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Climb Off The Pole Plateau

By on February 21, 2017

The human body is a marvelous creation. No matter how challenging the workout, eventually the body adapts. Each week, we have a routine: we attend the same pole classes and for the most part work on the same moves or related moves. Of course this depends on the level, but once past the beginner realm it’s easy to get stuck. Perhaps class has gotten more difficult and you aren’t getting new moves as quickly as you once did. You feel like you are stuck on a plateau.

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Pole is a strength training workout, but also a skill based sport, meaning the body and mind work together to learn complex movement patterns. From a workout adaptability standpoint this gives pole the advantage of less repeat movement versus, for example, running which is repetitive rhythmic movement. However, the pole plateau can still happen. Most polers experience plateaus as stalling out progress on a certain move or set of moves. The body stops gaining huge strides in each class. There are a myriad of reasons for a plateau but one of the big ones is adaptation.

The body is naturally built to adapt to a workout and return to homeostasis within a four to six weeks of trying a new workout. The body stops making progress. In pole, these are strength and endurance gains that potentially lead to attaining more challenging moves. An example would be attending class consistently and progressing through intermediate moves like the inversion, maybe getting chopper and crucifix, but not obtaining the shoulder mount and having this last for weeks, even months. The overall rate of progress has slowed.

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Pole does have the advantage of offering many complex movement patterns so it’s likely that the body will take longer to fully adapt and you will be making gains for some time. Of course, there are many factors involved in not getting a challenging move – building enough strength, learned muscle memory, number of days training, past sports experience, technique, instruction plus adaptation.

When training for any sport there are phases of development in our skill set. The body adapts to workouts and sports and needs periodic changes to grow. This adaptation is called General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). Working out creates stress on the body and the first stage of GAS is called Alarm Reaction. If the body is new to the movement pattern and the stress, the body will adapt quickly and make rapid gains in strength or endurance. Beginner’s luck is a real thing. It’s just not luck – it’s biology. The muscular systems grow and adapt as does the neural connections in the brain.

The second phase is call the Stage of Resistance. On a strength level the body also adapts over a continuous period of time, A beginner can still be gaining strength and muscle development for up to a year after starting a new workout like pole. But after the beginner phase is finished the body will need change to increase progress. Also as the moves in pole become more complex and difficult, the tougher it is to achieve them.

The last phase is the Stage of Exhaustion. This is where the body can no longer resist the stress. This is what leads to overtraining and can set you on a plateau as well.  Participating in too many hard days on the pole, is actually detrimental to pole growth. If the body is exhausted, it won’t be able to perform at a high level and you are also more likely to get injured.

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The question becomes what can be done to wake the body out of homeostasis and push off the pole plateau. The name of the game is change. The body needs change in workouts so that strength and endurance gains allow a poler to reach trickier pole moves. If you are stuck on a plateau on the pole here a few ways to jump start the body.

Lengthen workouts or change number of workouts a week

If the pole classes you are attending are one hour, see if you can move up to a longer class or potentially stay a few minutes after class for extra work. You can also add an extra workout into your schedule. If you are already training hard three times a week or more, you probably don’t need to add another pole class. This can lead to overtraining, but increasing complementary workouts from another fitness realm may be a better choice.

Add Strength or Endurance

Get permission to stay late few minutes after class and add in your own strength training moves. Consider what you are stuck on and what moves would help. If you are stuck on shoulder mount add in ten minutes of basic inversions, chopper or shoulder mounts on the floor (no matter how small they are). If you want to increase endurance take time to add in free dancing. Play a song and don’t stop dancing until the song is over. You can also request additional strength and conditioning in your classes if you feel like the entire class would benefit.

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Increase the Intensity of your workouts

Perhaps it’s time to go to pole boot camp. If you are attending a level-based class check out a conditioning class for strength or even a choreography and flow class for endurance.  Throughout your regular pole classes pay attention to your rest time between moves. It’s easy take too many breaks or too long of breaks, especially after a long day at work. During class also look at how many times you are attempting a new move. For example, it you try a move three times on each side, maybe try to add a fourth attempt to each move.

Try a New Instructor

Switching instructors and classes can lead to new movement patterns and workouts in a class. Learning from anther instructor will give you fresh teaching methods and cues, but also new moves that may help you progress other moves. Plus a different instructor may help you tighten up technique which leads to more efficient movement which can lead to progress. Walking away from a set of pole moves and trying other series of pole moves can lead to success when you return to the old set of moves. This can be from building strength, learning similar movement patterns or getting the mind and body back in-tune.

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Crosstrain

Adding in cardio, weight lifting or a new workout will send the body back in to the first phase of GAS. Your body will need to adapt to the new fitness. Running, spin class or HIIT training can be excellent choices for endurance and cardiovascular work. Weight lifting, going to small group personal training or trying strength-based interval style classes can create strength gains that will be applicable on the pole. If you are training three plus days a week on the pole, it’s a good idea to try to use different muscle groups and select workouts that complement the pole workouts. Pole is upper body intense, selecting workouts that use the lower body or use the body is different ways is crucial is stopping overtraining.

There are many different ways to beat General Adaptation Syndrome and keep progressing on the pole. Climbing over a plateau is possible it just requires change and some determination.

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Rebecca Stokes
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Rebecca Stokes

Rebecca is a certified personal trainer, aerial studio owner and has developed training certification i the aerial arts industry.She is a journalist and is working on her Masters in clinical mental health counseling.
Rebecca Stokes
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