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The Honest Truth About Push-Ups for Pole

By on April 21, 2017

The push-up is not the most beloved of exercises, but most of us enjoy the results of doing push-ups: strong upper body and core, better endurance and lovely toned arms. Polers and aerialists generally use the push-up with gusto, from warm-ups, to strength training to home workouts. It’s common to be doing push-ups at least once a week, and as with most strength building exercises there are pluses and minuses to the push-up. More specifically, pluses and minuses for aerialists and polers.


The positive of the push-up is that is an accessible move that trains multiple groups of muscle. Personal trainers rely on the push-up for upper body strength building and core. The push-up strengthens the pecs, triceps and shoulder girdle muscles, plus the ab muscles.  It’s efficient and push-ups can be done pretty much anywhere. If new to pole, the push-up is a fantastic move to throw into weekly workouts. Push-ups strengthen the same muscles needed to execute moves on the pole, such as inversions, shoulder mounts and even basic climbing. The pecs are one of the most worked muscles in aerial and pole, the push-up can help you get your pecs strong.

The downside of push-ups is less discussed amongst polers and aerialists. Overall, push-ups are good, however if the training schedule is hitting four or more days a week it might be worthwhile to skip the push-ups. When training a significant amount, it’s important to remember that the body is using the same muscle groups over and over. As a trainer, I classify four days a week of the same sport as the turning point in training, four days a week is an enormous amount of strength training, repeat movement and exertion. If the body is not taken care of and given rest and restoration, this can lead to injuries such as tendon and muscle strain and muscular imbalances.

The smart poler and aerialist should work up the training days gradually over weeks and months and also be honest about what his/her body can handle.  As stated, when training pole and aerial at a high level, there will be repeat movements in the muscles.  This frequently manifests as overdeveloped pectorals and latissimus dorsi. Every lifting motion on the pole or apparatus usually requires some engagement from the pecs and lats. The simple act of climbing a pole or doing an inversion requires the pecs to fire.

Photo Courtesy of 123Poling

If we are already training the pecs hard, adding more training to the pecs in the form of a push-up may actually be detrimental to the body. Too much repeat muscle work may lead to overdeveloped pecs and this may strain other parts of the shoulder girdle and cause pain in areas around the shoulders and neck. Neck pain, upper back pain and shoulder muscular pain can all be related to over developed and tight pecs. As a trainer, this is my word of caution with the push-up: listen to your body. If you are feeling neck and shoulder pain and have tight pecs, plus training with a ton of push-ups, think about if the push-up helping or detracting.

Are You Doing Push-ups Correctly?

Having discussed the potential issues with push-ups, know that the push-up is, in general, great to add into training for pole and aerial. Let’s take a moment and discuss push-up form and gain a deeper understanding of what stellar form looks like in the push-up. As with most strength work, we need good form to get stronger and stay safe.

Correct Form

First off, begin by creating awareness of arm alignment; the shoulders should be over the wrists. Check that the elbows are not flaring out but are tucked in toward the body.


Second the body should be flat like a board. It’s not unusual to want to lift the hips or let the hips sag down. This usually happens when the participant is tired. If you notice the form going in a push-up be the smarter poler and modify.


Correct Form Modified Push-up

The standard modification is releasing the knees to the floor from the plank position. We still hold a long flat back and will still be using the abs. The position is active and not a place to slump and relax. Holding good form in the modification also prevents injury. It’s no fun to have to stop poling or doing aerial because of a shoulder injury from push-ups.


It’s no fun to have to stop poling or doing aerial because of a shoulder injury from push-ups. Pay attention to your form and stop when you notice yourself sacrificing your form for reps. Lastly, if you are training four or more times a week consider cutting back on your push ups or skipping them altogether.

Rebecca Stokes
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Rebecca Stokes

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