Untalented Polers' Guide to the Handspring DEADLIFT / Part 1

First and foremost, can I get an imaginary fist bump from the people who appreciated the reference? **BumP** hehehehe, ok, back to serious business. Are you ready to get nerdy with me? Don't worry, I have done the nerding myself and I am determined to not bore you with details. HOWEVER, even with all the nerding out of the way, this is a long topic, so I decided to publish it in 2 parts. The FUNKY HELMET and all the other unusual trouble shooting will follow soon!

If you are genuinely interested about my thought process or the science behind my logic, please do not hesitate to contact me via email. There is nothing more that I like than to talk about these topics, and I would be happy to share any material that would be of use to you :). But, these blog posts are created to be both useful and fun, not scientific articles.


Now, we all know the name of the trick, but do we really understand it? In my vast experience (and long battles) with advanced pole tricks, I realized that there is a big difference between knowing the trick and understanding its mechanics. Since we usually skip this very important step of understanding, we increase our chances of injury by jumping right into doing trick specific drills or worse, trying to do the trick itself (!!!).

I know that some of you will read this and think "pfff I did it right away and nothing happened!". First of all, you were lucky! Secondly, there is a lot of people out there -like me- who do not have the ideal proportions, body type, muscle or bone structure for pole or any upper body heavy sport. These people do really struggle to achieve certain tricks. As a trainer, it is very important to be able to identify the odd ones out, as well as being able to cater to their needs.

It might be hard to believe but some of us need to bust our asses and brains out 3 times more than your average poler, just to be able to keep up with the norm. We also might need better structured progressions or different drills to avoid getting injured while we are on our path to "THE TRICK". So our incapability of performing hardcore tricks, might not JUST be about lack of strength or technique.

Let's take a closer look at the aerial handspring deadlift and be better acquainted. It might look simple (in terms of mechanics), but it is actually such a complex move that requires all of the following: strength&endurance, insane amount of muscle control, coordination, mobility, good technique, mental strength, body awareness&air awareness... I know right, when you list it like that, suddenly that simple lifting move got serious! Oh by the way, unfortunately, if you lack one of the following, you are just not going to be able to do it safely. If your goal is sustainability, then it is good idea to take it seriously :o).

When you consider all of the requirements listed above, you can also see that there is a good chance that your struggle with this trick, might not be just about strength. HOWEVER, there are some strength and technical prerequisite moves/drills that you should be able to perform, before even considering to work on this one. Now let's check if you are physically ready...

For the following section, please refrain from rolling your eyes with the amount of needed prerequisites. Remember, connective tissue health is (should be) your priority here, along with your general health&happiness.


  • Handspring with ALL GRIPS: Yes, this includes cup grip (which is anatomically the healthiest grip you can use for a handspring anyway, so you better start loving it!). The more you practice the handspring with different grips and different entrances (from the pole, from the floor, transitioning from different moves, etc...), your ROM control will increase. Plus, your body will start building neural pathways to improve your proprioception in general. Some examples can be seen here.

  • Iron X with CUP GRIP: Sorry folks, but deep down, I know you also know that twisted grip Iron X, is just can't compete with the cup grip in terms of strength. I know it is hard, but Aerial HS Deadlift is harder. Therefore, you really should want to prepare your muscles and connective tissue for stability, and cup grip Iron X is very good for this ;o). Do you still like me? Here is my first 5 second hold approximately from a year and a half ago. Notice how I am actually descending from a Handstand position, rather than a straddle position. This one is a harder progression, but it also works your upper arm grip/biceps very well.

  • The controlled descent from HS to the split grip deadhang: This one makes sense, right? Practicing a trick eccentrically, before attempting to do it concentrically. Basically reversing the movement. You may use your favourite grip choice for this one, preferable the one you would use for the deadlift too. Ok... Go ahead and use twisted grip *sulking*. BUT you should know that it is possible to do the deadlift and the descent from all grips. Let's take a moment to admire Phoenix Kazree, demonstrating perfect technique on all 3 deadlifts AND descents... Oh by the way, she made this video specifically for this blog (for you! - and me :P), so a huge THANK YOU to Phoenix <3.

  • Hold the Tulip Pose: You know that pose that you get in right before attempting to lift your self up? Yeah, the one that you look 'oh so hopeful' with your chest open and away from the pole (bottom hand pushing), gazing up through the sky and your feet pointing beautifully towards the floor with your legs together. Here is a pretty image that I found of Sherry Bremner with my googling skills, in case you are a bit confused.

  • Aerial Shoulder Mount DEADLIFT: Just so you can see if your body is able to make the transition from an extended position to a contracted position while lifting.


Honestly, you may think you do -I know I did- but just in case, try this active mobility control pattern that I came up with, specifically for the HS deadlift. Truth is, the HS deadlift goes through a VERY BIG range of motion in your shoulders. So if your shoulders lack the active ROM of the same pattern without the load, it will have to compensate a lot when you put all your bodyweight on them. So you may be able to do it, but on the long run, at what cost?

There is actually no way of knowing for sure, your body may be more durable than mine, you may be just fine. Are you in a rush though? Wouldn't you want to take a safer path? As an athlete -and a very strict coach- I always take a safer approach by using progressive over load, rather than pushing my body too much to the limits that it is not ready yet. So far, I do not have ANY chronic injuries, neither does my athletes (ahem, the ones who actually listen to me...).

By the way, excuse my goofy face and talking, feel free to laugh at them. I am not used to talking on the video at all, I hope I will get better at it with practice :D ! IMPORTANT NOTE: These are NOT full mobility drills for the shoulders, rather a specific pattern to check if you have the mobility for the skill itself or not. I also suggest doing these without the weights first (it was easier for me to show you the positioning of the hands with them, that is why I use them in the video), rather than directly trying it with discs. If you can not do these drills without weights, I advise you to work on your shoulder joint mobility before attempting to use weights or practice deadlifting on them... Remember, injuries set you back big time!

Well, this is the end of the first part with all the things you want to check before we move on to the juicy bits (including the unusual helmet approach that I came up with a month ago-heheheh). When you go through all of these and you have a BIG GREEN TICK right next to ALL OF THEM, but you still can not do the move, it is time for identifying your specific problem and creative troubleshooting!

If you want to stay in the loop, make sure to sign up for my newsletter. As usual, if you have any comments, questions or experiences you would like to share, don't hesitate! I love interacting :o).

-JOY G. Wild

#skill #poledance #skilllearning #Handspring #handspringdeadlift #deadlift #joygwild #poletricks #advancedpoletricks

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