Finding Joy In Conditioning

This post is about learning to love the challenge of conditioning before getting to the new tricks! Here is the link to the original posts, including videos of moves:

When I started pole dancing almost 5 years ago, I hated conditioning. Every time an instructor spent more than 20 minutes on conditioning generally, I’d grumble, annoyed.

Imagine my dismay when I picked up aerials with visions of flying like a pretty angel, only to learn that traditional circus training is mostlyconditioning. Agh! In my first lyra class at a circus school in Brooklyn, we spent 75 minutes of a 90 minute class working on just straddle lifts, various types of pullups and core strength. It was only during the last 15 minutes that we finally got around to learning new skills. Bagh! And Oof!

My attitude towards conditioning only began to change when I started hosting a weekly open pole session a few months ago. I noticed that one my students spent the entire hour doing nothing but conditioning. She’d shoulder mount and then slowly lower down. She’d do it again and again and again….diligently doing both sides. She seemed to be having so much fun!

This prompted me to wonder; what would happen if I just changed my attitude? Rather than looking at conditioning as something to rush through in order to get to the good stuff, I began to take my time working on moves that I could only do 1 rep of. Since then, I’ve spent a modest 15–20 minutes of most training sessions working those moves and I’m now seeing a difference in my movement quality! Psychologically, knowing that I could only do one rep triggered my goal-oriented brain to try to do more.

My reps per move are still pretty low but the result has meant that for the first time, conditioning is actually joyful. And ironically, the more time I spend conditioning, the prettier my tricks end up being!
Below, I’ve included short videos of my 4 favorite moves with variations for each.

1. Pole Pullups

Pole pullups are fun because they look pretty and you can pose your legs in cute positions in between lifts; stag, posse, straddle, etc. Start by just lifting into jackknife position and then lowering down slowly. An easier variation is to jump into the jackknife and then slowly lowering down, like doing negative pullups. To make it harder….do more..on both sides!

2. Straddle-up Press Handstands

Handstands are definitely a journey and press handstands have been one of the hardest things for me to learn— it’s so hard to resist the urge to jump! If press handstands aren’t in your current repertoire, start by standing on yoga blocks and straddling your legs up off of the blocks. To make it harder, bring your toes all the way to the ground, and brush the floor until they tap together in pike, before bringing them back up.

3. Spin Pole Lift Grabs

The first time I tried these, I couldn’t even do one. Now, I aim to do 20 grabs on each side per conditioning warm up, regardless of how many times it takes me. Kicking the legs a bit helps to lift up (though it’s not perfect form).

To make it harder, keep your legs together and straight, relying more on your arms to create the explosive upwards movement. An easier variation would be to start high and then drop down towards the ground, each hand grabbing below the other.

4. Straddle Climbs to Shoulder Mount Hops

This conditioning move is a 2-for-1! Start at the base of the pole in a straddle position, placing your hands directly in front of your forehead on the pole. Now pull up and clasp your legs together from straddle to sit. Repeat! To make this move easier, move your hands a smaller distance — instead of reaching up high, reach closer to eye level and lift. To make it harder, place your arms higher. The longer distance will make this harder.

Once you reach the top, turn through cupid into shoulder mount. Now pop your hips up and lower your hands down in cup grip one by one. Note that this video is on 2x. I don’t actually move that fast!

While these are my go to conditioning moves right now, I’m always on the lookout for new variations to try. If you have conditioning moves that you just love, please post them in the comments.