If you caught part 1 on how to conquer the microbend, you have probably been awaiting different methods you can use to strengthen your “push” muscles as well use them with your active flexibility. If you need a recap, we are on a mission to defeat every pole dancer’s nemesis: the microbend. A microbend is an unintentional bend in the leg and can be overcome with proper engagement. These exercises are easy additions you can add to your training schedule or even daily life schedule to improve your lines all around!
Residual Knee Tightness
Do you feel a lot of tightness in the backs of your knees when you stretch? If you find it difficult or painful to keep your legs straight in many positions on the floor, it will be even harder to do so in the air. There are a lot of attachments to different muscles, tendons, and ligaments around your knee joint constantly working to help you perform amazing feats on the pole (or you know, just stand up and walk around). They are typically kept short by our day to day activities: sitting at a desk, driving, watching tv, etc. The first thing that will help make a change in your microbends is something you can do all the time in your day to day life…
Prop up your feet
I love to use yoga blocks whenever I am forward bending on the floor because the mass of your calf and hamstring on the floor can keep your knee joint from fully straightening. You can achieve a much fuller stretch through your entire leg without the inhibitions of the floor by adding a block under each ankle. If you don’t have blocks, you can improvise! Use books, magazines, your lazy pet! Anything to get those feet off the ground. You may also find a small boost in your hip mobility as well!
This doesn’t have to be restricted to times when you are actively stretching, though. Place a small step stool or box in front of your chair at the office to keep your legs extended while working at a desk. If you like to sit at home on your laptop, extend your legs on a chair in front of you and keep your computer on your lap. These little changes can make a huge difference in your knee extension.
Push It Real Good
Propping your legs up is a great way to passively extend your legs, especially when they need to be stretched. If you want to actually strengthen the muscles that will extend your lines and give you beautifully engaged legs, you’ll have to take a more active approach. This exercise is a great, easy way to start building that strength! You will need a light weight band. I am using the Medium Resistance Rubberbanditz band in these photos.
- Loop one end of the band at approximately shoulder height on the pole (or any other support).
- Loop the other end of the band around an ankle, and then sit tall with your back to the pole.
- Externally rotate your extended leg from the hip and fully point your foot and ankle (because why practice anything other than your best lines ever?!)
- Initiating the movement from the back of your knee press your leg all the way down to the floor and back up 20 times. Each time you extend the leg down, try to reach your toes further and further away from your hips.
- Repeat on the other leg.
Not only does the band help you fully engage your leg, but it also add resistance you are overcoming with each press. You are going above and beyond the demands of your own body! Soon you will have the ultimate straight legs!
Lift It Even Better
If you give a mouse a cookie, it’s going to want some milk. If you give a dancer straight legs, they will want them flawlessly extended and engaged in all positions. But if this is a struggle, how do you make it better? More band work! There are many similar exercises you can do, but for this particular set I am using a Heavy Resistance Rubberbanditz band.
In the last exercises we built our strength by pushing into the resistance of the bands. For this set of exercises we are going to work to maintain our extension while pulling out of the resistance of the bands and taking your strength into your own hands….errr, legs.
- Loop one end of your band on the pole above your head. Your personal flexibility will determine the exact height. You want the band to hold the weight of your leg anywhere from roughly 60-75% of your full leg extension in each position. When you first start out, you might want it a little lower as you build strength to ensure you are maintain fantastic form throughout your exercises.
- Loop the other end around your ankle. For each of these positions make sure you are maintaining external rotation and that both hips are level. Careful not to hike up the working hip at any point. Keep your standing leg strong, straight, and fully engaged.
- Start with your working leg (the one in the band) in front of you. While maintaining your best posture, lift the leg upward 10 times from this starting position. Keep your hip still! Make sure only to move the leg and keep the most incredible line you’ve ever made the entire time. By lifting upward you are reducing the amount the band is helping you hold your leg, and strengthening your muscles to train them to do the work on their own.
- Repeat to the side. Again maintain external rotation in the working hip. The knee of your working leg should be rotating up toward the ceiling. Be careful that it doesn’t start to rotate forward, and also be careful the leg doesn’t start to go behind your hip. Just like when your leg was forward you want both hips on an equal plane and facing forward.
- One more position! Repeat to the back. You may have to lower your band if your back is not as flexible as your hamstrings, and you may want to walk so that your chest in front of the pole to assist with back flexibility. This will be the hardest position to keep your knee straight. Fight for it! You can do it! Keep those legs strong and your hips even!
- You now have one fantastic leg. Repeat on the other leg to bring it up to par. By the end you will feel the burn and be on your way to having killer legs and killer lines!
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but you will be pleasantly surprised to find that every little bit can go a long way! Remember to keep thinking about pushing and extending your legs as long as you can whenever working toward those ideal lines. As with any exercises, make sure your legs and hips are properly warm before making them do crazy things in bands. And don’t forget to breathe and enjoy the journey 🙂