Cross training refers to an exercise program that involves different activities other than the sport-specific related ones. While it is crucial for vertical gymnasts to train at the Pole, there are numerous benefits that can be achieved from cross training off the bar.
The principle of specificity of training states that adaptations to our bodies are strictly related to the activity undertaken. In other words, if you want to be a better runner, you run; if you want to be a better swimmer you swim; and of course, if you want to be a better vertical gymnast, then you POLE. However, cross training can improve overall athletic performance and ensure all that the body parts are functioning well and meant to last.
Successful Pole gymnasts should cross train because:
Without a doubt, proper technique and preparation (practice) are paramount to becoming a successful vertical gymnast, but we can only work within the limitations of our own physical fitness. By developing a sport related based workout for strength, power, flexibility and / or anaerobic capacity, we can help our bodies reach the finish line much sooner.
When looking at Vertical Gymnastics in particular, we notice that anaerobic energy pathways are highly targeted, with strength and power much more important than aerobic endurance.
Caution needs to be placed during strength training, since following the wrong resistance training program can actually be detrimental to performance. Bodybuilders train specific muscle groups whereas athletes must train movement and the whole body to work in unison.
While focusing on learning a new skill and technique, muscle conditioning is needed to ensure this is done properly. Breaking bad habits and relearning can be very difficult and time consuming.
When choosing the right exercises for cross training, movements should ideally mirror the sport’s movement. At the beginning stages, all pole athletes will benefit from building a general strength base; once closer to advanced or competitive levels, muscle conditioning should be closely related to Pole specifically. Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, general cross training will ensure agonist / antagonist muscle balance is achieved, assisting in performance and preventing injuries.
Frequency: beginners are usually recommended to start with muscle conditioning twice a week for cross training, plus Pole training twice a week to adequate rest is given for muscle recovery. More advanced gymnasts may benefit from training five, six or even seven days a week close to competition times, focusing more on Pole than muscle conditioning. Breaking down cross training into split routines may be a good option in these circumstances.
During off training days there are still many exercises that we can focus on, to improve our Pole skills: flexibility, choreography and floor work are the best options to work on during our “resting” days. Pole is a wonderful sport, hobby, art form, etc, that allows for many interpretations of what training is; whatever it may be to you, just remember to not allow “training obsession” to take over and to keep it FUN: this I find to be a key ingredient for success!
Thank you for reading, GVE Team
Pole Fitness is a highly physical sport where all major muscle groups are used to move the entire body up and around the pole. While often exposing the joints to stresses cannot be avoided, sore elbows, swollen wrists and painful shoulders should not be a regular component of Pole training.
Generally, overuse, lack of strength, and improper body positioning are the main causes of injuries and discomforts amongst vertical gymnasts, with wrist strain, carpal tunnel and rotator cuff injuries being the most common major injuries related to Pole. When landing on the feet from inversions, lack of control and core strength can also cause back problems and injured ankles.
There are many ways to avoid or minimize Pole injuries, such as warming up and cooling down the muscles, using proper form and technique, balancing overall muscle strength and flexibility, and having adequate rest and nutrition between workouts.
Cold muscles will increase the risks of potential injuries so always make sure to include an 8-10 minute warm up in your training sessions. Warming up also has many other benefits, such as mental and physical preparation for the workout, improving nerve conductivity that will achieve better training results. Cooling down and stretching after Pole will help you recover from the workout and prevent injuries by returning the muscles to their normal resting length and improving joint flexibility (tight muscles can tear more easily).
Proper body positioning, technique and muscle recruitment will not only make Pole exercises and moves safer and pain-free, but also more graceful and easier to perform.
It is VERY important to achieve optimum strength and flexibility balance between all muscles and joints of the body. Since Pole exercises are usually easier to perform on the most dominant side of the body, there is always a tendency to focus practice on that side exclusively. However, this will create muscular imbalances that can have serious adverse effects in one’s overall health and cause injuries. Always exercise on both sides of the body to allow rest and ensure proper muscular balance.
Many vertical gymnasts display a tremendous desire to quickly excel at Pole, and at times, it is found to be addictive. Pole should be treated as a whole body-weight training exercise, where a period of 48 hours between workouts is generally required to achieve positive adaptations in the neuromuscular system and progressive improvements in strength and endurance. As a result, it is recommended to take a day of rest between intense Pole training sessions.
Pole Fitness is a very enjoyable, highly physical and energy demanding activity, thus a possible cause of overtraining. Having quality foods and a balanced diet that will nurture exhausted muscles and bones back to training form is fundamental to be able to learn, perform and become more skillful at Pole.
Above all, the human body will always allow us to challenge ourselves smart, by signaling if we are doing something wrong (as pain), to slow down, or simply to STOP. It is our choice to pay attention and listen, correct our technique, or take the day off. One way or another, if we ignore the “red flags” our bodies will inevitably make us stop and shut us down...often by means of injury! Know your limits and train “with” your body, not against it.
Thank you for reading ~ GVE