You know the ones? That sneaky little (big) toe searching for a little bit of pole to grab, to hopefully then haul your ass up the pole. We are all guilty of it at some point, right?

I see this a lot. In basic inverts, in Vs, in aerial Vs, in shoulder mounts the list goes on.

If you are having trouble achieving certain inverting moves, you may think that sneaky toe is your friend or the only way you can make it over. It is that same sneaky toe grab that may be creating your problems. But why is it a problem? Answers…

1) Shapes -

  • Body shapes and lines to be exact. I'm not talking weight or body size here, but actual geometry. The shapes you create with your body.
  • When you are focusing on grabbing the pole with your toes your body comes into more of a pike shape than a tuck (or plank depending on what move you're doing).
  • A pike position is performed with the legs straight and the body bent at the waist. This makes your body shape look like a triangle.
  • This means that in order to grab your toes to the pole, your bottom starts to point to the ground and you become very BOTTOM HEAVY! The complete opposite of what you need your bottom to be doing when you're trying to get upside down!

Jess Z - triangle copy

Imagine the top tip of this triangle is your toes reaching onto the pole. The bottom tip of the triangle is your bottom hanging towards the ground!

Ideally, in the types of inversion moves we are discussing the hips should be lifted and moving towards the pole at all times. Looking back at the triangle, you can imagine the hips are as far away from the pole as they can possibly get.

2) Risk of injury Unless you are very strong or incredibly flexible, in order to achieve this pike position with the toes on the pole, your arms will need to straighten and your upper body is forced to drop. This is sub optimal for inverting and places dangerous force into to the upper back, shoulders and ribs.

Aiming to kick the toes towards the pole, leaves you with a very high risk of clashing the toes to it! No one wants a broken toe. Ouch! For a basic inversion you should be aiming to reach the back of the ankle, of the outside leg, onto the back pole. If you're familiar with anatomy, it would be around the Achilles tendon. So above the heel bone, below the calf.

3) Gravity - What goes up must come down! If you are aiming to get your toes to grab the pole you are only aiming to get TO the pole not PAST the pole.

If you are aiming to get to the pole, you HAVE to make it there because if you miss there is no room for error and you will come crashing down. This is dangerous to the body for many reasons!

Again in a basic invert you need to be aiming to get the back of the ankle onto the back of the pole. So you aim to go PAST the pole to achieve this & if you were to start to swing back down there is a far better chance that you can hook a part of the leg, ankle or foot onto the pole and catch. Lets have a look at these concepts side by side.

Jess Z - Inverting copy Picture 1: In the first picture notice how my bottom is pointing towards the ground, my hips are away from the pole and my arms are straight. The only way I can lift my hips up to the pole is to use my feet to pull my hips towards the pole.

My arms are just hanging there at the mercy of my grip strength as they are at full extension and there is a lot of pull & strain in my upper back. Also there are only my tippy toes stopping me from dropping back down if they slip, that’s it.

Picture 2: Is an action shot of me inverting off the floor. Notice how by aiming to get my leg past the pole my hips are naturally lifted towards the pole, my arms maintain a bent position which means I have control of my lift and engagement of my muscles.

If I were to swing back down at this point I have all of my foot past the pole and strength in my upper body to be able to pull down on the pole and control my ankle grab.

THE MORAL TO THE STORY??? It’s time to ditch the focus on just grabbing a toe on.

“If I could just grab a sneaky little toe on, I’m there”… Wrong! The toe is lying to you and is doing your technique, confidence & body more harm than good. This is just one part of the science behind inverting and there are a lot of factors of correct technique and body placement not discussed in this article. If you are having trouble with your inverts please speak to your instructor, attend one of our workshops or book a private lesson.

Until next time.

Safe & Happy Poling.... Jess Z xx

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