How to Cross Train for Pole Fitness
Cross training is not a new concept, but thinking about cross training from a poler’s perspective produces a fresh twist. Cross training is defined as trying a new sport, one that is different from your main sport. The idea is to generate improvement in sport performance and potentially learn new training methods that can be applied to the main sport.
Cross training for pole has a myriad of benefits. Pursuing another sport or athletic endeavor can give the body a break from the pole. For example, running two days a week instead of adding another pole day to the weekly regime may prevent overtraining by giving the overused pole muscles a rest day. Energizing the weekly routine with a fresh athletic pursuit can also provide renewed motivation for pole and prevent burnout. A newfangled fitness routine that supplements pole can move the body in diverse ways, once again creating new brain pathways and new muscle memory, which can again help on the pole.
If used properly, cross training eradicates imbalances in the body. As most of us have experienced, pole relies heavily on the upper body. It’s easy to get out of balance and this unfortunately can lead to injury. Cross training can help fix the imbalances by working less used muscle groups that need extra training and resting the overused muscles. One common imbalance from pole is the overdevelopment of the lats, pecs and shoulder muscles and the underdevelopment of the rhomboids, middle and lower traps.
From a muscular balance standpoint, it’s important to understand overtraining. Working the same muscle groups hard every day is not beneficial, demanding workouts require a recovery period for muscle growth to happen. For a strength-based workout like pole, training every other day is ideal. On the days in-between, cross training can step up performance by working the underdeveloped muscles and adding in new dimensions of fitness such as flexibility and cardiovascular growth.
Certain sports or fitness routines are more symbiotic with pole. The best pursuits work opposing muscle groups and focus on skills that can improve pole performance. We have categorized the most complimentary sports and fitness pursuits for polers. What we examined are the sports the best cross training potential to create muscle balancing, coordination, flexibility and building strength off the pole.
Weightlifting is the number one recommendation to add to a pole training schedule. The movement patterns will shock the system and lifting produces micro tears in the muscle, which is the creation process for building muscles. However, it’s a smart idea to gain knowledge on which muscle groups are employed most frequently in pole. The pecs and lats of polers tend to be overdeveloped and the rhomboids and traps tend to be underdeveloped. Hire a personal training and explain to him or her what pole requires. Show a video so the trainer can understand that pole is close to gymnastics in physical requirements. The trainer can give you a workout routine to do. The workouts should consider the legs, the core and balancing the less worked upper body, back and arm muscles.
The aerial arts are a nice accompaniment to pole, however be aware that the muscle groups engaged are often the same as pole. There are many sister movement patterns in aerial arts and pole, but a different apparatus requires new grips and enough new movement patterns to cause change and growth in the body. Aerial arts may offer the transformation to jump start your body’s current training methods. Be cautious of overuse and overtraining. If you are doing more than four days a week of pole and aerial, you may be better off with cross training that devotes time for balancing pole muscles.
If you feel stiff or awkward when you link combinations or floor work, taking a coordination-based sport or class may nurture your dance moves. Ballet, jazz and modern dance classes can all help with form, musicality, extension and linking. Dance focuses frequently on leg and core movement, but offers a full body workout that can connect the body with purpose. Dance will clean up pole moves and make pole routines flow. If agility, technique and flexibility are your goals, dance will prepare you for on the pole coordination.
The martial arts are usually not the first thing one thinks of splicing with pole, but martial arts work on balance, technique and are harmonizing skill based sport. Like pole, many of the movement patterns are combination movements and take practice to engrain into muscle memory. Attempting martial arts with kicks and knees will sculpt the lower body and create dexterity in the feet. The chain movements of striking or learning judo rolls will produce total body workout. However, boxing and upper body striking can generate repeat movement on the same upper body muscles used in pole, listen to the body and watch for overtraining. Kickboxing, MMA, judo, jui-jitsu, karate, tae-kwando are all suitable choices.
If you live in a place with bike paths and access to trails, biking can be a exhilarating endurance sport. Cycling focuses on the legs and some core, giving the upper body a rest. Consistently riding increases endurance, lung capacity and makes for a healthy heart. If cycling outside is not an option, try a spin class. Indoor classes can provide serious cardio that can facilitate building extra stamina and endurance on the pole.
Running provides remarkable leg and booty sculpting and gives the upper body a true recovery off the pole. Running not only enhances the cardiovascular system but turns on the reward system in the brain releasing endorphins and endocannabinoids. Yes, the same receptors that are activated when inhaling cannabis. This release of neurotransmitters creates the runner’s high and studies have shown that running lessens depression.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the most versatile styles of training. HIIT can be employed for strength or endurance or both in the same workout. Traditionally, HIIT was developed to be interval workouts where the heart rate is elevated in higher strength zones instead of the endurance zone. Think of the differnce of working a jogging pace versus a sprinting pace. An example of a cardio-based interval is hill intervals in a spin class and an example of a strength interval would be using weights for thirty seconds of squats followed by 30 seconds of rows, done without rest to create a timed interval. Combination HIIT could be 45 seconds of deadlifts followed by one minute of running done four times. Seek out a group fitness class or trainer that specializes in HIIT. HIIT burns calories and increases cardio vascular power.
Pilates is a winning combination for complimenting pole, the workout boosts flexibility, coordination, strength and dance technique. Pilates is a total body workout but focuses on connecting with core and learning to move from the core. This is an applicable skill in pole as well. If you struggle with flexibility or want more coordination and body awareness, check out a mat Pilates class. If you want to go further, try reformer classes.
If flexibility is what you seek, yoga may be your answer. There are many types of yoga, from restorative to power yoga. As a poler it’s easy to have an interest in a vigorous hot power flow yoga, but consider the high ratio of upper body work that comes from a chaturanga-heavy flow class. If you are poling twice a week, this may be a great strengthening workout for you. Pole gives us plenty of strength training and taking on a fast workout-style yoga class mixed with too much pole and can result in injury over working the pecs, shoulders or upper back. Experiment with a slow flow yoga class or a yoga class that centers on flexibility.
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Photo of Andrea Lowell provided by @therealandrealowell