In this blog, Mel Nutter shares with Pole in Style her tips for exercising with stall bars.
Stall bars, Swedish bars, fuse bars, what ever you call them, this sturdy ladder can make a great addition to your pole fitness and aerial training.
If you don’t have stall bars in your studio, you might find them in you local gym or even outdoor playground - just be sure to ask the children nicely for your turn!
Most stall bars are a standard design of a series of one-meter rails set about 20cm apart. Some bars have an extra part that overhangs on top to allow for a more comfortable position when doing chin-ups and pull-ups. This design makes stall bars so versatile for your strength and flexibility conditioning, allowing you to work on your technique and alignment before taking the poses up the pole.
Lots of aerial arts rely on creating tension between two points, usually with a “push vs pull” action. This motion is best performed when joints are stacked, and muscle engagement is coordinated with your breath. This is a lot to remember when you a learning aerial trick, and poses can be even more difficult with the swing and sway of hoop, or the spin of pole! Learning how to engage the appropriate muscles in your back, or work on activating your glutes from the ground, can be a safer and more effective way to train. Stall bars are a static apparatus and many of these exercises can be practiced with your feet only just off the floor. Training with good technique helps you to build muscle memory and strength, reducing the risk of injury or aggravating imbalances in your body.
Most of the exercise options on stall bars will focus on your core, shoulders and upper body. You can however use them for stretching and barre work, or for support in squats and lunges, allowing you to create an entire body workout with the one apparatus. Working on the bars will also help with your grip strength, something that beginner pole dancers and aerialists really suffer with. Your hands can’t slide down on a horizontal bar like on pole, so you may find you can hold poses for longer and develop strength and stamina in your hands, fingers, wrists, and forearms.
So where do you start? Here are a few ideas, beyond just pull-ups and leg raises that will help you gain strength and flexibility to transfer to your pole and aerial practice.
“Don’t I want more flexible hamstrings not tighter ones?!,” I hear you ask. But why only have flexible muscles when you can have both! I learned this exercise from a great physiotherapist who shared the perspective that strong muscles a less likely to get injured, while over stretched weak muscles are exactly that. Incorporating this exercise into your practice will greatly support your skills on the pole, and create burn that begs to be stretched out afterwards. See? Have both!
Kneeling with your back towards the stall bars, tuck your ankles under the lowest bar. Use a mat on the ground to cushion your knees. Tuck the pelvis and feel strong through your core just like holding a plank pose on the floor. With your hands across your chest, start to lean forwards in one piece, using your feet to anchor on the stall bars as your increase the angle behind your knees.
Go only so far as to maintain form and then return to an upright position. Don’t be surprised if you only get a few cm before you stick your butt out and fold through your waist. But don’t get disheartened. These are worth it!
You may have seen people use a wall as a prop to open their shoulders and push against in wheel pose. Stall bars can be used in the same way but have the added bonus of extra grip! As you walk your hands down, dropping back into wheel pose, you can push against each rail, opening through the chest, and at no point risk your hands sliding away uncontrollably. People with wrist issues may also find this an easier way to work on back bends, as the rails allow you to keep you wrists in closer to neutral position rather than in full extension. Good preparation for this pose is essential - make sure you are already well warmed up, and do a few bridges from the floor in front of the bars so you know how far out to place your feet to avoid crunching through your lower back.
Split grip lifts and handsprings
Many upper body pole moves translate easily to stall bars, but one that I find needs lots of refinement is the split grip lift to ayesha and handsprings. The different levels of each rail on the stall bars encourage you to try out different spacing and hand placement, as well as support wrist and shoulder alignment for proper technique. Even without taking your feet off the floor, you can start to shift your weight into your upper body, focusing on engaging the muscles of your shoulders, back, and core. Even for beginners, practicing this conditioning exercise will help with other split grip moves such as fan kicks and jamilla/apprentice. Work with a friend or use a mirror and try to see and feel the muscles engage. If you have stall bars in your studio this is also a great way to warm and prepare your body to attempt handsprings on the pole.
Another great tip, if you find that the bars create too much pressure on your arms when hanging and doing tucks or pikes, lay a yoga mat over the bar lower than your hands. This will also cushion your back when leaning against the stall bars, allowing you to workout for longer with more comfort.
Want to learn more about stall bar? Check out our free program here.
Written by Mel Nutter as Baudelaire.
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