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Male pole dancing doesn’t involve sexy gyrations, says Jonathan Fong, pole dancing instructor from Bobbi’s Pole Studio (www. bobbispolestudio.com.sg). Rather, the movements involved focus on strength, control and even endurance. “It’s more akin to a gymnastics routine on a vertical pole,” he says. “We focus more on the acrobatic and artistic elements of the activity.”
Pole dancing is literally a test of the level of control you have on every part of your body. Without significant core and upper body strength, you’ll find yourself flopping about. “Imagine an aerial circus performance in Cirque du Soleil,” says Fong. “That’s how tough it can get.” Even if you bench press 100kg for warm-ups and have a defined six-pack, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got a strong core.
Most men never bother to develop core strength. “Men tend to focus more on the muscles they can see, so they work on their six-packs. But the obliques, lower back and hips are all part of the core,” says Mike Huff, a strength and conditioning coach, and coordinator of sports performance at the Michael W. Krzyzewski Human Performance Lab at Duke Medical Center in the US.
Focusing on core muscles first will help you gain the strength and stability to more easily perform the real musclebuilding moves such as the squat and deadlift. Proper training enables all the core muscles to work in sync, says Huff. Even if you’ll never venture near a pole, we’ll show you how to build up some serious core power.
BUILD YOUR BASE
Bodyweight exercises form the base of a core-conditioning workout for pole dancers, says Fong. Perform this routine as a circuit by moving from one exerciseto the next, with as little rest as possible. Rest 2 minutes between circuits and aim for 3 sets.
While in a prone position, face towards the ground, prop your body upright with your forearms and toes. Keep your torso tensed and
erect, and don’t let your body sag. Hold this position for 45 to 60 seconds.
Now prop your body up with your right forearm only, and twist your body counterclockwise until you completely face to the left. Only the outside edge of your right foot should make contact with the ground. Once again, don’t let your body sag. Hold this position for 30 seconds and switch sides.
Lie on your back with your legs straight. While keeping your legs together, slowly raise them up to a 30-degree angle, then move your left and right leg up and down in an alternating fashion (much like a freestyle kick), but keep the movement controlled. Keep your arms on the ground, with your hands near your hips. One up-and-down movement is 1 rep. Aim for 60 to 100 reps.
While still on your back, bend your knees so that your feet rest flat on the ground. Put your hands behind your ears and squeeze your
abs as your raise your torso. There’s no need to go too high or do this too quickly. Just focus on the pump and on executing a slow, controlled movement. Go for 20 solid reps.
A strong core also demands a powerful upper body, says Fong. Pull-ups are one of the central techniques used for pole dancing and, no surprise again, the guys focus on control instead of churning out endless repetitions. You’d be amazed at the level of effort required to keep your body still, even with normal pull-ups. Do these exercises in a circuit as well. Have a quick 5- to 10-second shake-out between each exercise before you proceed, and rest 2 to 3 minutes between each circuit. Aim for 3 circuits.
From a regular pull-up position, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Now, hold that position – focus on keeping your torso still – for 10 seconds. “Tense your abs and imagine sucking your belly button in,” says Fong. Subsequently, slowly lower yourself to the starting position. For an additional kick, do a 90-degree leg raise at the top portion of the pull-up. Aim for 5 repetitions.
Get a wider grip on the bar – about a hand’s width wider than your shoulders – and pull yourself up. Now, move your body towards your right by placing more weight on your right arm, until it is fully locked. Your chin should be close to and above your right hand. Hold this position for 2 seconds. Then in a controlled fashion, move your body back across to your left, until your left arm is at full lock. That’s 1 repetition. Try to aim for 2. Keep your chin above the bar at all times during the exercise.
Loop a thick bath towel across the pull-up bar. Grab the towel and do a pull-up. This exercise builds your grip strength, says Fong. What’s more, with a different grip position, your body needs to work harder to stay in control. Resist the temptation to swing about, which will be difficult since the towel is free hanging. Try to get 5 repetitions. But if it’s too difficult to pull up, simply hold on to the towel and hang for 20 seconds. An easier variation is to grab both ends of the towel with one hand, and to hold the bar with the other
before executing a pull-up.