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Pole Warm-Up: Stretching Doesn't Count

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Tricia Pole DancingI have attended a few pole jams lately where pole dancers from different studios get together to dance and teach each other fun tricks. I have been surprised by the number of people who seem to think that stretching is a warm-up. At one event, the coordinator called out, "okay, let's warm up!" And six girls plopped down on to the ground and started stretching.

Some experts believe that stretching cold muscles can lead to injuries. There is not enough oxygen when your body is at rest to provide sufficient blood to warm the muscles, which allows them to stretch safely. So, at the very least, even if you aren't more prone to injury, you are probably wasting your time by stretching cold muscles.

If you are one who likes to stretch before AND after your workout, at least do a five to ten minute warm-up before stopping to stretch. To follow that progression, start with a short cardio warm-up followed by light static stretching. Move into a more pole-specific warm-up, then finish with some dynamic stretching. Now you are ready for your pole workout.

Isometric or static stretching is when you stretch muscles that are at rest. The goal is to elongate the muscle and hold the position anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. While stretching may be mildly uncomfortable, you should not stretch to the point of pain.

Dynamic stretching utilizes momentum "in an effort to propel the muscle into an extended range of motion not exceeding one's static-passive stretching ability. Anything beyond this range of motion becomes ballistic stretching." [Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_stretching]. Ballistic stretching includes a bouncing motion and forces the muscle beyond it's extended range of motion. Ballistic stretching is not for everyone. Dynamic stretching, however, can be beneficial in increasing flexibility and reducing injury if performed correctly. Examples of dynamic stretching are high knees, butt kicks and low lunges.

A study found warming up alone had no effect on range of motion. Stretching after a warm-up, however, was found to increase range of motion. Many misinterpreted the report to mean that stretching before a warm-up prevented injury (and over-stretching). The findings really showed that warming up prevented injuries and stretching had little or no effect on injuries.

Flexibility is very important for many pole tricks. Various forms of stretching are essential for achieving that flexibility. However, keep in mind that warming up before your stretch can help keep your muscles elongated and injury-free.

Photo: Tricia Peterson of Twirly Girls Pole Fitness. Photo is courtesy of Liquidpulp Photography.

Checkout these Pole Dancing DVDs for more stretching...

Stretching For Pole Dancers Alethea Austin's Stretching For Pole Dancers
Bendability with Amy Guion: Stretching For Pole Dancers Alethea Austin's Stretching For Pole Dancers