Updated: Feb 24, 2019
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The basic inversion is often the official first foray into the upside down world of pole. It’s exciting, scary and empowering all at once. But whether you are a newbie or a seasoned poler, the inversion is a move that can always use some fine tuning. A significant amount of technique and strength are required to execute the move and a perfect inversion manifests from practice.
The basic inversion requires the ability to lift the entire body inverted. This movement should come from controlled strength and not from momentum. A competition-worthy inversion is executed in a straddle position or Chopper during the invert. The body should be creating lovely gymnastic lines and the core and upper body are the major movers. The movement should look effortless.
New polers focus on mastering strength and the body mechanics of the inversion. Seasoned polers have the strength and muscle memory, but often need to refine and consider the details: no momentum, controlling both the up and the down movement and obtaining full body dance extension.
The body needs repetition to learn a new complex movement pattern, with pole many moves are intricate and require training the body to acquire a new movement chain. In turn, the brain needs time to comprehend when to fire muscles sequentially. The more the movement is practiced, the more engrained in the body; this is called muscle memory.
New students should not strive for perfection and perfect form; the focus should be to simply feel the movement. A move can be cleaned up once the strength is built. Starting with good technique is important but most students will not produce a perfect inversion on the first try. The perfect inversion comes from a combination of strength, practice and technique.
How to Clean-up the Inversion
Building upper body and core strength are the main components of control in the inversion. Being strong and having trained muscle memory means there is a higher likelihood of control of the body. Control of the body can lead to a beautiful inversion. The Basket Tuck is a great way to train control through movement repetition and build muscular strength.
Start with a strong grip (inside arm low and outside arm above on the pole) in a basic inversion. Concentrate on engaging the lower core and launch by lifting the legs up into a Basket Tuck. Pause at the top and lower down with control. Try five on each side of the body. To increase the exertion, try five in a row without touching the ground.
The straddle version ( Inverted V) of this move begins in the exact starting grip. The idea is the same, however the ante is upped by straddling the legs up and down instead of tucking. This leg position increases the strain on the lever system of the body and intensifies difficulty. Again try to keep the feet off the floor to make this move more of a challenge.
Practice Dance Extension and Finishing Moves
When performing inversions, the idea is to make the movement not only appear effortless but go beyond to make the move part of the dance choreography. The inversion is a basic gymnastic move and the body should be creating fully extended lines. There should not be half-engaged legs, soft knees or un-pointed toes. Every part of the body should be doing a job as the inversion is a true full-body movement. Video yourself and look at your form. If your legs are not straight and your lines are not fully extended during the inversion this might be a place to look at improvement. When practicing extension, think about pointing the toes and engaging the leg muscles. The knees should be straight, not locked, but lengthened. Also, point the toes.
Slow Down the Movement
Slowing down the movement chain leads to better muscle control and can develop stronger muscles. By slowing down, momentum is eliminated and the poler must rely on muscle strength. Controlling the inversion both up and down will also help improve body awareness. When slowing down, concentrate on the muscles that should be working, particularly the abdominal muscles.
Work the Eccentric Movement
When a muscle is working, it’s either considered an eccentric movement or concentric movement. The easiest example is a bicep curl with a weight, when the arm lifts the weight up toward the chest, the bicep muscle is shorted under the load, this is concentric movement. When the weight is lowered, the bicep muscle is still working under the load of the weight but the muscle is elongating, this is eccentric movement.
In general, concentric movements are when the human body is at its strongest because the muscles are compact when loaded. Eccentric work is usually more challenging as the muscle is lengthened when under load. The lever system of the body also comes into play here. The further we extend a limb out away from our center the more work it takes to keep that limb extended. In the inversion the upward lift to the inversion is a concentric movement, the lowering back to the floor is the eccentric movement. Many of us skip controlling the lower down from an inversion. To strengthen the eccentric movement, concentrate on lowering out of the inversion. Attempt to slow down as much as possible when lowering back to the floor.