How to actually improve grip for pole dance

It’s a complaint and question I hear in every beginner pole class I teach.. My hands are slipping, what do I do? Trust me, I’ve been there. You know how to do a move and you feel strong enough to do it, but those hands are holding you back from being your best self on the pole. If you peruse other videos or suggestions on “how to not slide down the pole” you’ll most likely run into suggestions about using grip aid like dry hands, or itac which are actually my two favorite grips and ones I suggest to students but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to give you the straight facts on how to improve your grip. This isn’t a magic pill, or quick fix like you might be searching for. If you are committed to pole for the long haul and want to start to untap your true power on the pole, welcome to my channel, my name is Julia and this video is your first step to getting there.

It should come to no surprise to any of you that pole dancing requires a great deal of strength especially if you are attempting more advanced movements. Many times we focus on the muscles in our bodies as the key players in nailing hard moves, but lack to spare any attention on the actual part of our bodies attaching our muscles and bodies to the pole. But did you know having a strong and secure feeling grip instantly increases your strength by sending a signal to your nervous system that you are safe and are able to move with ease. Think about if you’ve ever done a lunge before. If you attempt a lunge in an insecure footing placement where you feel off balance your body will not have the ability to force as much weight up as compared to if you were in a balanced stable stance. If you want more proof of this try to flex your bicep without balling your fist. Then ball your fist and attempt to flex the bicep. Instantly you became more powerful. 

So how can we train our grip? It comes down to the many muscles found in the forearms and hands actually. You see we don’t actually have any muscles in our fingers but we do have lots of tendons within the fingers that attach to the various muscles in the hand and forearm. So the stronger your muscles are that attach to your tendons, the stronger your grip will be.

Diving into the forearm we have flexors and extenders. Flexors are in charge of turning your hand towards the bicep and extensors move the wrist in the opposite direction. Surprisingly these two work symbiotically, meaning they contribute equally to your gripping power according to emg studies. 

We also have a pronator and supinator movement which looks like your wrist is twisting. If you’ve ever screwed a screw into wood and feel tons of burning in the forearm that this guy. Translated to pole however, think of the twisted grip, and how our wrist fights to stay in this twisted shape. Injury in the twisted grip is very common, strengthening your pronator and supinator muscles is very much encouraged to avoid this. I injured my wrist with a twisted grip a while ago and it took half a year to heal. I now know the importance of training this movement.

When thinking about how to best go about increasing grip strength we can incorporate strength training. The dumbbell curls are a bit boring but a pretty low key way to throw in some forearm training into your workout program. An alternative and more challenging alternative may be hanging from a bar and completing the same movement. These can be done at an overhand or underhand grip. 

The muscles within the hands can be simultaneously trained with the forearms; you just need to be a bit more focused on crushing things for the hands. Become your inner hulk and ball up those fists. You could use tennis balls, those hand clampy things, in the gym you can do farmers walks which have so many benefits. Dead Hangs from a pull up bar are also awesome. 

The key here with strength training is to train harder than what you actually need. Now what I mean by that is we have our 45 mm poles and our job is to hold on. I could tell you to just pole dance and struggle your way into a better grip with consistent practice. That’s a valid method and how most dancers obtain an eventual somewhat decent pole grip. But you want something quicker and to be as strong as possible. This is where we have to stress our grip past what we need it for. So the goal is, when you’re training specifically for grip strength on the pole, or in the gym or a jungle gym at the park your forearms and hands are on fire, but when youre practicing pole dancing your grip becomes less and less of an obstacle. This is possible using the principles of strength training. You’ll need to build a plan with progressive overload for your grip. Progressive overload principles is just a plan where you continue to increase the volume you are working with. 

So lets look at a good example of progressive overload for the deadhangs which are much harder than they appear for most. You’ll start with an assisted bar hang, and this could be with a resistance band. Once you can do 3 of these for a sixty second interval, the next week you can do 3 sets without any assistance for 60 seconds. The next training session attempts to use one towel as you hang maybe at two sets for 60 seconds, then the next time hang with one arm which will really call on your shoulder to assist. Major player in pole! You can make this program harder or easier depending on where you stand strength wise currently. If you want an example pdf of a progressive overload program for the dead hang to train your grip for pole check out the free program I made in the link below. 

grip pole dance

Going back to the dead hangs, you can also play with your finger position. Rock climbers will do this frequently during their climbs where they are holding their body weight just through the fingertips. Be extremely careful as this puts a massive strain on the tendons. 

You can also combine your grip training in any weight lifting you do. A great example is in the deadlift. If you’ve done deadlifts chances are you’ve felt your grip fatigue pretty quickly at a higher weight. You’re Isometrically training your grip as you are deadlift as there is concentric movement happening in the deadlift for the forearm. Isometric exercises are where we are not implementing any movement, just holding and applying a great force. Another example of an isometric could be trying to rip a book in half. I know you can’t do it, but the tensing in your gripping muscles will build awesome power that will translate to your pole ability. Isometrics are a powerful lesser known way of building awesome raw power, and a majority of the exercises i mentioned are all isometric. There was a study published by the European Journal of Applied Physiology studying the effects of isometric training for grip strength amongst 13 healthy participants. After the 8 week study of participants completing 8 weeks of isometric wrist extension training emg results showed a significant increase in grip strength amongst all participants. I will do a video on isometrics as I believe they play a massive role in me becoming the pole dancer I am today. 

Also getting comfortable pole dancing without aids like pole grip, a fan, wiping your pole 1000 times, will psychologically train you to get confident in your grip. There’s a lot of psychological blocks we create in our minds around grip. I used to need to wipe down my pole and circle my pole a time or two like some weird ritual before attempting a trick. This makes pole a lot less enjoyable and just think about how much more fun you’ll be able to have on the pole in a few months or even weeks if you’re constantly improving your grip strength with progressive overload. 

Now with all of these exercises please be careful and take it slowly. We are playing and training with our tendons which take ages to heal if they get injured, so practice slow progressive overload and over the while reap the rewards. 

You may have also noticed that thicker poles are harder to grip than narrow ones. Say I pick up this can, I can feel a secure grip. But if I pick up this can with a larger circumference, I struggle to grip it. So another method to increase grip training intensity is to thicken the object you’re gripping onto. So going back to the isometric deadlift hold, wrap the bar in a towel and bam instantly harder. 

Lastly I want to touch on wrist positioning for grip strength. It’s a fact that you will have the most powerful grip with your wrist positioned at a 45 degree angle with a slight ulnar deviation. I get tons of questions on one handed holds on a spin pole. I’ll release a tutorial on this move but grip plays a huge role here. You can see any time I do this in a video I will always have that grip positioning in place. This is a hard hold and we need all the help we can get. Getting this wrist positioning correct is one piece you’ll need to accomplish this move. 

So in saying all of this a body builder would probablys scoff at the idea of training specifically for grip, but we are pole dancers. We rely on our grip so much in our sport. We intrust our very life to it. I believe to be a top notch pole dancer you have to give your grip some special attention. And again I can not emphasize enough that there is a direct correlation between how much force you can apply and your grip strength. Once again there’s that free pdf download below to give you some tips on how to train with a dead hang. 

Free Pdf Progressive Overload Grip Program https://mailchi.mp/8091ce70bbf8/free-progressive-overload-dead-hang-training-guide

Link to Isometric Study https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-010-1675-4


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