For a long old time , I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have much of a clue what mobility actually was (lol and I wonder my pole dance progress has been slow). I had incorrectly assumed for years that it was another term for flexibility, and that by working on solely on flexibility, that some how my mobility was getting sufficient training in too. What a tit I was.
Thankfully, I decided it was about time I educated myself in all things mobility related. So when I saw that the awesome pole instructor and contemporary pole dance extraordinaire Gem Heywood was teaching specific online mobility classes, I caught up with her to learn about all things mobility related.
What exactly is mobility?
“Mobility in the simplest terms is defined as the ability to move easily or freely. It is mostly associated with the amount of movement available from a joint which also involves the muscles, fascia, and connective tissue. In other words, it’s how easily you can move in to a range of motion. Optimal mobility comes when a joint can reach full, unrestricted motion while controlling the constantly moving axis of rotation therefore it also involves a level of stability.” All very clever stuff!
How does mobility training differentiate from strength and flexibility training?
“Flexibility is defined as ‘the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively through a range of motion’, whereas mobility is the ‘ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion. ‘ My mobility classes are focused on building safe and effective range of motion where the emphasis is on using strength to reach your end range and control your movement.”
Why is mobility and mobility training important for pole dancers?
“Good mobility is incredibly important for injury prevention. You need a good mix of strength and flexibility as imbalances in the body are huge causes of injuries, especially in pole dancers. As pole dancers we are also required to bend, twist and stretch in to all kinds of positions and most commonly we are using our active flexibility, not passive. So mobility training is hugely helpful for this.”
What can people expect to learn in your classes?
“My classes include a range of active stretches (and also a bit of passive) and targeted exercises which concentrate on the muscle groups pole dancers need to focus on to improve their pole training. The classes are designed specifically for pole dancers. I’ve personally been on quite a self discovery journey when it comes to my own personal training, so I have brought in lots of my learning and extensive research in to what muscle activation, flexibility and stability is required to improve execution of common pole tricks.”
What made you want to teach specific mobility classes?
“I recognised the importance of mobility for pole dancing and I felt like it was a bit of a gap in the market. There are lots of classes focused on different stretching techniques and strength training for pole, and there are also lots of brilliant resources out there, however there weren’t many live classes out there specifically focused on mobility.”
Where are the areas in the body that pole dancers could experience particular issues with their mobility?
“It will hugely vary per person. However, as pole dancers we commonly use our arms in overhead flexion and extension and many people can struggle with either their internal or external range of motion which is required in moves like Ayesha, Pegasus, tabletop and more! I personally found my thoracic rotation needed improvement as I struggled to twist in to moves like Ballerina. Some people may also struggle with their hip mobility which could be a huge hindrance for things like their box splits.”
How often should pole dancers focus on mobility in their training?
“Just like you would do weekly strength and/or flexibility classes, I would recommend weekly mobility classes or training sessions. I always say to my students that it’s most beneficial to focus on a range of stretching techniques and strength exercises rather then focusing solely on passive over active for instance. As we are all built so differently what could be holding one person back could differ hugely for another. You also don’t want to have lots of passive flexibility but no strength to get in to that range actively – which is what we most commonly need as pole dancers. We recently did before and after photos in my classes and there were improvements after just one class.”
Also, how soon into your pole journey should you start thinking about working on your mobility?
“Mobility is important to bring in early in your pole journey, mostly because it can really help with injury prevention. Training off the pole, especially focusing on your areas of weakness, can also really help you to excel on the pole.”
What equipment do you recommend we invest in to help us work on our mobility?
“The equipment we use most in my classes are yoga blocks and a resistance band. A long resistance band is fine as you can tie it or hold it where it suits for the specific exercise.”
Thank you Gem for all your mobility wisdom! If you would like to find out more about Gem’s online mobility classes, head over to their Facebook group. You can purchase recordings of past classes at £6.50 per class or £30 for the entire six week block of classes, covering everything from arm & hip rotations to thoracic extension and rotation.