If you have done any exploration into the different types of holds and hand positions that you can use in pole dancing, then you may have come across the Push – Pull Method.

If you’ve been taught in a studio, you might have heard your instructor talking about it, or you may have read about it in one of our pages. This technique can be done both upright and inverted, which makes it incredibly versatile, especially when we need to keep our bodies away from the pole.

In today’s article, we’re going to dive a little deeper into what this method is, how to use it, and why it’s important.

What is the Push Pull Method?

The Push Pull method is technique that some pole dance holds require to keep your bodyweight safely held up without collapsing into the pole. This strongly relies on the small muscles within the shoulder joint, as well as the larger muscles in the upper back.

You will notice this method is important for a variety of grips. These are mostly grips that require both hands on the pole but have some distance between the two. Examples of this are Anchor Grip, Full Bracket Grip, and Half-Bracket Grip.

Now, you could argue that there is a certain Push – Pull quality to all sorts of pole dancing moves, and while you would be right, we want to focus the attention on its use in hand positioning, as it’s the first time we encounter the technique as beginner pole dancers.

In moves that utilize the Push Pull method, we find that it’s more important to focus on the top arm that is pulling, rather than splitting the difference equally across both.

The top arm is considered the “Primary” arm, and the bottom arm is considered a “Support” arm.  This is because the top arm is holding most of the body weight, must maintain a grip on the pole, and must keep stable during any other movement, whether you are transitioning into a trick, or if you’re working on spin pole.

Likewise, focusing more on the bottom arm’s pushing movement, rather than using it as a support, can cause injuries through the arm and down to the shoulder.

The bottom arm is there to push our bodies outwards more and provide a support to the top arm so we can defer some of the work away from our top arm and shoulder. It’s not meant to hold our body weight upright. Eventually, the fight with gravity will end up causing cramping in the wrist at the very least.  

Likewise, if you don’t Pull with the top arm enough, chances are, you are hanging “loosely” from the shoulder socket, which causes distress to the shoulder joint, and could potentially result in an injury.

The key takeaway is this:

In short, your top arm should be doing most of the work, always.

It’s important to keep the shoulders strong and engaged in both arms. Perfecting your technique with the Push Pull method will keep you injury free longer, and help you hold your tricks longer without straining.

When to Use the Push Pull Method

You should use the Push – Pull method whenever your grip is split between two places on the pole. If your hands are meant to be right next to each other above your head, it might make sense that you’re only engaging the shoulders and pulling down on the pole.

If you are using a grip that requires one hand up high, however, and one hand down low, then you will notice that the bottom arm is relatively useless without applying any special muscle engagement.

To spare our top arm’s shoulders, we should always keep that bottom arm as a support to help push our bodies away from the pole and take on any excess strain.

You’ll see the Push Pull method in action for the Anchor grip when you are climbing the pole, or in full bracket grip in upright tricks. You will also see it in many inverted moves, such as handsprings, or extended butterflies – in the instance of inverted moves, your hands would not change. The “top arm” will always be the one closest to the ceiling.

Always pull with the top arm, push with the bottom arm.

If this doesn’t make sense, it will when you are inverted – you don’t want to pull yourself down into the pole when you are in an inverted move.

For example, in Extended Butterfly, you would just bonk your head right on the pole, or worse, come tumbling down.

Practicing the Push Pull Method

If you want to practice the Push Pull method to build up strength, there’s no one magic exercise. We recommend doing lightweight forearm and shoulder exercises to help build the small muscles that surround tendons and ligaments. Stronger muscles around joints will help injury-proof your body in general.

You can practice this move on the ground for more specific conditioning. There are two rules of thumb when it comes to practicing a single movement.

Number one: practice other conditioning in addition to this to avoid overuse.

Number two: keep it simple and controlled.

  • Get ready for your Push and Pull motion standing on the floor, while raised on the toes.
  • Engage the shoulder and back muscles by holding them tight and pulling the shoulderblades together and down, away from the ear.
    • You should feel this muscle engagement down into the lats (side of body, wraps around to mid back), across the pectorals (upper chest), through the shoulders themselves (shoulder joint and shoulder blades), as well as the triceps (back and inner side of the upper arm.)
  • Lift your feet gently, then replace them in a controlled fashion. Note that it is okay to bend the elbow when you pull if necessary.
  • Repeat, readjusting as necessary for proper engagement.

What to Do if You Feel Forearm Pain, Wrist Pain, or Shoulder Pain

If you begin to feel forearm pain during moves that utilize split grip, then see a physio or similar medical professional immediately.

You might be using a muscle group that is underdeveloped, and it is important to get your needs diagnosed for proper rehabilitation or strength training.

Remember that pain can be anything from a dull throb or ache, discomfort deep in the muscle, or piercing.

Pain should never be ignored, no matter what you are doing in pole dancing. Pain is your body reacting to something that it is either not ready to do, or not meant to do. You should always listen to these signals, as your body knows its capabilities, all we need to do is listen to what we’re feeling.