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A Students’ Perspective of Pole 4

It is my pleasure to introduce our guest blogger, Alex Zabel. Alex is one of our Pole 7/8 students who puts a lot of time and effort into her training. She also understands the methodology of our pole and aerial curriculum. However, she is not shy about letting her instructors know how she is feeling about the exercises. I can’t recall exactly what set Alex off, but after one of my classes with her, she went on a rant about Pole 4. We know this one of our “biggest” and most challenging levels to get through because of all the foundational moves in it. What was fantastic, was that Alex realized this and also the why behind it. So, I told Alex she had to write a post for our blog. I love what she wrote for us (to show my appreciation, bonus core exercises for you next class, Alex).


Before I even went to my first class at Aradia, I scoured the entire website. I must have read every single word on all of the pages. As I was reading about the different levels of pole, including the required assessment before you level up, I was intimidated. Immediately I thought, “Maybe I’ll never have to assess, and I’ll be happy at Level One?”.

Keep in mind, anyone who’s seen me at the studio knows that thought didn’t stick around for long. But, it did stay long enough to make me absolutely committed to mastering each move (in every level and on both sides) before attempting to level up!

This commitment was totally fine as I progressed through Levels One, Two, and Three. Then, Pole Four hit. HOLY SMOKES! Inside AND outside Leg Hangs with NO HANDS?! The bruises from practicing those killed me! And Butterfly?! Butterfly freaked me out! Knee Pit Holds? They looked so beautiful when other people did them, but I swear my knees were not sticky enough to play around with Genie! I did countless Pole Four classes (for real, I have no desire to count the number of Pole Four classes I’ve done). I felt like I was never going to level up.

Guest blogger Alex Zabel in an extended butterfly on pole

Extended Butterfly

I’m not going to lie. I started to get a bit frustrated. How could I have moved through the other levels doing almost the minimum number of classes and then hit this wall in Pole Four? I was excited to learn new things I had seen in different levels at the studio, or on Instagram, and I wasn’t feeling exceptionally patient or interested in waiting.

Having reached the point where I am on the other side of Pole Four, I can say with absolute certainty that every single Pole Four class I did was necessary. In fact, continuing to take Pole Four has been valuable.

I’m going to take this moment to give a shout out to the ladies at Aradia for developing the curriculum the way they have. It’s pure genius! Wizardry.

At some point, it becomes apparent how so many moves at every level build upon themselves in the next level. For example, Jasmine and Leg Hangs are a precursor to nearly everything in the entire world. Practicing Split Grips leads you to Butterfly, which leads you to Extended Butterfly, which

Guest blogger Alex Zabel perfomring a split grip ayesha on pole

Alex perfomring a split grip Ayesha on pole

helps you with your body positioning and confidence for Ayesha (which, in my case, still took forever to get).

Let’s not forget to mention the conditioning! As much as I whine about the conditioning, every time I have to do it, it made such a huge difference in my ability to see success in my moves. Without the regular conditioning, I am sure it would have taken me so much longer than it did!

To blast through any level (especially Pole Four) as quickly as possible, or to train to the point where I simply “beat” the assessment would have been a colossal mistake. We are familiar with the feeling of being discouraged because we can’t get moves. If we don’t spend the time building the strength in the levels previous, we simply prolong the struggle and frustration in our new level. It leaves room for cheats and bad habits that take even more time to correct as we try and compensate for the technique we were too impatient to develop.

Pole is hard. And that’s definitely one of the main reasons why I love it so much! I feel such a huge sense of accomplishment when I finally get that move I’ve been working on for months! And there are infinitely more moves for me to learn and practice! Pole Four isn’t just a plateau where, once you’re past it, you can start flying through the levels again. It’s just the start of when things get hard and take time to master. Instead of looking at it as an irritant or annoyance – I look at it as a turning point where I started doing really cool stuff!

Alex Zabel

Four (real) Reasons You’re Not Progressing

In every athletic and strength-based endeavour, it is possible to hit a plateau. The plateau is a decrease in the progress of your results from your regular training. Plateaus can happen at any point (in our case, in any level), multiple times, and for a multitude of reasons. Plateaus happen to everyone, but not everyone knows how to address them or put in a system to work through them. Here are four real reasons you’re not progressing and some tips on how to move through the block.

1. Foundations and Technique

Building solid foundations and taking the time to perfect technique from the beginning will make your practice better and keep you progressing consistently. If you’re feeling stuck, step back, see if there is anything you can do to improve technique and foundational movements. It’s very easy to get through certain things without proper technique. It does catch up with you eventually, though.

Training specific movements is one of the keys to bettering fluidity in pole, whether you are working on tricks or dance. It may feel repetitive, but something is never “perfect”, it only gets better. This means there is always room for improvement, and a great way to keep your practice moving forward is to practice and better the basics.

2. You avoid your weaknesses

A lot of people tend to avoid weaknesses and stick to what we are good at. This will also eventually catch up with you. If you’re bad at a cradle spin for example, and you don’t understand the technique of properly using your arms to perform a push-pull motion, you’ll be held back from some of the more advanced moves, that let’s be honest, everyone wants (Ayeshas anyone?). So, you will have to work on this weakness. If you are weak at a particular type of grip, work on that. Do some extra training for your arms if you find your upper body is weak. If your core is weak, spend more time on the ground and do your conditioning. Anything that feels difficult and impossible should not be avoided. You’ll get it if you work towards it.

Women in black two piece does handstand against a pole with stag legs

3. Your goals are not refined enough

Refining your goals and setting them properly will ensure you keep progressing. If you are only using your levels to track your progress, you are going to plateau. You are so focused on the level that you don’t see the fundamentals you need to build, and you may potentially skip over them. It is possible to only use strength, or flexibility to obtain moves to a certain point. In some cases, you can use improper engagement and perform the trick – but this leads to injury eventually. Set some measurable goals for your strength and flexibility. How many push-ups can you do? How long can you hold a hollow body position? Can you do a proper handstand? If you run out of endurance in class, do something more cardio-based like dancing, a circuit class, or dare I say it, go for a run.

4. Overtraining/Under Recovering

If you exceed your bodies ability to recover from strenuous work, performance can decrease. It can also happen from monotonous training where your body adapts to what you are doing and plateaus. Cross-training and adding some additional classes that get your body moving differently can really help. If your energy is low, you’re sore all the time, getting injured a lot, you need to rethink your regime. Do you need more downtime for your muscles to recover between intense or long training sessions/days? Are you sleeping and eating enough to keep up with the energy demands?

There are so many more details we could go into, especially for each individual. We all lead different lives, have different strengths and weaknesses, and have different goals. The important thing is to be aware when you’re struggling and keep taking care of yourself. Find what works for you outside of your classes to help you in your classes. Progressing is important – do it safely and in a well planned way so you and your body stay happy.


Train smarter to do harder things.