No matter what style of pole dancing you embrace, it can be hard to get by without doing any flexibility training. Once you finally wrap your head around just how many stretches there are in the world, you have to figure out which ones will help your pole dancing the most.
Luckily, a lot of this is already figured out for us. We just need to know where to find the right answers…
- The Benefits of Stretching
- Does Stretching Make You More Flexible?
- How Long Does It Take to Become Flexible?
- Tips on How to Improve Your Flexibility for Pole Dancing
- 5 of The Best Stretches for Dancers
The Benefits of Stretching
Learning to become more flexible isn’t just a great benefit to your pole dancing, but it’s also important for your overall health and wellbeing.
Stretching is a core part of our body’s health that many of us – even as dancers – tend to ignore until it hampers our progress drastically.
Careful – once you start becoming more flexible, you may fall in love with your daily stretching routine just like you fell in love with pole dancing.
Improved Pole Dancing Progress
You’ll notice right away how stretching improves your pole dancing progression.
Now, instead of struggling to get your top leg straight in Ayesha, you’ll feel more confident than ever in your Jade splits, seeing progress over a matter of days in how flat your legs can go. Better progress tends to also come with better motivation. The more motivation you have, the faster you’ll see progress.
From there, it’s a snowball effect of achieving goal moves and feeling more motivated!
Helps Your Body Heal After Injuries
Stretching helps your body “bounce back” after injuries, especially if you include strength training in your flexibility regimen to help your new range of motion become more stable. After an intense workout, your body will have less resistance to moving stiff joints, meaning you have a smaller chance of post-workout injuries as well (1).
Prevents Back Pain
Back pain is a common complaint for many dancers. Our back makes up one of the largest muscle groups in our bodies, but we seldom pay enough attention to it.
Regularly stretching can help prepare your muscles for dynamic movement both on and off the pole, giving your back a fighting chance against aches and pains; especially if you work a desk job or spend most of your day sitting.
Helps Decrease Stress
While the daily grind and personal drama can wear away at our emotional health, stretching provides a quiet space where you can find your zen. It may sound too good to be true, but scientists have started taking a harder look at the science of meditation and mindfulness in recent years.
Stretching helps regulate your breathing and increases your mindfulness and body awareness, which means you are taking part in a form of meditation every time you start your flexibility training.
More Satisfaction in the Bedroom
We probably didn’t have to call it out, but it’s too much of a benefit to leave out. Better flexibility in the bedroom typically leads to more satisfaction both in the moment as well as in your personal love life.
Don’t think we’re talking a single person here, either – it’s a great excuse to get your partner involved in your regular stretching regimen!
Reduces Tension Headaches
If tension headaches are a common occurrence for you, then stretching should be a top priority (2).
Contrary to popular belief, tension headaches aren’t always a result of stress – they can be triggered by a variety of factors, from alcohol to eye strain, to even poor posture. Frequent stretching helps reduce the effects of many of these factors and can help alleviate the severity of tension headaches when they do come on.
Does Stretching Make You More Flexible?
So, the answer is both Yes and No.
Yes, stretching does make you more flexible, but it will only show minimal improvements by itself. If your stretching regimen is lacking dynamic movement, weight lifting or resistance training may help improve your flexibility more (3).
It’s always important to have an exercise and stretching routine that includes dynamic movements, but it’s also incredibly important to balance your flexibility training with strength training.
At the end of the day, bodily movement and stability is what will make you more flexible. By balancing your flexibility training with strength training, you are taking those elongated muscle fibers and adding a healthy dose of stability and strength behind it, leaving you with elongated, strong muscles and a greater range of motion (4).
How Long Does It Take to Become Flexible?
This is a tricky question. It depends on what your benchmark for “flexible” is, how flexible you are when you are first starting out, how old you are, and your gender. Typically, when done properly, you can start seeing flexibility gains within 1-3 months of daily practice.
As far as your flexibility goals, it may be longer depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
To track your progress, take monthly – or weekly snapshots of your progress. Document or share your progress with others and celebrate your successes! You’ll see drastic success being able to compare your pictures side-by-side.
Tips on How to Improve Your Flexibility for Pole Dancing
Warm Up Before You Stretch
It’s important to keep your muscles warm before you stretch – and we don’t mean use stretching to warm up!
As a side note, you never want to use static stretches in any warmup routine as it can put your body at a higher risk of injury during both the warmup and the workout routine.
If you’re wondering what the difference between active and passive flexibility, check out our article here.
If you stretch “cold” muscles, your body will be at a higher risk for injuries. When your muscles are warm, they have more elasticity to them, so it’s easier to stretch those muscles without risking over-stretching them.
Now, you don’t have to workout to warm up. While it is an option, you can stretch after:
- A hot bath
- A run, a long walk, or a jog
- Hiking or other physical activity on a warm day
- Dancing around the room
In stretching sessions, you might get annoyed at the instructor for always having to remind you to breath – who doesn’t accidentally start holding their breath?
Regular, deep breathing techniques are not just important in stretching, but also in pole dancing, in eating, walking, and every other part of life.
Studies have concluded that slow breathing techniques – like the ones we learn in meditation classes or yoga sessions – benefit your body and mind in a variety of ways. It also helps your emotional control and overall feeling of well-being. (5)
Always breath in when you’re moving into a stretch and breathe out – slowly exhaling – as you perform the stretch or move out of it.
As you breathe out, you may notice that you can move deeper into your stretch.
Remember to Stretch Your Entire Body
Yes, the splits are a definite goal, but you don’t want to neglect any part of your body. Be sure to work on your stretching in a well-rounded routine, getting as many muscle groups from your head to your toes.
As pole dancers, it can be easy to focus on the main targets like splits stretches and back bends. Unfortunately, that also means it can be easy to forget about all the other core stretching groups, like the neck, the hips, or the forearms.
Likewise, our backs are the largest part of our bodies, but we tend to forget that there’s a lower, middle, and upper section. If your backbends aren’t improving, it might be because you’re neglecting other areas of your body or aren’t properly stretching every part of your back!
Get Comfortable Where You Are
If you’re uncomfortable when you’re stretching, you’re not going to stay in that position too long at best. At worst, you might not stick with your flexibility training at all.
Find a series of stretches that you are comfortable with doing in your home or at the gym every day. Keep in mind that passive and active flexibility, as we mentioned above, are two different types of stretching that your body uses differently, so try to incorporate a good balance between the two.
Strengthen the Muscles You Stretch
It’s incredibly important to balance your strengthening exercises with your stretching routine, especially if you typically use the floor to assist your stretches.
Building strength in the smaller muscles around your joints, tendons and ligaments will help support your body in your new range of motion. It will also help support your body when it comes time to use your flexibility on the pole, because you’ll need both to achieve your goals!
Don’t Over-stretch: Listen to Your Body!
We all think at one point or another that, if we just push ourselves a little further, we’ll get to our flexibility goals just a little bit sooner.
That’s how you get injured.
It’s important to always listen to your body and stop when it tells you to stop. Just like when you are working out, there’s a difference the discomfort of pushing your limits and the pain of injury – try to listen for that cue.
Any time you feel tempted to take a shortcut with stretching, just remember that an injury can result in months of lost progress in flexibility, strength, and pole dancing.
5 of The Best Stretches for Dancers
There will always be more stretches to add to your regimen, such as neck circles and hip circles, more hamstring stretches, calf stretches, and much more; however, for now, we want to give you 5 excellent stretches to start out with:
1. Pancake Stretch
The pancake stretch involves an incredible number of lower body muscles, and it’s incredibly important for many advanced pole moves.
In the video above, TomTricks shows how you can achieve a straight-backed pancake stretch one step at a time.
2. Thread the Needle
This stretch is an absolutely amazing hip-opening stretch. You will not believe how loose your hip flexors feel after this.
In this video, KTS Wholistic Fitness demonstrates how to do this stretch in less than three minutes, and it’s easy to follow along with his demonstration.
3. Camel Pose
This common yoga pose will help open your back and neck muscles and deepen your backbends.
In this video, Medibank demonstrates how to get into the camel pose in less than one minute, including fun tips about the stretch.
4. Plie Squats with Toe Raises
Plie squats not only look good on the pole, but they are also incredibly good for stretching and strengthening your legs, glutes, and lower back.
In this video, Cheerfit demonstrates how to do a Plie Squat with toe raises. For best results, you can do these squats barefoot or in socks.
Other variations to the Plie Squat includes flat-footed (the original) and alternating raising onto one toe at a time before you come back up into a standing position. You can also rock from side to side, or hold a deep Plie Squat for several seconds before coming back into a standing position.
5. Inverted Hamstring Stretch
This stretch is not only excellent to help release hamstring tightness, but also help you improve your balance and body awareness for all those gorgeous moves on the pole.
In the video above, SKLZ demonstrates how to do the inverted hamstring stretch in less than one minute.
1, American Council on Exercise: Top 10 Benefits of Stretching; retrieved from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/5107/top-10-benefits-of-stretching
2, Journal of Japanese Physical Therapy Association, Effectiveness of Physical Therapy in Patients with Tension-Type Headache: Literature Review; retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4316547/
3, Department of Physical Education, Exercise Science, and Wellness, University of North Dakota: Resistance Training VS. Static Stretching: Effects on Flexibility and Strength; retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21969080
4, Research Center for Sport, Health, and Human Development, University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro: Chronic Effects of Different Resistance Training Exercise Orders on Flexibility in Elite Judo Athletes; retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25031681
5, Zaccaro, Piarulli, Laurino, Garbella, Menicucci, Neri and Gemignani: How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing; retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137615/