Grips for Inverted Poses
This is the second to last in my series on grip variations. Two weeks ago I wrote about shoulder mount grips, and last week it was how you can climb using different grips. This week, it’s all about how to hold onto the pole once you’re upside down. Just like with other pole moves, there are so many ways to tackle inverted poses, and honestly, I think you’re seriously short-changing yourself as a pole dancer if you don’t become familiar (if not fluent) in each. Since there are several, I’ll take on split grip and twisted grip this week and cup, elbow, and forearm next week.
I’ll start with split grip, also known (to me anyway) as True Grip. This is the grip you see most pole dancers using for moves like butterfly/extended butterfly. In a split grip, bottom thumb faces downward, top thumb faces upward, and both wrists are on the same side of the pole — the same side as the dancer’s body.
Split grip is a stable, secure grip where you can have totally aligned joints. Your bottom hand can have the “magic finger,” which is index finger pointing down to the floor, or no magic finger, in which case the hand is fully wrapped. In most cases, for most dancers’ physiology, magic finger is the way to go — because it enforces the rule of keeping a neutral wrist alignment when anatomically possible. You can’t torque your wrist all wonky when your index finger is pointing toward the ground. Well, maybe you can if you’re double jointed. But most of us can’t. 😉
In split grip, you can adjust your top arm placement according to your strength. You can keep it low-ish, elbow slightly bent … or extend it and go with a straight arm … or anywhere in between. Most of the time you’ll see a little bend in the top arm, and that bend provides the ability to pull in to the pole with more control. To see split grip in action, check out this screenshot from Doctor Ken/Pole Ninja Kenneth Kao — you can click on the picture to go to his video tutorial:
Next up is twisted grip, the cousin of split grip. Twisted grip seems to be the grip du jour for so many dancers when it comes to moves like aysha, iron x, and straight edge. In a twisted grip, your bottom arm is set on the pole the same as it is for split grip, but your top arm rotates and twists from the shoulder, allowing the wrist to wrap around the side of the pole.
My take on this grip: using TG and TG only is frequently a shoulder injury waiting to happen. It relies largely on your body’s skeletal structure for stability rather than arm and core strength. Most dancers find it to be easier, and that’s why a lot of students learn it first to gain confidence. And I have no real problem with learning TG. What I do have an issue with is dancers who don’t like to train any other grips because they are too difficult or feel unstable once they’ve gotten used to twisted grip. That’s because of the parts of your body that you’re using in TG vs. other grips, which require more muscle control and core strength. This is not to say that twisted grip is horrible — but it is also not the be all, end all to holding inverted poses. From what I have seen, it’s the least flexible when it comes to transitioning in/out, for most dancers anyway, and that alone should encourage you to explore different grips and how they can be used in different combinations.
I turn back to the Pole Ninja for a screenshot of this one in use. Again, you can click on the image to go to the YouTube video tutorial:
More next week! Until then, happy poling!