I see it all the time – you spend hours every week stretching off the pole, and then you get to class and can’t see any real improvement in your tricks.
Annoying, isn’t it?
If your stretch routine isn’t getting you where you want to be, it can be really frustrating. But don’t give up yet – it could just be that you need to rethink one or two elements of your training and make a few changes to get you the results you’re looking for.
1. You’re focusing on stretches you don’t need
Always think about why you’re including a stretch in your routine. Where are you trying to improve your flexibility? Why? Lots of floor stretches will help you on your way to tricks in the air, but if you’re not practicing the right movements, it could be why you’re not seeing your pole fitness get any better.
If you spend a lot of time to holding splits stretches on the floor, you’ll get good at holding splits on the floor, but might still struggle to hold a jade split on the pole. If you want to improve a pole move, you need to spend time copying the needs of that specific trick – for example, holding a split in a shoulder stand position.
2. You’re bouncing in stretches or otherwise forcing the muscles
Stretching to the point of mild discomfort is fine, but if you start forcing your body too far into a stretch, you can easily get injured. Joints, muscles and tendons could all become damaged, and it’s not worth risking.
Take flexibility training slowly, and always listen to your body. If you’re stretching and you notice a muscle start to shake, ease back to the point of mild discomfort (without the shake!). If you feel pain, you should stop what you’re doing. If you’re not sure, hire a coach to help you, until you feel more aware and sure about how far you should be pushing yourself.
3. You’re stretching cold muscles
Imagine some cheese – if you take a block straight out of the ‘fridge and try and pull it apart, it will crumble into pieces. Heat it up, and it goes elastic and springy (think about pulling a slice of pizza away from the main thing. Mmm. Cheese strings!)
Your muscles are a lot like that cheese – at least when it comes to temperature. Cold muscles don’t stretch well. You could easily cause some damage if you’re not careful. Warm muscles though, they flex pretty well. Always make sure you warm up properly before you do any stretching to make sure you get the best results.
4. You’re trying to stretch too early in the day
Don’t like mornings? Nor do your muscles – at least when it comes to flexing.
If you’re planning flexibility training into your day, it’s worth knowing that your body is less flexible first thing in the morning. Studies suggest late morning and late afternoon tend to be our most flexible times of day, but if you’re not sure then experiment for a week – making sure you listen to your body! – and see what works best for you.
5. You’re stretching before your pole class
Think here about static stretching: when you’re moving slowly into a stretched position and holding the stretch for a period of time. Research shows that in most cases, static stretching before a workout will actually switch the muscle off for a short time, meaning it will be less powerful and strong. This could be why you are struggling with more advanced moves.
Instead of stretching before your class, concentrate on warming up and mobilizing your body. Leave static stretches until right at the end of your workout for best results.
6. You’re not getting enough rest
For general fitness, guidelines suggest stretching just 2-3 days a week, with daily stretching for greater flexibility gains. However, I’m guessing you’re not only working on stretching in a week, and those muscles can quickly get burned out.
If your body gets tired or you overwork the muscles, you will start to notice your progress stops, and it may even be that your muscles get tighter and you lose flexibility. You can overcome this by working on different muscle groups each day (upper body, lower body) or by taking enough rest days for recovery.
Being flexible has its benefits but it also has its risks, and if you do sports other than pole fitness then it gives you even more to consider before you start any serious flexibility training.
If you’re new to stretching, it can be really beneficial to get guidance on what to do and how far to push. I run private flexibility sessions for pole, aerial and for general fitness in the studio in Bidford on Avon. Get in touch if you’d like some more information.