Say hello to the helicopter/chopper/inverted V/inverted straddle

The chopper is the hobgoblin of many a poler. I struggled with it for a long time before I built the strength to go into it with control and hold myself there.

A basic that’s not so basic

First and foremost, bear in mind that this is not necessarily a beginner inversion–it’s a difficult move because you are supporting yourself fully with your hands/arms/shoulders/back. Hear a lot of polers talk about rhomboid and intercostal strains? Yeah. Much of the time those come from incorrect or uncontrolled inverted V work–or from repetition without rest.

Get your body ready

Some conditioning moves that are primo when it comes to nailing your inverted V: knee tucks with your grip in invert position on the pole (knees to SHOULDERS, think froggy legs), knee tucks into tuck-and-tip while holding the pole as though you’re going to invert. Another good one is the yoga plow done slowly, using your core to control every inch of movement.

Check yer form!

Bad form can trouble you even if you are strong enough. Keep your arms bent until you’re inverted and your hips are close to the pole, then straighten them a bit. I prefer to keep some bend in my arms the entire time because it’s much (MUCH) easier to keep my back and shoulders engaged. If your arms are completely straight, it’s very possible that, in straightening them completely, you’ve also “roached” your back slightly, meaning you’ve rounded out in your upper back. If you’re doing that, you’re not engaging your shoulders–it’s almost impossible to do so, in fact.

What’s good form feel like?

Here’s a test that you can do, right now. Grab something stable and capable of holding your weight–a door frame works well for this–with both hands and hang your weight back from it until your shoulders round forward. Now try to pull your shoulders back and down into a position of strength. Tough, eh? If you want to move your body at this point, it’ll have to be through your biceps, because your core, back, and shoulders are all being stretched to the point where they’re basically useless to you. If you were to roll out of an invert from that position you’d probably do so quickly and without any ability to control your descent, and those muscles would all snaaaaaap back into position. It wouldn’t feel good, not at all.

Now take the same position while keeping your shoulders back and down and engaged the entire time. Do you feel stronger, more stable, more secure? You should. 🙂 That’s the position you should strive for in your inverted V.

Go forth and helicopter safely and with control, Poler Bears!

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