Cross Training for Aerial – Part 6: Barre

flat lay barreWhen someone asks to “meet you at the barre” you might want to check their spelling! Don’t get the barre confused for a place of cocktails and canapes, this barre is a place of strong toned women who are training like ballerinas!

I have blogged about joining ballet classes before, as a way to compliment pole dancing, foster elegant lines, correct body alignment and engagement. The barre originated in a ballet studio, but has now made friends with Pilates to create a burn in you core and legs that you have never felt before!

Joining a barre class on a Sunday morning I foolishly thought it would be a great way to double up in the studio. A long warm up in barre to prep for an advanced pole technique class. About 15 minutes in, however, I realised that my stamina for this kind of exercise is truly lacking. My legs did not want to participate in the following pole class.

My complaining aside though, if you’re up for the challenge a barre class is a great way to cross train and perhaps add some balance to our upper body strong pole dancer bodies.

Here’s what’s being served at the barre:

Warm up in the middle of the room, getting in touch with your breath and tuning in to the body. A little bit of yoga with some general loosening up of shoulder, hips, back, and neck.

Wine Course
The barre is set at the perfect height for balance. While you squat, plie, and do leg lifts, try not to grip the barre with white knuckles, we are aiming to be graceful ballerinas after all.

High Balls
Be careful with those mixed drinks. They taste sweet and fruity, but really hide a devilish cocktail of hard liquor. With a ball held behind my knee I aim to look poised and in control as I lift the ball up and away and out to the side. It’s not the squeezing of the ball that hits me, but the effort required to stablise through my standing leg, especially after all those squats and plie’s. How many shots in this drink again?

A little bitter-sweet, we are then offered resistance bands. The relief of now working our arms and back, quickly turns sour. The movement intensified by the requirement to stay in a squat, everyone begins to pant and moan as we work though three songs of shoulder blade squeezes, bicep curls, and arm raises. Surely it’s time to call last drinks?!

Now we are all legless and can no longer stand up at the barre, we best lie down – for crunches, dips, push ups, and planks that is! I sweat my way through the final countdown, and then struggle to my feet and make my way to the door. The DOMS hangover for this class is going to be long.


This review has been written with all respect for barre instructors and enthusiasts. Let’s leave the drinking to the real bar and rise to the challenge!

Cross Training for Aerial – Part 5: Foam Rolling

I first started foam rolling after subscribing to StudioVeena who recommended it for use before stretching.

In her tutorials she would outline how to roll the large muscles in the legs before flexibility training, as a way to increase blood flow to the muscles and loosen up knots and tight areas before working on regular stretching sequences.

Physios and massage therapists sell a variety of foam rollers and spiky balls of all shapes, sizes, and firmness depending on how they will be used. As well as being a great asset to your flexibility training, foam rolling can work wonders on DOMS, and be generally soothing for an active body. Chunky rollers are great for larger muscles. Spiky balls are perfect for getting into smaller muscle groups in the back and shoulders, or for massaging the forearms after training.

When choosing your foam roller, keep in mind your tolerance during a regular massage. The softer the roller the softer the pressure, and the firmer or spikier the roller, the more it will dig in to those tight spots. A deep tissue experience can be effective but you don’t want to be in so much pain that you can’t commit to rolling up and down your leg!

My preference has been a hard, smooth roller that I picked up at the local Clark Rubber supplier! It’s the perfect density to use everyday, before stretching or after training, large enough to roll my hamstrings, quads, and glutes, but also small enough to throw in the car if I need to bring it along to a comp or showcase.

Foam rolling is a “self-myofascial release technique” that works by massaging the fascia and muscle fibers. Research suggests,

“Self-myofascial release causes an increase in short-term flexibility that lasts for >10 minutes but does not affect athletic performance acutely. Self-myofascial release may also be able to increase flexibility long-term, in programs of >2 weeks.”

Sounds pretty good right?

Here are some photos of how I use my roller at home. You probably need a space similar to what you use for yoga to make sure you can lay down and roll in various directions. It’s a great practice to turn into a habit though, and once you know what you are doing, it’s easy to incorporate into your day, even while watching television!

I like to start on my legs and glutes, remembering to roll up and down the entire muscle and at various angles.

Foam Rolling glutes


While sitting on the foam roller, I angle my body to either side, rolling in the direction of the muscle fibers. By placing my foot on the floor or lifting it up, I can change how much of my body weight I am putting in to the motion. Listen to your own body as you roll, slow down on the “sweet spots” – those trigger points that seem to be more painful than others – or even pause for up to 30-60 seconds and you will find the tension begins to release.

Foam Roller HamstringsFoam Roller Calves

My roller is long enough for me to do my hamstrings, calves and quads side by side. Though once again, I can change the amount of pressure I’m applying by rolling them one at a time or leaning intoΒ  it at a different angle.

Foam Roller Quads

Fellow polers also roll their ITB. I find this incredibly painful but sometimes have the nerve to work up to it, rolling over from during my quads to catch it as I roll down my outer thigh.

Foam Roller Adductors

Rolling your adductors, or inner thigh, can be a bit tricky, however those with good hip flexibility may find this easier. Try and cover as much of the muscle as possible and don’t forget to slow down or pause over any trigger points.

Foam Rolling Stretch Foam Rolling Forearms

Recently I have been rolling my forearms and upper back and then using the roller to perform and overstretch for my shoulders. After rolling up and down my forearms, with the large foam roller and a tennis ball, I sink back into a child’s pose with my arms resting on the roller. Breathing into the stretch, I try to sink my chest down to the floor, feeling the stretch along my upper arms, down my lats under my shoulder, and across my shoulder blades. Coming out of the stretch I try to curl my spine in the opposite direction, remembering to breath as I come out slowly.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water post foam rolling session. Any type of massage increases blood flow around the area and staying hydrated will help the lymphatic system and circulatory system do it’s job, reducing the chance that you’ll feel groggy and need a nap after your session.

If you have a foam roller at home I’d love to see your favourite techniques and stretches! Post them here or tag me in your photos online!

Cross Training For Aerial – Part 4: Stall Bars

For both strength and flexibility training, sometimes your best choice is to try a new apparatus!

You might have stall bars in your studio, local gym, or maybe in an outdoor playground, and they can be a great asset to your pole training – just ask Oona.

I have been using the stall bars during my warm up and for added conditioning, supporting my strength and flexibility training as well as alignment. My work on the bars has also supported building strength and coordination on my goofy side, the horizontal format allowing me to focus on technique before taking those skills to the pole.

Here are just three ways I’ve been building my stall bar workout:



I have many posts about how yoga has helped with my back bends, but the stall bars open up new opportunities for opening my chest and shoulders.
Drop backs can be scary and without a spotter or the right technique you risk crunching through your lower back or hurting your wrists as you land. The stall bars can support you as you walk your way down to the floor, or back up. It’s often gentler on the wrists to hold on to the rails and you can move slowly, allowing you to focus on alignment and technique.


**Speaking of Technique**

The theory behind pole moves talks a lot about push vs pull, stacking joints, muscle engagement, and breath. When you’re upside-down, however, it’s hard to remember which leg is your left and right let alone think about all those things!
Lots of work on the stall bars can happen with your feet on floor, or at least just off it, inviting you to work on engaging muscle groups and consider alignment before you go upside-down. This kind of training will build muscle memory and strength to reduce the risk of injury or poor technique in more advanced moves.



Let’s face it, crunches are boring! If you’re a pole dancer, you probably find lots of other exercise boring, which is one of the reasons you started dancing in the first place! But, what if there was a way to make strength training fun again?
Hanging leg lifts are a great ab workout and will incorporate many more muscle groups than sit ups on the floor. Try them with bent knees, straight legs, to the side, air walking. Your straight leg straddles will thank you!


For more advanced stall bar tricks, please check out the experts – Oona and Nadia make their workout look just like kids on a jungle gym! What could be more fun than that?

New Year, New Pole Goals

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream.”

10547553_10154477041425425_4923286836691610026_nAs I opened Write Monkey to begin this post about pole goals, this was the quote presented to me.

I’m definitely a dreamer when it comes to pole goals. There is research to suggest that visualization and dreaming are useful tools when setting and working towards goals. You probably do it too when you waiting for a bus or sitting in traffic, a song comes on and you drift away to the performance space in your head where you are flying around the pole nailing your nemesis trick.

There is always a lots of talk about pole goals at the beginning of the year. Bad Kitty have two articles offering advice to keep you on track and motivated when times get tough, and even United Pole Artists share their take on charting your progress.

It’s fun to joke around and set far out goals. Phoenix? Sure! Bird of Paradise? I wish! Rainbow Marchenko? I must be dreaming!

But I think sometimes pole dancers forget that the professionals we swoon over who can accomplish these tricks, are PROFESSIONALS. A home poler, or someone who dances in the studio two or three times a week, unless they have super human flexibility, are unlikely to be able to rainbow marchenko any time soon.

It is also cause for concern when dancers set goals that are too high and set themselves up for injury by skipping over the foundations that would help them get in to the move safely.

I’m not saying don’t dream big, but perhaps use your pole goals as baby steps to reach those dreams.

For example,

Dream move: Phoenix

Baby steps: Regular static pole practice
Ayesha / Static V
Iron X Controlled descents
Handsprings with variety of grips (cup, split, twisted)
Cartwheel mounts
One arm spins

Off the pole conditioning: Handstands, shoulder strengthening,
core work, breath work.


You could even put these smaller goals on a timeline and chart your progress. Rather than just attempting a phoenix every pole practice, failing and getting demotivated and then not trying it again for months, the smaller successes will help you stay on track and ensure you are always moving forward towards the end goal. By recording the baby steps and including them in your regular pole practice, you will likely have more strength, control, and understanding of the trick to nail it when the time comes.

The initial quote suggested you need action as well as dream to accomplish your goals. Create an action plan and your dreams will soon be your reality!

What to do when you don’t have a pole

This Christmas break my partner and I are cat sitting at a friend’s place down the road. It’s a lovely house with air conditioning which made the move an easy decision for this time of year. But I don’t have my pole πŸ™

What’s a dancer to do?!


I’ve been watching YouTube clips of Merce Cunningham and revisiting some of the ballet technique I learned in my class. The back room of the house has amazing wooden floors so I indulged, rolled back the rug, put on my thigh high socks and flirty dress and spun around to Chino Merino’s new album. Bliss!


The nature of floorwork is changing in poledance, gaining influences from contemporary dance and hiphop. Working on carpet at home, it’s hard to come up with new things. The floor boards gave me real freedom to slip and slide and just flow, throwing a little bit of Marlo Fisken in their too!

It has been wonderful to have time to revisit my yoga practice too. I took my mat out onto the grass and down dogged with the ants and creepy crawlies.

The softer grass offered a safer lander for me to work on some freestanding headstands. At home I practice against the pole or the wall, but here wall space is limited. Learning to roll out safely and find balance away from the wall is challenging, but with so much time off on holidays, I was able to dedicate a whole afternoon to refining my practice.

The outcome? I haven’t missed my pole as much as I thought I would. We still have a week or so left here so I still might get withdrawals, but it’s been an enjoyable and productive break. If I had just been at home I probably would have focused on tricks and new transitions, but it’s been great to work on dance, floorwork, and balance. Hopefully I can bring some of this flow and headstanding, back to the pole when I return home.

How do you find ways to still train when away from pole?

Cross Training for Aerial – Part 2: Handstands

I have included handstands as part of my cross training series, as I genuinely believe it is an exercise that compliments your pole dancing and conditions many parts of your body to make you a stronger and safer dancer.

I never did handstands as a kid, maybe a few cartwheels here and there, but being upside-down was not something that came naturally.

Through yoga I strengthened by headstand practice, but handstands were only something that we seemed to focus on during workshops, where there is more time to talk about technique, offer spotting, and allow people to work through the fears associated with inversions.

When learning handstands I was constantly demoralized. My teacher at the time wanted me to “bunny hop” up which I found very static and underwhelming.

If you are unfamiliar with this, check out this video. He calls it the “down dog hop” but it’s a clear explanation and visual of what it’s meant to look like.

The bunny hop technique asks you to put your hands on the ground in front of you, shoulder width apart, fingers spread and facing forwards. You then walk your feet up to your hands like a shortened downward dog, bend your knees and spring your legs up to position the hips over the shoulders. This technique takes core strength to hold your legs in a tuck once off the ground, strength in the arms to keep them straight the entire time, and a lot of power through the legs to move your hips into position. This technique might work for some people, but it did not work for my body proportions and strength at the time.

Then one day in 2011, I joined an Acro class at the pole studio. The teacher showed me a more gymnastic inspired way to get into a handstand – the kick up. I see kids in playgrounds handstanding like this all the time! By kicking off one leg, my other leg was free to stretch in the direction of kick, naturally using my body weight to help shift my hips over my shoulders. In one class I was already kicking up further away from the wall and using my legs in a front split position to toy with the balance point.

After 4 years, I still cannot bunny hop! But, I can practice my handstands with the kick up method, and it’s allowed me to begin to feel more comfortable in the position so that I train it more often and find other ways to get in and out of the pose.

After warming up for pole dancing at home, I usually try out three to five handstands against the wall. Kicking up and then seeing if I can take my toes off the wall to find balance. If I’m feeling brave I also try against the pole – a smaller target to kick up against that is easier to hit if you get your butt to the pole before your toes.

The other night I came up with a new way to train my handstands – in the hallway!

There wasn’t any space to kick up, so, facing one wall, I placed my hands on the ground in the centre of the hallway and walked my feet up the wall behind me. At the top, I opened my legs to have one foot on the wall behind me and the other in front.

handstand open legs


My arms and shoulders were feeling the burn as I stabilised through this whole sequence, pushing the floor away and clawing with my fingers.




handstand legs together

My goal was change feet, scissoring my legs from wall to wall. I managed about three before I was exhausted and walked my feet back down the same way I got up.
Looking at the video (it’s always a good idea to tape yourself to see your form) I was pleasantly surprised how solid my body was throughout the leg change. I was holding a vertical alignment, with a little bit of an arch in my back which could improve, but the scissor action did not put me off balance.


Considering how this applies to pole dancing, think about an Ayesha or Static V and it’s leg variations. You need a solid torso to stay stable in the pose while your legs might go up into a Pencil/Straight Edge, out into a split, or behind you into a back bend.

If you have a solid handstand against the wall, have a go at this variation and see how it benefits your pole inversions too!