We’ve all seen the t-rex arms.
Forget that, we’ve all had the t-rex arms.
T-rex arms – those curled, crooked arms that come about when we’re concentrating really hard on what pole move we’re working on.
We’re working so hard on that pole trick that we forget to think about the stiffness in our arms, or what the rest of our body is doing. Then, next thing you know, you’re coming out of your routine, you grab your phone to see how you did and oh is that really what I did with my hands?
But what are you supposed to do?
Hand and arm movement is rarely taught in pole dance studios, as the focus is more on tricks and conditioning – maybe you attend a flow class – but the focus is on tricks and conditioning. Rarely do you find a class that is about the movements between transitions and moves, or how to move your arms and hands during a move.
Simply because there is a lot to unpack when you start diving into those small movements.
If you’re learning at a studio, most instructors have one hour to teach a class before they have to move onto the next, so unless they’re teaching a class dedicated to flow and extensions, it winds up getting lost in the other details.
Luckily, in this series, we are going to start unpacking all of those details about pole flow. We’re starting today with what to do with your arms when you are dancing.
Common Problems with Stiff Arms and Hands
Do you have problems with stiff arms and hands? You might find that these experiences feel familiar…
- Concentrating too hard on a trick – to the detriment of your flow
- Feeling awkward about a movement
- Improper warmup for flow – smaller joints ignored, body parts not isolated, etc.
- Lack of ideas during a trick
It’s okay! It’s a part of the pole dance journey. Whether it’s an issue that’s just cropping up, or you’ve felt frustrated by stiff, clunky movement in your pole dance routines for a long time, the important thing to remember is that this is normal.
Most of all, there is a solution.
How to Move Your Arms and Hands During a Routine
There are several ways you can move your arms and hands during a routine. So long as you have at least one arm free, you can move it!
Of course, depending on the style of pole dancing that you are working with, some forms of movement might be more suited to it, but when it comes down to it: do what makes you feel good and empowered!
This applies in-between transitions as well, so if you’re in the middle of your pole climb and you feel clunky and mechanical – spice it up with some extended hip movement, arch that back, and wave that free arm out as you reach for the next climb!
If you find that you speed through a trick, taking a moment to extend those lines and play with your hand and arm movement will also help slow down each transition and give you breathing room during a routine.
Here are some ideas to practice during your next flow sessions, whether it is on the pole, lowflow, or on the floor:
- Touch Yourself
There are so many ways you can explore your own body during a movement or transition.
This usually comes in two main forms: small, subtle movements that add to the visual aesthetic of a piece without distracting from it, or extended, drawn our movements that add emotion to the piece and are entirely a part of the show.
What you choose is dependent on your own personal style and the move you’re working with.
You can move your hands anywhere, touching everything from your legs, hips, and chest, to moving from one body part to the other, or even rolling the hands around the body and head.
Typically seen in floorwork and more exotic movements – like a back arch on the floor or a plie squat – you can even reach between the legs, fingers spread wide, and close the fingers one at a time to make a show of it.
Alternatively, in other styles, you might find that hand extensions around the head, neck and face area are more common, bringing the hand around, usually accompanied by a hair flick or head roll.
- Arm Waves
Arm waves can be done simultaneously or one at a time. Think about doing the wave arm motions.
It’s the same principle: isolate each part of your arm. The fingers, then the palm, then the wrist, then the elbow, then the shoulder.
This can be done either to the side, in front of you, to the back, or above you. It’s not something that typically looks great when done towards the floor, but it could definitely be done.
Also consider moving your arm while you do a wave; you can move through different “planes” if we wanted to.
For example, when you’re doing a pole climb and you’ve sat your hips back, the next step is to reach up to the pole.
You don’t want to just hinge up and grab the pole, though. You want to extend those graceful pole dance lines by waving your arm gently and slowly, all the while moving your arm from below you to behind you. From behind, you can wave your arm above and grab the pole.
- Wrist Circles, Finger Waves, and Poses
Wrist circles are the perfect way to move you hands and keep them relaxed with minimal movement. Generally, only one or two are needed while you’re in the middle of a transition, but they can easily turn into mini arm-waves.
Don’t forget about your fingers! Play with posing them in various shapes. Take inspiration from other dance styles like ballet or belly dance, where the arms are out often, but not stiff.
You might find this tiring at first – because not many people work with their fingers spread or held long enough to develop some of the smaller muscles necessary for these particular movements – but just like any other type of body conditioning, it will come with time!
Before you go T-rex arms again, there’s one last thing for you to remember:
You might not perfect these movements on the first, second, or third try and that’s okay. Perfect flow comes with practice, especially if you’re moving your body in ways that you’re not used to.
The biggest part about hand and arm movement is really focusing on isolation, extending small parts of your body you might not have thought to (we’re looking at those fingers!) and most of all, finding what makes you feel empowered.
How to Loosen Up for Better Flow
First and foremost, if you want to loosen up for better flow in your pole dancing routines, it’s important to stay relaxed – but aware!
If you start feeling stiff, here are a few things you can do to loosen up:
- If you start feeling stiff, shake it all out! Shake out your arms and legs, do a couple of hair flicks, and reset.
- Do shoulder rolls, wrist circles, and finger stretches to loosen up your muscles
- Use a foam roller on your back to relieve any tight muscles
- Always make sure to properly warm up before a flow session
In the end…It’s all about finding what you like, what works for you, and your personal style. Don’t be afraid to break the mold and do something out of the ordinary!
Would you be interested in a follow-along flow warmup series? Let us know in the comments below!