Although pole dancing and aerial classes have the potential to be an excellent total body workout, the specific muscles that are being worked, and how hard, really depends on what kind of moves you're doing .
When spinning and climbing, the muscles of the upper body are obviously being used to hold your own body weight. Specifically, the lats (large muscles in your back), shoulders, biceps and forearm muscles are called into play with these types of moves.
The core muscles also play a very important role in pole and aerial, particularly in inverted moves where the exit or transition from the move involves reversing the inversion in what is essentially a crunch using the forces of gravity as resistance. Beginner level students aren't yet ready for the more advanced moves, but can still get an excellent workout! Many beginner level spins require considerable upper body and core strength, especially for someone who is new to these forms of dance/exercise. Even simple moves that don't require both feet to leave the ground can work the core and lower body muscles. This is because these styles are typically done in a relatively slow and controlled manner, which tends to help the dancer focus on muscle control and engagement.
There are also numerous exercises you can do on a dance pole or aerial silk/hammock to build strength in preparation for higher level moves. In other words, you can also use the apparatus as a workout tool to prepare you for more advanced moves. Remember, pole dance and aerial are both fun forms of fitness BUT it is still a workout. Make sure to warm up sufficiently before training and cool down afterwards. As with any workout routine, you will build strength over time and it's best to take a gradual approach to avoid injury.
Overuse and Repetitive Use Injuries - Overuse injuries are fairly common in pole dancers and aerialists, particularly in the shoulder and back areas. It's important to pace yourself during a class or training session and to stop when you feel too tired or too sore. The old "no pain, no gain" philosophy can actually set you up for an injury. You can get fit without feeling pain, so don't push yourself to the point of pain. Repetitive Use injuries are also fairly common in pole dancers and aerialists.
It's also important to mix up your workout throughout the week in order to work different muscle groups and/or work them in a different way. As an example, the ideal workout mix should include a 1 or 2 classes in your preferred genre (Pole Dance or Aerial) plus 1 or 2 workout classes in another genre/style - eg. Pole Dance + Aerial Yoga + Body Blast or Stretch/Flex. The benefits of mixing up your weekly workout routine like this are multiple, including -
- You'll be working the muscle groups in a very different way. This will "confuse" them so they never get used to doing the same thing all the time,
- You'll beat the boredom factor, as each class is completely different to another
- You'll reduce your risk of overuse and repetitive use injuries,
- You'll learn skills and gain benefits from another genre which will compliment and enhance your preferred genre - eg a pole student will gain increased flexibility from doing an Aerial Yoga or Stretch/Flex class,
To clarify - footballers do not ONLY play football to maintain their fitness - they spend hours in the gym doing circuit training and weights, they swim, they run - they mix up their workout. The same is true of almost all exercise/sporting activities - dancers, gymnasts, tennis players, motor racing drivers to name just a few....they ALL mix up their workouts - and for very good reason. To avoid injury! Injury can happen to the best of us, no matter how experienced or how fit you are, but you CAN significantly reduce this risk by following these workout precautions -
- Warm Up sufficiently before every workout
- Cool Down and Stretch after every workout
- Mix up your workout routine regularly, and
- Rest if you are injured
Keep an eye out for my next article - FUELLING YOUR BODY FOR TRAINING
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