Getting Over a Pole Plateau
The human body is a marvelous creation. No matter how challenging the workout, eventually the body adapts. Each week, we have a routine: we attend the same pole classes and for the most part work on the same moves or related moves. Of course this depends on the level, but once past the beginner realm it’s easy to get stuck. Perhaps class has gotten more difficult and you aren’t getting new moves as quickly as you once did. You feel like you are stuck on a plateau.
Pole is a strength training workout, but also a skill based sport, meaning the body and mind work together to learn complex movement patterns. From a workout adaptability standpoint this gives pole the advantage of less repeat movement, however you can still plateau with pole. Most polers experience plateaus as stalling out on a certain move or set of moves, the body is no longer making huge strides in each class. There are can a myriad of reasons for a plateau but one of the big ones is adaptation.
The body naturally adapts to a workout and comes back to homeostasis, essentially the body stops making gains, in the case of pole this can be strength or endurance gains. An example would be attending class consistently and progressing through advanced-beginner moves like the inversion, maybe getting chopper and crucifix, but you can’t get the shoulder mount, this lasts for weeks, even months. And overall rate of progress has slowed down, all the moves seem difficult. Of course, there are many factors involved – building strength, learned muscle memory, number of days training, past sports experience, strength of foundation moves and technique. However, the point is you have found yourself on a pole plateau.
When training for any sport there are phases of development in our skill set. The body adapts to workouts and sports and needs periodic changes to grow. This adaptation is called General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). Working out creates stress on the body the first stage of GAS is called Alarm Reaction. If the body is new to the movement pattern and stress the body will adapt quickly and make rapid gains in strength or endurance, beginner’s luck is a real thing. The muscular systems grow and adapt as does the neural connections in the brain. The second phase is call the Stage of Resistance, basically on a strength level the body also adapts over a continuous period of time, a beginner can still be gaining strength and muscle development for up to a year. But after the beginner phase is finished the body will need change. The last phase is the Stage of Exhaustion. This is where the body can no longer resist stress, which leads to overtraining and can set you on a plateau as well. If the body is exhausted, it won’t be able to perform at a high level.
The question becomes what can we do to wake the body out of homeostasis and push off the pole plateau. The name of the game is change. The body needs change in workouts so that adaptation can continue. Strength and endurance gains are needed to climb over the plateau and into harder movements in pole. If you are stuck on a plateau on the pole here a few ways to jump start the body.
Lengthen workouts or change number of workouts a week
If the pole classes you are attending are one hour, see if you can move up to a longer class or potentially stay a few minutes after class for extra work. You can also add an extra workout into your schedule. If you are already training hard three times a week or more, you probably do not need to add another class. This can lead to overtraining, but adding in complementary workout in another fitness realm might be a better choice.
Add Strength or Endurance
Get permission to stay late few minutes after class and add in your own strength training moves. Consider what you are stuck on and what moves would help. If you are stuck on shoulder mount add in ten minutes of basic inversions, shoulder mounts on the floor (no matter how small they are) or chopper. If you want to increase endurance take time to add in free dancing. Play a song and don’t stop dancing until the song is over. Another option is to add in climbing intervals at the end of class. There are tons of options. You can also request additional strength and conditioning in your classes if you feel like the entire class would benefit.
Increase the Intensity of your workouts
Maybe it’s time to switch it up and go to pole boot camp. If you are attending a level-based class check out a conditioning class for strength or even a choreography and flow class for endurance. During your regular pole classes pay attention to your rest time between moves. It is easy lay on the floor a little bit too long, especially after a long day at work. During class also look at how many times you are attempting a new move. For example, it you try a new move three times on each side, maybe try to add a fourth attempt to each new move.
Try a new Instructor
Switching instructors and classes can lead to new movement patterns and workouts in a class. Learning from anther instructor will give you fresh teaching methods and cues, but also new moves that help you get other moves. Plus a different instructor will offer new workouts and may help you remember technique and form that can also add to moving off a plateau. Sometimes walking away from a set of moves and trying other moves can lead to success when you return. This can be from building strength, learning similar movement patterns or getting the mind and body back together with rest.
Adding in cardio, weight lifting or a new workout will send the body back in to the first phase of GAS. Your body will need to adapt to the new fitness. Running, spin class or HIIT training can be excellent choices for outside of the pole studio for endurance and cardiovascular work. Weight lifting, going to small group personal training or trying strength-based Interval style classes can create strength gains that will be applicable on the pole. If you are training three plus days a week on the pole, it’s a good idea to try to use different muscle groups and select workouts that complement the pole workouts. Pole is upper body intense, selecting workouts that use the lower body or use the body is different ways is crucial is stopping overtraining.
Obviously as pole moves get harder, it takes longer to acquire the mind and body learning connection, the strength and the understanding of how to perform the move. Gymnasts don’t learn complex balance beam routines overnight; they spend years perfecting the skills. I want us to learn how to identify plateaus and consider a few ways that we can climb over a plateau to a new level.