Trick Talk with Bethany Tyler

Move: The straddle
Level: Three and then forever more

The straddle is one of those fundamental pole tricks that embodies everything pole fitness is all about: strength, control, grace, flexibility, placement and pointed toes!

A clean entry sets the tone for the rest of your combo. Whether you’re going into an Upside-down Crucifix or a Rainbow Marchenko, it all starts with a straddle.

Think of it as a tipping motion rather than a jump. A good tip when you’re starting out is to face away from a mirror, and look for your reflection when you go backwards.

To begin, stand beside the pole and grip it at head height, outside hand on top. Engage your arms, chest, shoulders and core before lifting your knees up and tipping backwards to get your hips meeting your hands. Extend the legs out into a V once you’re upside down.

Keep your muscles engaged the entire time. Even though the arms do straighten out slightly, imagine your elbows being glued to your torso to keep everything locked in.

You can use the kick off momentum to get your hips up to begin with, but as you get more comfortable try reducing the jump or swing and focus on lifting yourself into position instead. This will build arm, shoulder and core strength needed to deadlift your lower body up without a floor to kick off from. You’ll thank yourself later when it’s time to learn aerial straddles.

For those who just can’t seem to get it despite watching every Youtube tutorial under the sun (been there), there’s a sneaky way to train your muscle memory. When you tip back, catch your feet on the pole and use them to hike up your hips to meet your hands. Hold this frog position until you feel sturdy, then slowly extend your feet out over your head and into the straddle v-position. You’ll feel where you need to tense and lock to hold this shape. To get out of it, tuck your knees back in and lower to the ground slowly. This will work the muscle groups you need. Once you start to get this, take your feet off the pole faster each time and soon you’ll be able to get your hips up into the sweet spot without needing to place your feet first.

Remember, the straddle is a trick that can take weeks, months or years, but some prep exercises, strength building, practise and perseverance will get you there in no time.