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The Encyclopedia of Splits

By on June 19, 2017

Splits, spreadies, straddles—whatever you want to call them we pole dancers are OBSESSED with them. We do them every chance we get and if we don’t yet “have” them, then we spend countless hours improving our flexibility on our journey for the perfect split. Once we have finally achieved our perfect split, we discover something called an “over split” and the journey begins anew. With all this obsession over splits, we at Bad Kitty® thought it would be a good idea to categorize and collect all the splits – or at least as many as possible. We presume this list will become outdated as soon as it’s read since pole-evolution is moving much faster than Darwin ever intended. Each split has been labeled (sometimes with multiple labels) and include an instagram tag so that you can search on your own and see what variations might be applicable to your split journey. We are using the #pdinsertpolenamehere nomenclature popularized by Michelle Shimmy to easily separate the pole dance relevant spatchcocks from the cooking posts. There are several split moves that we found that we couldn’t consistently name and were simply labeled #pdsplit — we went for the splits that were more constantly being done around the world and being constantly named the same thing (with some variations).

What is a split?

Gymnastically speaking, there are two major kinds of splits: front splits with either the left or the right leg forward with knee facing upwards (other leg back with knee to the ground) with the torso facing to the front and middle splits or side splits with the torso facing in between as the legs go out to either side, both knees facing up or out (but not down to the ground). A straddle is when the middle split is more like a V than straight.

Splits can also further be defined as passive or active. Passive splits use some sort of lever to push against such as the floor, or a pole, or perhaps another person to achieve a “flat” split. Active splits rely on muscle and do not push against a lever; these are considered more difficult to master and require more training not just in flexibility but in strengthening as well.

Splits might be aerial, ground-dwelling, partially active and partially passive, they might be part of a dynamic movement like a leap (with or without apparatus), they might be less of a straight line and more of a V-shape, they might be an over split (extending beyond a “flat” 90/180 degrees), they might be turned out/with “attitude” or “stag” legs such as in a “jazz split.” They might accompany a heel clack or they might only be a pipe dream. We’ll start looking at the basics and move towards more advanced options as we move up the pole and away from the floor. It is important to note that despite our love of splits, we don’t own them (I know, I too was surprised by that fact) and other dance, movement, martial arts, yoga, and gymnastics adherents may have slightly different terms, definitions, or ideas of what splits mean to them. We are focusing on the most common splits and split related moves that you might learn in a pole studio. We’re sure there are more and there are TONS of variations of each of these that to you might be a completely separate move in it’s own right. If you’ve got one we’ve missed – please share!

They are all organized alphabetically and when relevant they reference each other.

Basic Splits: Requiring a flat or almost flat split.

Ground dwelling splits that are still attached to the floor in some way.

Dancer Pose by:

Dancer Pose: similar to needlescale/scorpion in that it is a front split done upright, the top leg is not grabbed in an overhand manner by both hands but with one hand inside the ankle or calf and the body extends perpendicular to the legs.

Floor Jade: can be done with or without a pole (either holding with a hand or using as a alignment for hips/butt), the most defining characteristic is that that butt is on a “platter” made by the hand and the crotch is pointed up/out.

Lizard/Floor Lizard/Lizard Pose/Yoga Lizard: Front split where the inside arm (closest to your front leg) is threaded under that leg creating a “shelf” with your elbow. Variations can include lifting into a hand balance pose, stretching both legs as long as possible with the back leg on the floor, or grabbing the back ankle when the leg is bent at the knee.

Needlescale by:

Needlescale/Scorpion: upright front split requiring extreme flexibility as the back leg is grabbed over the head by both hands in an overhand grip.

Splits on the Floor (Middle/front) Upright or on your back/side. See: every pole dancer ever. Lots of variations including oversplits (splits more than “flat”), bending legs, etc.

Standing Splits with or without the Pole (or Wall): Typically either an upward or downward facing front split. Very active split. When done with a pole or wall to push against, the stretch is less active.

Side Tilt: an active flexibility middle split done mostly upright.

Aerial splits done on the pole.

These splits range from moderate to advanced flexibility (see the next section for extreme flexibility). Many have options that do not require a “true” split but can be oriented to appear as if they are. Some require active flexibility while others use the pole in whole or in part as a lever for passive flexibility.

Allegra by:

Allegra: inverted front split angled at ~45 degrees with the top leg trapped/grabbed by the top hand pressing the thigh into the pole, body rotated out. Bottom leg may be extended backwards and grabbed creating a split as the body wraps around the pole or depending on your level of flexibility, more of a trapezoidal shape. Bottom leg may also be left extended and not grabbed or “closed.”

Ballerina: There are significant variations for this move in regards to arm/elbow and leg position either opened or closed. Some can be considered front splits while others are not. More extreme variations require significant hamstring and hip flexor flexibility. Distinguishing features include body in front of the pole with arm/elbow and one leg behind the pole.

Banana Split: similar to a down split with the hips off the pole and the torso facing down. Generally the instep of both feet are on the pole.

Belcher Split by:

Belcher Split: front split facing out with body parallel to the ground. Bottom arm is hooked in an elbow grip in front of the body while other hand is grabbing the top/front split leg. Other leg is actively pulling back. Popularized by Crystal Belcher.

Box Split: similar to the banana split but with legs in a middle or side split position. Generally the ankles are on the pole and the torso is pointed out and not down with the back arched and hands close in the center of the body near the crotch. Box splits done without true middle split flexibility often become banana splits.

Bow and Arrow: this typically refers to a leg position whereas the top foot is hooked on the pole and the other leg is extended down when inverted creating a front split. It could reflect several arm options including flag grip, rubber elbow (elbow behind the back hooked on the pole), split grip, iguana mount grip, or others.

Brass Monkey Split: starting from a Brass Monkey position, the same hand as brass monkey leg is down in a split grip/thumb down position with the other hand also in a split grip thumb up position above the leg. Top leg is extended and body arches, lifting the chest while bottom leg is actively pulled down as in a front split. Some variations of this name are categorized in relation to the Janeiro.

Chopsticks by:

Chopsticks (all the variations): Upright front split with one leg pulled/held with one hand and the other raised using active flexibility. May be done with the hand on the pole (over the leg or under in a trapped or “bondage” version), elbow on the pole, and/or grabbing the back foot (so armpit/bicep stays connected to the pole) or without the back hand at all. The belly is used as a point of contact and the crotch is facing out not down. Goal position is both legs parallel to the ground. (May also be spelled “chopstix.”)

Down (facing) split: many variations in arm (hand, elbow) and leg positions (bent or straight), generally a front split (sometimes with hips pushed forward, sometimes aligned with pole) done on the pole (or just adjacent) with the body/torso facing down. Soe variations may have legs behind the pole forcing an oversplit. (good comparison up and down splits)

Dragon Tail by:

Dragon (or Dragons) Tail: inverted move where the bottom arm is in a split grip/thumb up position and the top hand is pressed against the small of the back with hand grabbing the pole thumb up, which is to the side of the body. Legs can come out in a split (front or middle) or have variations with bent knees. Distinguishing features include the arch in the chest/back and pole position of being deep inside the hip pocket with body to the side of the pole. Popularized by Bad Kitty Brand Ambassador Charlee Shay.

Elbow Grip Split/Devil’s Elbow/Devil’s Elbow Split: Any upright (or angled to the side) front split done with the elbow as the primary point of contact and either the back or side to the pole. Typically the front leg is grabbed by the opposite hand across the body opening the chest and the back leg is actively pulled back. Variations include binding the leg with both hands or bending the back leg into a stag or attitude position.

Elbow Grip Split by:

Elbow Grip Shoulder Mount or One-Armed Shoulder Mount Split or Elbow Shoulder Mount: top elbow is hooked around the pole with the same arm’s trapezius muscle pressed into the pole. Same leg as elbow arm is grabbed at the ankle and other leg extends down. Body is parallel to pole in a front split position. Variations including grabbing bottom leg with bottom hand, bending the leg at the knee. Can be descended or ascended into this position. Popularized by Josiah Grant.

Extended Butterfly: From a traditional butterfly position, hook the top leg at the ankle instead of knee and extend the top leg while extending the back leg. In a front split/middle split position depending on flexibility level.

Honey Badger: front split facing out with body parallel to the ground. Bottom arm is hooked in an overhand grip at the elbow in front of the pole while other hand is grabbing the top/front split leg. Other leg is actively pulling back. Popularized by Cleo the Hurricane.

Tick Tock Splits by:

Inside leg hang split/Tick Tock Split: front split with the body beginning parallel to the floor with the outside hand on the front leg reaching around the head/creating a “window” and the inside hand holding onto the pole, back leg is actively pulling down. May be tilted or “Tick Tocked” to an upright position wherein the body becomes parallel to the pole.

Jade: perhaps the most famous inverted pole split, the jade is most commonly done with one hand on the front leg (as in a front split) and the bottom leg arched over a “platter” made for the butt using the hand. Goal position is completely flat 180 degree angle (or more as in an over split variation) drawn from the front leg to the back leg, crotch to the ceiling with a contact point in the side.

Jallegra: hybrid move between the jade and the allegra wherein the bottom arm is hooked at the elbow and the top leg is pulled towards the face. Goal position is a flat front split (legs parallel to the ground) with the crotch facing up and the body facing out. Variations may include rotating back leg to create more of a straddle or pushing the front leg behind the shoulder, grabbing at the ankle and rotating the chest out to create the #pdjadechenko (uncommon)

Janiero Split by:

Janeiro Split: several variations of splits from the Janeiro position, either grabbing the back leg with the free hand, grabbing the front leg with the free hand (either connecting the top leg or not). Key feature is maintaining the butt on the other side of the pole, specific to the Janeiro. Some variants also called Brass Monkey Split.

Keem/Plus Sign: More of a straddle than a split – like a box split in that the ankles are on however torso is turned up and typically the inside elbow (or hand or armpit/bicep) is holding the pole.

Lilubelle: Upright front split with the inside arm hooked behind the shoulder at the elbow connecting to the hip and across the forearm similar to the Pegasus. Body is to the side and split is pulled typically at an angle while body remains up right. Back leg can be grabbed and extended so the appearance is similar to a Ballerina however the body is to the side of the pole.

Machine Gun by:

Machine Gun: inverted front split in which the inside-arm is under the front leg as in a lizard position with flag grip arm and the gaze is directed out from under that leg. The front leg is pulled by the outside hand and the back leg is actively engaged. Goal position is body and legs parallel to the floor, crotch pointed out. Can be done with only the inside arm as popularized by Jamilla DeVille.

Marion Amber: inverted front split with the front leg trapped by the top arm, with arms in a split grip position (as if in a butterfly). Can be done with a top hand twisted grip, cup grip or true/baseball (thumb up) grip.

Marta Split: front, down split with the body at an angle to the pole, pushing front/bottom thigh/near the gluteal fold into the pole and actively reaching top leg back. Top arm is in split grip/thumb up position and bottom arm is either hooked at the elbow with hand reaching for the pole, or elbow is bend, pushing forearm on the pole with arm in front and grabbing the leg.

Matrix by:

Matrix: A trapped split variant similar to a version of the outside leg hang split in which the body starts in a jasmine position (knee around the pole, other leg behind) with top hand in split grip position and bottom hand in flag position so that when you extend through the knee you are leveraging into the flagged bottom hand. Popularized by Sasja Lee.

“No-hands” Jade: Similar to the jade – this is an aerial, front split wherein the front leg is held/pulled by one (or both) hand. In this version there is no “butt platter.” Variations may include grabbing the back foot to create a more trapezoidal shape. Goal position is completely flat 180 degree angle (or more as in an over split variation) drawn from the front leg to the back leg (an inverted chopsticks variation). This jade is generally considered more difficult than the regular jade as it requires more active flexibility to keep the jade flat.

Outside leg hang split: an inverted, front split from a regular straddle back inversion that hooks the outside leg at the ankle on the pole above the head, other leg hangs/pulls into a split position and hands do not move from inversion position. Other splits with this label (popularized by Cleo’s Rock and Pole) start in a jasmine position (knee around the pole, other leg behind) with split grip and extend through the knee and not at the ankle. Other variants do not include split grip and instead have the top leg “trapped” between both hands thumb up position with or without the bottom hand (can just push through top knee).

Pegasus by:

Pegasus: several variations of this move and not all of them splits. Inverted move with bottom arm bent at the elbow and grabbing up towards the face (forearm not pushing– just over gripped at the wrist). Top arm connects to the pole around the elbow/across the forearm and grabs the back leg at the thigh. Straight leg variations appear to be a front split or a middle split or a stage leg (bent at the knee) position. Popularized by Marlo Fisken.

Red Pants Split: Like a Russian Split with one foot on the pole, instead of holding with the hands, you hold with an elbow lock. Popularized by Dmitry Politov.

Reiko Split: Upright front split with one foot on the pole and both arms extended above the leg/foot. Back leg is raised using active flexibility (variations may including bending and grabbing the back foot to create a trapezoidal shape depending on the hip flexor flexibility level). Can be rotated to inverted and one hand removed to be come the “Flying K” (Popularized by Oona Kivela)

Russian Split by:

Russian Split: a front split done on the pole with one foot on the pole and the other extended behind while in an inverted position at a 45 degree angle away from the pole. Both hands are on the pole around the leg (can be done with a person or other aerial apparatus).

Shaina Split: front, down split, with the body in front of and parallel to the pole. Top foot (back leg) is holding onto the pole in a sickle position and arms are wrapped around pole with either both arms reaching for the front leg and holding the pole in the inside armpit, or inside arm is in a flag grip position and only one hand is grabbing for the pole. Popularized by Shaina Cruea.

Teddy: an upright, inside armpit hold with several leg variations including a straddle or a front split position.

Trap Split by:

Trap Split or Trapped Shoulder Mount Split: Front split where the front leg is literally trapped at the ankle with one arm over the leg while in a cup grip shoulder mount and the other leg extends back, body parallel to floor. Can ascend or descend into this move.

Twisted Sister: an inverted, front split that has elements of the “Flying K” (advanced version of the Reiko Split) that requires one ankle to be on the pole with one hand behind the ankle. The back leg is extended and the inside arm is on the pole while the body is angled up and out. Depending on flexibility, this split may be angled slightly away from the pole or close to 90 degrees in relation to the pole.

Tulip: the Tulip is a straddle that is most commonly done with legs behind the pole and both arms grabbing in between the straddle at the elbows in grip that looks like you’re doing a bicep curl. Other variations have the tulip with hands on the pole, spread as wide as the legs.

Up (facing) split: many variations in arm (hand, elbow) and leg positions (bent or straight), generally a front split (sometimes with hips pushed forward, sometimes aligned with pole) done on the pole (or just adjacent) with the body/torso facing up. (good comparison up and down splits)

Handspring Split by:

Inverted Moves you can add a split to:

  • Aeysha/Handspring
  • Claw grip/Funky Charlie Grip Aeysha
  • Elbow Grip Aeysha
  • Forearm grip handspring/Aeysha
  • Table top (#pdtabletopsplit)
  • Any handstand
  • Any forearm stand
  • Any head stand

Advanced Splits (you’re gonna need an oversplit)

Bird of Paradise: Based on the yoga move, the Bird of Paradise can be upright or inverted, front split where the front leg is bound behind the shoulder with the arms clasped in an overhead position with inside arm hooked at the elbow on the pole. This split extends at an angle from the pole and the back leg is actively pulling back. Requires extreme hamstring, shoulder, and side bending flexibility. Popularized by Marlo Fisken.

Bondage Split by:

Bondage Split: A bondage split is closely related to the yoga “bind” concept in which you are using your arm to bind your leg in some way, either reaching for the pole or your other hand. Some binds/bondage splits have their own names (see Bird of Paradise) while others seem to be given this label although the hand positions are quite different. They can be up or down or side facing but involve some type of completely awkward arm position. One specific bondage split, named for Alessandra Marchetti involves a front split facing up/out with body parallel to the floor. Other bondage splits involve reaching behind the back. NOTE the difference between a trap/trapped split and a bondage split is on level of flexibility. Typically the trap split is “caught” at an ankle which does not involve as much hamstring and sometimes shoulder flexibility as a bondage split. This split involves both active and passive flexibility.

Broken Split (arm in front and arm behind variations): There are at least two broken split variations that might have different names. They both involve a front split, parallel to the ground with the front leg behind the pole grabbed behind in an overhand cup grip with the top arm hooked at the elbow. One version has the shoulder in front of the pole and the other has the shoulder behind the pole. Both involve a significant amount of shoulder and hamstring flexibility and one very much has the pole in your neck which is not comfortable for everyone.

Eagle by:

Eagle: upright move requiring significant hip flexor and shoulder flexibility. This is a needlescale or scorpion position on the pole with the body parallel to the pole, chest facing out. Variations may include bottom leg on the pole hooking the pole or extended to fully complete the split. Ideally the top, overhead leg is straight. Popularized by Felix Cane.

Spatchcock: Requires a oversplit “pancake” straddle with extreme hamstring flexibility. There are no modifications and it involves passive flexibility. Popularized by Felix Cane.

Magic Split: based on Down Split, front leg is behind the pole. Bottom arm or arm closest to the floor is removed, inside arm pushes at the tricep and hand is released. Contact points include foot or ankle of the front/low foot on the pole and top foot or ankle on the pole. Variations include inside hand still on the pole or inside arm wrapped around the pole more like a bondage split and if grabbed like a bondage split, top leg can be bent in an attitude fashion with foot grabbed (or not). This split involves mostly passive flexibility.

One-Armed Bird of Paradise: An even more extreme version of the Bird of Paradise move, done either upright or inverted with the outside arm grabbing the ankle directly and not clasping the other hand which requires even more extreme shoulder and hamstring flexibility. With the back leg not extended but positioned across the body, this move is know as the #pddorito due to it’s shape which is not a split and was popularized by Natty Stephens.

Pegashock: hybrid move of the Pegasus and Spatchcock that is a straddle leg position and scarecrow grip (grip is in the neck/across the shoulder girdle with one arm over and one under the pole) in the arms. Uncommon. Popularized by Felipe Mendoza. This split involves mostly passive flexibility.

Rainbow Marchenko: Can be upright or inverted and requires significant hip flexor and shoulder flexibility. This is a needlescale or scorpion position on the pole with the body parallel to the floor, chest facing down. Variations may include both legs bent/curled (“shrimp” position”) over the head, back leg bent at the knee or back leg straight. Ideally the front, over head leg is straight. This move requires more active flexibility when done upright.

Satellite by:

Satellite: Requiring extreme hip flexor and back flexibility akin to the Rainbow Marchenko, this is also a needlescale or scorpion flexibility position except with the arm hooked on the pole behind the back at the elbow. Popularized by Maddy Sparkle.

Colleen Jolly
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Colleen Jolly

is AFAA and elevatED certified pole dance enthusiast and entrepreneur. She has been poling for six years, runs and owns the International Pole Convention (PoleCon), teaches pole and lyra in the DC metro area at FIT4Polers and MyBodyShop, and is a partner and instructor with She loves performing, regularly competes, and lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two kitties.
Colleen Jolly
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