voice down when it starts! Here are a few ways I use:

#1 – Go over your past successes

Yes, you might have a long way to go still. But do you remember where you started? When I’m feeling down, lacking motivation to continue, thinking that I haven’t progressed much and letting the negative voice in my head take over, I go over my past successes. I try to remind myself of everything I’ve already accomplished, and how great I have done so far. Remember how hard it was to learn to climb the pole? Touch your toes? Do a backbend? Go to your first class? Wear booty shorts in front of strangers? All this I have (and many of you wonderful readers) accomplished already. We’ve already done so, so much. We challenge ourselves every day, we are constantly learning and trying new things and we’ve awoken our bodies from a deep sleep. We’ve learned to enjoy movement, and that is the greatest gift we can give our bodies. We need to think about everything we’ve already done, instead of focus only on what we still want to accomplish. There is enough time for that later. Be proud of what you have already achieved!

Be proud of yourself, you deserve it

#2 – Find new inspiration and new ways to work out

I get it, repetition can end up being soooo boring. For example, we all know we need to stretch or work out to progress, but even though we know it, actually doing it every day can be very repetitive and sometimes you just don’t feel like it tonight…or the next night .. or the one after that… and oops all of a sudden it’s been 2 months and you haven’t stretched or gone to practices very often. I know. I’ve definitely been there, and criticized myself for it afterwards.

When you feel you’re stuck in a rut and have lost motivation to continue – try to mix it up! I like to go on Instagram, Youtube or search the internet for motivation, new spins and tricks, new combos or dance routines. I also like to use social media and the internet to help me find new ways to exercise, new stretches, new warm-up routines and so on, the possibilities are endless! Sometimes I get bored with designing my own workouts, so then it can be very helpful to find online workout videos to follow. Aa added plus is that you can do them in the comfort of your own home! You can even try to get family members or friends to join you so that you can help each other, exercise together, have a laugh and motivate each other!

The internet is an endless source of workout inspiration! Use it to your advantage!

#3 – Go back to the basics

I know how it is – of course we all want to master the cool tricks as soon as yesterday … we all want to be able to jump into a handspring, whip it into an ayesha and then nail an iron x, all the while smiling! We all want to be super strong, flexible as cats and to have the skills to combine the two into flowing lyrical dance routines. Of course developing skills in all these areas takes patience, practice, persistence and above all – some time. It can get a little frustrating when you feel you are not progressing as fast as you would like, or when you start comparing yourself to someone else and start to feel down or hopeless because you think they are better than you (don’t focus on things like that by the way! Always focus on yourself and your own journey, that’s what matters).

Some good advice I can give you: when you feel those thoughts creeping up on you, slow down a bit, breathe deeply, and take a step back. Stop frustrating yourself trying to smash something that might not be in your reach just yet, and focus more on the things you already know. There is always something you can work on to make it even better – try spending some time practicing your freestyle, on improving your spins, think about how you can make a beautiful entry and exit in and out of spins or combos you know, work on your invert (perhaps go from bent legs to straight legs, or aerial!), try to make your combos more flowing and natural, and so on. There are so many things you CAN do, focus on those instead of what you can’t (just yet). Use your time to perfect what you already know, and at the same time you are conditioning your body so it will be better prepared for when you move on to something more advanced.

Spend a little time focusing on perfecting tricks you already know well

#4 – Take some time off

I’ve been there and I’m sure you have too. Sometimes life sneaks up on you and you just don’t have the time for practice. Other times you just feel tired, unmotivated and lazy and as a result you skip a few practices – over a few days, weeks, even months. It’s completely natural and healthy. Instead of scolding yourself for missing practices or not working out – try to embrace it and accept it. Sometimes it can be good for the body to have a little rest from practices and we come even stronger back after a break. The important thing to remember is to get going again when you feel ready, not falling into the habit of not moving at all for extensive periods – you can of course always use tips #1 to #3 to help you get going again!

Sometimes all you need is a little rest 🙂 take cats as a great example, they are experts at relaxing!

“Why do you dance like a stripper?” Confessions of an exotic pole dancer

By Sveindís Þórhallsdóttir

The clear blue water in the pool reflects the endless stream of sunshine on this beautiful day. There is not a cloud in sight. Laying on my stomach on a pink towel with a large photo of a kitten, sweat is dripping down my forehead. 26°C warmth is hard on my nordic skin. I still love being on a vacation in Spain. Especially since I have my best friend, Viola Thorn, with me. She is laying on her back on a green towel, her light, Finnish skin gently kissed by the sunlight. She’s wearing thick sunglasses and a blue bikini. Her legs bearing a few lightly colored bruises. Visual marks of the struggles of being a pole dancer. Pole …. Dancer. The words linger in my mind.

“Viola” I begin. Her head turns towards me, her attention focused. “How did you get into pole dancing?” She is silent for a brief moment, thinking. “Was it a bit over two years ago?” She wonders. “I began going to the studio in my hometown after I had dreamt that I was pole dancing… It all started with that dream”. We both laugh at the coincidence. Both thankful her sleeping mind created that scenario one fateful night. Otherwise we wouldn’t have met. “At first I went to random beginner classes, but after realizing how much I enjoyed it, I bought a monthly subscription and joined a training group. I started practicing more seriously.” She says as she raises herself up onto her elbows, grabs a bottle of water and has a few sips. The air is calm, offering no relief in the form of a soft breeze. The children from our neighbourhood are playing in the pool, splashing and jumping into it. Their laughter fills the otherwise silent atmosphere.

“I know you love pole…but you quit the studio a while ago, though….Why?” I ask her. She sits up, turning her back to the sun. “I just felt I was not getting what I was looking for there, anymore.” She pauses briefly, before continuing “The classes all have the same set-up, they are very trick oriented, like ‘now we learn this trick’, ‘now we learn that trick…In a way I think it is important for a beginner to do that…but then you need something more. You need to learn to connect them, and I felt I wasn’t getting that so much from my studio, so I decided to do it on my own… at home, instead.” I nod. I do agree with her. My experience is similar to hers. “I definitely feel classes are very trick oriented…I don’t know if this is just the method of the nordic countries…” I softly muse. “Might be.” She answers. “After a while I started to really wonder what is really ‘me’. What defines me? How do I like expressing myself?” She says, gently rubbing her bruised knees. “I bought some heels and began practicing dancing with them… it was really hard, but so much fun. I felt at home. I realized exotic pole is more my style, rather than the acrobatic, modern type of dance my former studio focuses on.” I smile, thinking about her shoe collection that has grown massively in the last few months. “I’m so happy you found your style” I say, reaching for the water bottle.  “I love all of your flow videos, your attitude and your amazing floorwork. You’re getting so good at it!” I praise, genuinely very impressed with her progress.

“I don’t know if it’s a nordic country thing, but we seem to almost be afraid of exotic style, or judgemental towards it, not wanting association with it at all.” I wonder out loud. We’ve talked about this a million times before, yet it keeps surprising us. How can people be judgemental towards any certain type of movement? “Yeah” she says. “Like the time I asked my former studio for more choreography classes… they told me they offer a few but those classes aren’t so popular. Then, when I asked specifically for exotic pole classes, they literally told me that the studio is more ‘acrobatic and dance.’” She shakes her head in disbelief and again lays down on her back, allowing the sun to warm her face again.  “By saying that, they basically told me exotic dancing is not dance…. Why? It’s not any less dancing than any other type of dance.” I snort. I hate when people negatively judge other people’s choices, just because they themselves don’t understand. “I think some people are afraid to move on their own” She continues. “They just like being in a class where they are led through everything…told to do this, do that. People are afraid of creating their own movement… not to mention exotic movement, that scares them beyond anything. Because they don’t know how to move”. I wholeheartedly agree with her. “Pole dance came from the strip clubs.” I say. “I hate how people want to do pole, but not be associated with strippers. As if being a stripper is so beneath everyone. I can think of many professions worse than showing off your boobs on stage. Big corporations, corrupt politicians, animal cruelty… I could go on and on. But the world has more problem with a woman openly expressing sexuality, being sexy, than all of those things. It’s crazy”. I feel my voice trembling from anger. I take a sip of water. Viola nods. “When you think about pole dancing, you immediately think about strippers. The association is always going to be there. Embrace it, don’t be ashamed.” She says, offering advice I think every pole newbie needs to hear. “When you watch professional routines, you see DANCE. Not just tricks. Not combos of tricks connected by a few steps. You see effortless looking flow, connection from one to the next. It’s beautiful. That’s what pole dancing is all about, to me. I want to perfect that. I already know a lot of tricks, but I want to learn to connect them effortlessly in dance.” She says. “For me, exotic style is that connection. Stripper style is all about flowing from one point to the next. Having attitude. Showing how fierce you are.” She adds, grinning. I can almost see the spark in her eye behind her dark sunglasses. The passion, it’s there.

“It’s not about how many tricks you can do in a row, it’s about all the little things that come together and make the picture huge. How you walk. Making the body rolls more dramatic. Sliding the hands. Little skips. Where you look. It all matters so much in exotic pole.” I smile, thinking of exactly how much the little things matter. “Unfortunately, the community in your country doesn’t feel the same way about exotic style…do you feel you’ve met some discrimination for openly liking it?” She sighs at my question and takes a moment before answering. “Definitely. As I said, they kind of told me exotic dancing is not real dancing. That sucks. I shouldn’t have to put myself in a certain box of dance to express myself. Dancing is expression. Exotic dancing is expression. If I’m forced to dance differently, that’s not ME.” She turns to lying on her stomach, sunshine again reaching her back. “I think people definitely are ashamed…people are scared of freestyling, showing emotions, but in exotic style you have to show specific emotion, and that’s almost impossible for some people.” She adds. “It does seem to scare them.” I say. “People seem to be ashamed of women expressing sensuality and being confident.” I add. “Yes, sexuality is a big part of human nature…there are for example strip clubs everywhere, sexuality is displayed in movies, ads, papers…everywhere” She tells me. “But when you openly want to practice it, then all of a sudden that’s a bad thing. I almost feel like people think that when I exotic dance, I am somehow degrading myself…that couldn’t be further from the truth!” She exclaims. “Yes! How can you degrade yourself by simply dancing?” I ask. “Hopefully, one day, we can all appreciate and respect each other, no matter our dance styles, choices or opinions.”

Click here to visit Viola Thorn on instagram

Photos by Wallineva photograhpy

 

Emily Laura’s tips for planning your training session

Training outside of lessons can be really hard! How many times to you get to the studio and have zero motivation and no idea what to do?

Here are my top tips on how to plan and have a great training session:

1. Plan your week. This doesn’t have to be super detailed but an outline of what you want to do on each day will really help shape your training week. I personally like to designate certain days to certain types of pole – one day for strength training, one for bending, one for combos and so on. I know I can’t do a crazy bendy day followed by a strength day so I make sure there’s a gap in between.

2. Plan your session. Even if it’s a quick plan written before you start, knowing your goals will focus your session. Here are the elements I plan:

Warm Up – warm up is so important. Start with some generally mobilisation, and then focus on movements that mirror the rest of your training session. For example, if you were focusing on splits moves, warm up your whole body and then focus on hamstrings and hip flexors to make sure they are ready! Aim for at least 10-­15 minutes.

Floorwork / Flow – using floorwork and flow is a great way to ensure you are really warmed up and it helps get the creative juices flowing (of course this could be a training session alone). You can experiment with movements you already have, linking different ones together. Alternatively, put a track on, move to the music and see what happens. Why not set a challenge, like keeping one limb on the ground at all time?

Stretch / Strength Training – now that you are super warm, turn your attention to the moves you want to train. If you need to stretch or train your strength, now is a good time.

Tricks / Combos – which tricks do you want to train today? I personally like a mixture of old tricks that I’m perfecting, and new tricks to challenge myself and keep it fresh.

Cool Down – make sure you do a cool down to allow your body to recover. A gentle stretch session is so beneficial.

3. Have a long term goal. Whether it’s a performance, competition, level of fitness or a particular trick, a long term goal will keep you driven and motivated.

4. Write notes from your training session. What went well, what do you need to work on Use this to plan your next training sessions.

5. Build in rest days. This one is so important. Overtraining is as bad, sometimes worse than not training at all. Your body needs time to recover from your session so make sure you build in rest days and recovery time to your plan. There is nothing more demotivating that having no energy to train.

6. Learn to walk away from a bad training session. This is my best tip and it has taken me along time to learn! Sometimes, for whatever reason, your training session just won’t go to plan no matter how hard you try. It’s okay to walk away from it, to stop training or to train something else. You don’t have to stick to your plan. Listen to your body, if it’s not happening, there’s probably a reason for it. It’s okay to leave it for that day and come back to it another time.

7. Progress pictures. So, not really part of a plan but taking “start” pictures will really help you see how far you have come and will motivate you to go futher!

 

Top 5 Freestyle Tips by Tiffany Jane

Whether you’ve heard the perfect song, want to increase your movement vocabulary, or just want to dance like no one is watching…

Here are some quick tips from Tiffany Jane (@titojane) that will help jump start your freestyle journey.

Megan Dyga (@merghern) in the Flier top & Bombshell bottom

1. Plant yourself

This is a great place to start for both newbies and experienced freestylers.  Start in any orientation around the pole and plant your feet in one spot. Now begin dancing and explore what types of shapes you can create all while keeping your feet in one spot.  What are the ways you can curl yourself around the pole? Explore twisting and turning while standing or coming down to the floor, all while keeping your feet stationary.

2. Clothing

Find any article of clothing, like a loose shirt, sweater, skirt, dress, pants, scarf, leg warmers or socks.  You can wear several layers or just one. Play with movement that focuses on incorporating the use of clothing. What are ways you can pull it off or put it back on while still dancing and moving around the pole? Clothing can add a new layer of creativity.

3. Body Parts

Assign yourself a body part that will be the initiation of all your movement. For example, let your head or heart lead your dance and be the focal point of your movement.  Challenge yourself by trying less obvious body parts, like the elbow or knee, and see what movement your body uncovers.

4. Levels

Challenge yourself by dancing at different levels.  Levels can be floor work (ex: nothing above the crawling position or lying down), standing, or up in the air.  If you’re up in the air, start with a simple sit or leg hang. Linger in the position for a few seconds and explore different hand/arm movements, leg shapes, and body twists.  Naturally, this often leads to another move, uncovering new transitions and flow.

5. Practice

Practice makes progress! Freestyling is a challenge and requires just as much attention as fonjis and handsprings.  Start your freestyle with eyes closed, feel your breath, the floor, the pole, move without looking at yourself in a mirror.  Clear your mind or use those emotions to guide your movement.  Record yourself and watch it after, you’ll be surprised what you find. Sometimes you’ll only like 10 seconds of dance to a 4 minute song, but eventually 10 seconds, will turn to 15, 20, 30 seconds.

The beautiful thing about freestyle, and dance in general, is the infinite movement possibilities and creations that come out of it.

The tips above are designed to make freestyling less overwhelming and daunting by giving the dancer a focal point on where to begin their freestyle exploration. 

Remember not to take yourself too seriously and embrace all the new movement your body is about to experience.

–Tiffany Jane (@titojane)

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Elbow tendinopathy – a common injury in the pole dance world

elbow tendinopathy

By Phoebe Armfield

Elbow tendinopathy (which leads to elbow pain) is quite common among pole dancers. I’ve had it in both elbows….at the same time….while trying to train for a competition! As a physio and a poler I often get asked for advice, so hopefully some of the tips I share here will help if you are suffering elbow pain or prevent elbow tendinopathy in the future.

I’ve found that most pole related elbow pain is caused by disruption of either the forearm flexor and/or extensor tendons. A little anatomy lesson: The muscles on the anterior surface of your forearm (the same side as the palm of your hand) are the forearm flexors. Most of these muscles all join at one point (smaller than your little fingernail) at your elbow. If you have your elbow by your side, this point is the closest boney prominence to your body. Similarly with the forearm extensors all the muscles on the back of your forearm (hairy side) attach at a single point at the boney prominence on the furthest side of your elbow in relation to your body.

So what you ask? Well, as we are gripping onto the pole and contorting our bodies into weird and wonderful positions the muscles of our forearms are working overtime to assist our hands to grip, as well as stabilise the wrists and elbow joints while they carry the full weight of our bodies! The muscles of the forearm are pulled from the small attachment point at the elbow towards the hand, and this can create strain on the attachment point, which can then lead to elbow pain.

How do we fix it? There are a few techniques which I’ve found to be super helpful in relieving elbow strain and pain.

Myofascial release – The best thing about it is that you can do it yourself! As discussed the cause is the muscles being pulled to the hand away from the elbow…so, we can reverse this by using your fist to massage TOWARDS the elbow in one motion to give the attachment point some slack. I do this throughout my training sessions mostly but can be done when not training. In my experience this is by far the most effective technique. It will take time, weeks to months for the pain to completely alleviate but don’t be disheartened – you will return to your former glory!

Bracing – You can buy elbow braces for around $30 from most chemists or sports clinics. They are a band that fits around the top of the forearm just under the elbow and acts to offload the attachment point. They can work to alleviate pain while training but may not fix the cause and can get in the way while training.

Ice – this is good after training sessions if the elbow has been stirred up or inflamed. This will not fix the cause just reduce the inflammation caused by the latest training session.

Heat – this can reduce pain in between training sessions, however it will actually increase blood flow and inflammation to the area so avoid using it just after a training session. Again it will not treat the cause of injury.

Stretching and strengthening exercises – Stretching can help but can also stretch the forearm muscles the wrong way pulling the muscles off the elbow attachment point which is what we want to avoid. Eccentric strength exercises are suggested by research, however I find these only aggravate the elbow so these exercises should be saved for after the pain has resolved.

And lastly….

Rest – um… but who wants to rest from pole?

Hopefully this helps shed some light on elbow pain for polers! Let me know if you have any other helpful tips!

Phoebe xxoo

P.S. Large poles (e.g. 50mm) can be a culprit, especially if you have little hands. Try using a thinner pole if available. Or give yourself a break from moves or positions that cause lots of pain, just train something else and come back to it SLOWLY.