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Written by: Elizabeth Blanchard     After a pole or aerial class you feel like every muscle in your body has been worked over.  We all know the struggle of trying to remove a sweaty sports bra.  Between the sweat and the sore, stiff muscles it is the equivalent to trying to break free of a straight jacket.  You hang upside down, jump up and down, and maybe even call your significant other in to help you remove the confining, over the shoulder boulder holder.  Every muscle in your body feels like it is on fire and exhausted from training…but is your pole and aerial training enough?  I know it is addicting and all other forms of exercise pale in comparison once you are hooked but is your aerial training giving you the well rounded training needed to keep your body from developing muscle imbalances that could potentially lead to injury?  I thought it was…until I was exposed to calisthenics bar training.  I was then forced to face the fact that despite the fact that I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck after a solid day of pole training the truck apparently had missed a few muscles! unnamed-3               Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach in Southern California is where I discovered bar training calisthenics and decided to reassess my training and most importantly my cross training.  I had already started exploring bar training because I liked the fact that it was strength training I could do outside and using only my own bodyweight, no free weights or gym equipment needed (a.k.a. calisthenics).  Initially when I first started going up to Santa Monica to train I would mostly find ways I could use the bars like I would a pole, circus climbs on the rope, flags on the side of the parallel bars, just being a pole monkey in general.  I was mostly just playing around and didn’t know what else I could really do on the bar other than pull-ups.  One day after watching a couple of guys doing muscle ups on the bars I went up to them and asked them if they could teach me how to do a muscle up.  I had done a muscle up before on my own but it was not pretty and I knew something was off on my mechanics but wasn’t sure how to fix it.  Watching the guys do their muscle ups they made it look so smooth and effortless.  The two guys I met that day at Santa Monica were Scott Mathison and his brother Kaare. Scott Mathison, has been an athlete his whole life and started bar training a little over a year ago.  He has started a company, Bar Strength, to promote his passion with the intent of sharing his calisthenics knowledge and inspiring others to get out and train.  So lucky me, I found the perfect training partner to introduce me to the world of bar training and body weight exercises. unnamed-12 Bar training, calisthenics, body weight workouts are all one and the same and much like how pole has developed into a competitive sport so has bar training.  They have competitions worldwide, the most popular one being The Battle of the Bars put on by the World Calisthenics Organization (WCO).  They have sponsored athletes same as in the pole world and names for all their moves and combos.  Watching a competition is much like a pole comp in that the audience has their favorite athletes that they follow and people are calling out the moves and combos in awe as the athletes show their strength and coordination in gravity defying combos.  A pole competition uses two vertical poles and the audience is predominantly female, whereas a bar competition uses a whole jungle gym of bars, mostly horizontal and the majority of their audience is male.  Their advanced moves involve flips and bar jumps and releases…sounds like an advanced pole competition to me!  The basics start with pull-ups, dips, skin the cat, handstands, pushups and many more.  The biggest discrepancy I have found between doing bar training and pole training is the triceps strength needed.  I found that my pole training resulted in a lot of biceps and back strength; I could do pull-ups even though I never specifically worked on them but anything involving triceps strength I was surprisingly weak.  There are very few pole moves that use triceps strength exclusively.  A caterpillar climb is the most obvious one but when you make a list of the moves using the triceps it pales in comparison to a list of the moves using the biceps.  My lack of triceps strength was my biggest problem in mastering the muscle up.  I had the strength to do the pull-up no problem but once I got my chest to the bar I didn’t have enough strength in my triceps to push myself above the bar. unnamed-11 Delving into the world of bar training and body weight training on non-vertical poles has been such an enjoyable eye-opener for me.  I have discovered new things my body is capable of doing, areas of weakness, areas of potential injury that can be eradicated and an all around fantastic form of cross training for pole, not to mention meeting so many amazing athletes to motivate and encourage me.  Bar training is a great opportunity to get outside and exercise, sometimes we don’t have a pole to train on but many public parks have pull-up bars or parallel bars.  My pole students so often ask me what they can do to condition on the days that they can’t make it to pole class.  Do bodyweight exercises!  Pull-ups, push-ups, dips, leg raises will all help you up your pole game, cross train and strengthen so that you will be that much stronger when you do come to pole class.  Another perk of calisthenics training is that it can be done just about anywhere, no pole needed.  Many of us avid polers tend to spend so much time inside so getting outside to exercise every now and then is a healthy addition to our lives.  Sunlight increases our production of Vitamin D in the body and vitamin D reduces bruising and we all could use a little of that to help lessen the ‘pole kisses’! So I encourage you to try taking your training to a new dimension every now and then and uncover new areas of strength and athleticism that will help take your pole skills to a new level.   About Elizabeth: unnamed-3   Elizabeth is a principle cast member of the Girl Next Door Show, a member of Kelly Yvonne Production Company and a member of the Music of Ghosts Aerialist group. Elizabeth holds a degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on biomechanics and coaching psychology. She is also a certified EMT, holds a black belt in American Kenpo, an ACE certified personal trainer and holds a level two calisthenics certification with the World Calisthenics Organization. Having spent multiple years as a competitive athlete, running marathons and as a competitive fighter on the National Black Belt League circuit, Elizabeth understands first hand the importance of finding the delicate balance between training to optimize sport performance and obtaining a competitive edge without damaging the body from overtraining and injury. Dedicated and passionate about the aerial arts she is eager to share her knowledge and experience to help students unlock their potential and reach new levels of strength and skill. @elizabeth_bfit

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