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split photo of a pole dancer demonstrating two positions of the caterpillar climb/descent

Progression to Repel Part 1

Do you ever find yourself in a trance, watching those crazy strong polers and think to yourself, “wow…I wish I could do that…!” Well I have good news for you. With the proper technique and progression, you too can achieve the strength moves of your dreams! In pole, many injuries come from doing incorrect progression and/or body placements when working on butterflies and repels. The following series is a healthy and safe way to learn all Ayesha grips!

Before you try any of the following moves, make sure you are comfortable with your inversions and leg hangs as well as working on aerial inversions and shoulder mounts!

1. Caterpillars and Butterflies

Before you start trying to holding on to the pole with only your hands, you will want to start with what I like to refer to as preparatory repel moves. There are four of these that I find very important to repel progress. Follow these steps and you will be feeling strong and ready!

– Caterpillar – Start in an upside-down crucifix position. Push your body out with your arms, getting your elbows fully straight and look out past your shoulders

-Caterpillar cont’d – Tuck your chin into your chest and push through your shoulders to pull your butt up. Lastly, slide your chest down like you are doing a body wave down the pole. Repeat until comfortable!

– The Butterfly – once you have had a lot of practice and feeling really good about the caterpillars, start working on your butterfly. First invert, then leave the top hand on the pole just the way it is. Next use your other hand to do the first steps of the caterpillar. Once you hit a solid position with your shoulders (picture below), you will then remove the back leg – be sure to keep your chin tucked! DON’T ARCH!

– The Extended Butterfly – Once you have mastered the butterfly and various ways of transitioning in and out of it, it is time to start working on extending that beautiful pose. This will help increase your shoulder strength and stability. A great way to initiate the extension of your front leg is by turning your knee out to detach it from the pole, using only your ankle to hold on. Once you feel strong in this position, slowly start to extend both knees straight. Keep your upper body engaged and just barely arch the lower back to extend fully in to a split.

– Caterpillar Climb – When you feel solid in your extended butterfly (especially in the bottom shoulder) it is time to start your caterpillar climbs. I recommend checking that you can do shoulder shrugs in the extended butterfly before attempting the caterpillar climb. To do the caterpillar climb, you will start the same as the caterpillar. Push out and up with your shoulders. Then, tuck your chin and pull that booty up!

Caterpillar Climb Cont’d – When your booty is up, take one arm off and hook your elbow in an up over motion, as if to hook over a tall friend’s shoulder, as close to your knees as possible. Lastly, push through the bottom shoulder and pull with the elbow to slide your legs up the pole. Repeat until you can consecutively execute the climb up the pole three times.

Homework – Practice all of these steps and moves in order. Remember, don’t rush it! These things take time! This is just the prep for the big stuff. Keep an eye for part 2 where we will dive into the coveted ayeshas!

Happy poling!

Leah Franklin
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