Optimise your Pole Warm-up during Comp Training

Once you are ready to train, anything extra in your warm-up is just using resources that would be better spent elsewhere.
Ashleigh Flanagan
March 15, 2024

I am often asked 'how/what should I warm up for pole competition training?' The short answer is as little as you can get away with! While the ideal warm-up will differ for everyone, it also depends on your training plan and how close you are to performing. The warm-up you use in your final training sessions should be the warm-up you use on the big day (This means if you need a lot of time, space, energy or equipment, it is time to rethink how you are warming up.)

Warm-up for comp training is different from warming up for a class. In a class environment the teacher has to make sure that everyone is ready to train and usually includes a little dose of strength and flexibility training for students who would otherwise avoid it. 

Fundamentally, the goal of a warm-up is to prepare your body for the training session. Once you are ready to train, anything extra in your warm-up is just using resources that would be better spent elsewhere, especially when preparing for a competition.

Priorities of pole comp training warm-up:

1. Prepare you to focus on your training.

Your whole warm-up should be mindful and purposeful, but you may need to include specific exercises that help you disconnect from the outside world. These may include breathing control, improvisation, body scanning, articulations, or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Using musicality, breath, movement or tension to anchor to the present moment will help you get more out of your training.

2. Prepare your cardiovascular, nervous and energy systems for greater output/increased demands.

You don't have to do star jumps or a run around the block. You want to get your heart rate and respiratory rate just a bit higher than normal, but you don't have to be puffing. Save the high-intensity efforts for your run through. 

3. Increase heat and blood flow to skeletal muscles.

Once again, this should take little effort. Make sure to involve your legs. Using bigger muscles will help warm your body up faster with less effort.

4. Allow you to achieve the required level of flexibility to perform the skills you plan to train first comfortably.

You dont have to reach your max flexibility before you move on to your training. Your flexibility will continue to increase throughout your training session. Focus on the flexibility you require for the session; for example dont waste time warming up to your front split if your routine doesn't include a front split. The best bang-for-buck flexibility exercises to warm up are dynamic (using momentum to increase range, e.g. kicks/leg swings), sub-max strength through range (e.g. long lunges or good mornings) and neural stretching (sciatic nerve flossing or wushu bouncing). These exercises dont dont put a lot of load on the muscles while still increasing range.

What should you avoid in pole comp warm-ups:

1. Heavy strength or conditioning training.

In an ideal world, you should aim to maintain rather than increase your strength while preparing for a pole competition. This may require as little as one additional session during your week to focus on areas not utilised as strongly in pole (hello legs). If you want/need to get stronger in the early stages of your comp prep, plan sessions outside of comp training with as much gap between sessions as you can manage.

2. Intense flexibility training or long-hold supported stretches.

Intense flexibility training, like strength training, puts a lot of load on your muscles and requires adequate recovery to be effective. Long-hold supported stretching takes a lot of time and can reduce maximal strength in the muscles stretched in the short term. Once again, it is best to aim to maintain flexibility during comp prep, but if you must training flexibility intensively, plan sessions outside of comp training with as much gap between sessions as you can manage (note: what is considered intensive is individual. I judge it by how long it takes to recover with no symptoms such as tightness, pain or fatigue to baseline).

3. Generic 'activation' or old rehab drills.

If you are working with a health professional and coach on a specific area of concern,  discard this. If you are doing banded rotator cuff exercises that someone gave you three years ago or that you saw on Instagram, dont waste your time. They are probably not doing what you think they are.

4. Scrolling Instagram.

And on social media, save your time during comp training. You should have a plan for each training session. If you need to use your phone to film or play music, turn it to flight mode so you won't become distracted. Of course, you will need breaks during your training session but try to remain mindful and focused during these breaks.

If you are preparing for a pole competition. Good luck! I hope it is a fun and rewarding experience for you.

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