Tips & Tricks Event Updates

Get That Spring in Your Grip! Mastering the Cup Grip Handspring with 4 Key Exercises

Feb 23, 2021

Despite an April snow-pocalypse blizzard here in Minnesota, things are feeling pretty Springy in May! Things are getting green, sunshine is plentiful, and energy and moods are up. So why not harness all that Spring energy to tackle a seriously fun and seriously challenging move: the Cup Grip Handspring Deadlift?

Ok, I can understand if you are feeling doubtful about this. Cup grip Handspring Deadlift means lifting your bum above your head with nothing but your two hands on the pole. Here’s the bottom line: Is anyone gonna master this first try? Not likely. Is anyone going to master it after just a few sessions? Nope, probably not. (And if they do, that likely means they have spent months, maybe years, strength training in which case, hats off to them!)

So the question remains: How do you get to the top of this pole power move mountain? Spoiler alert! It starts on the ground. Here I share four exercises to help you safely increase your strength and endurance to (some day) master the deadlift!

1. Side Bend: This exercise strengthens your core to help you get your bum above your head and hold it there, helps you build strength for the “push” of your lower arm in deadlift. Plus, you get a little bonus strength work for your latissimus dorsi to help pull your torso up in a deadlift. Sit in a mermaid seat (on one hip, knees and ankles stacked), then plant your top foot flat on the ground, knee bent. Reach your bottom arm out in line with your shoulder and keep it lengthened and long. Inhale, engage your core. Exhale, lengthen your legs, stabilize your torso, and stretch your top arm overhead to a “side plank” position. Try keeping your bottom knee on the ground to make it easier. Do 5-8 on each side.

2. Resistance Band Pulls: This one helps you maintain safe shoulder positioning in both top and bottom arm. Stand facing pole, a light level resistance band wrapped at hip height. Hold the handles one arm overhead, one arm by your side, palms facing forward. Inhale, engage your core. Exhale pull both hands backward. Avoid arching/extending the spine or leaning back to create the pull. Do 10-15 on each side.

3. Quad Stretch + Curls: This exercise helps you build biceps endurance to maintain your top arm positioning in deadlift and helps you stabilize your core for easier float of hips over shoulders. Plus you’ll get a bonus leg workout. Kneel facing pole with light to medium level resistance band wrapped at shoulder height. Grab handles, palm up. Inhale, engage your core. Exhale hinge/flex at the knees, hold that body positioning. Do 10-15 biceps curls. Then hold the biceps curl, hinge/flex at the hips hovering hips above knees, return to lengthened position. Repeat 10-15 times.

4. Corkscrew Variation: This move helps strengthen your core in flexion and rotation to help you float up in a seemingly effortless way! Lie on your back arms overhead or cup gripping the pole. Engage your core. Float the legs to a 45 degree angle. Roll up/articulate through the spine slowly. Rotate/laterally flex the spine/hips so your bum is on the right side of your midline. Roll slowly down. Roll up in the rotated/laterally flexed position. Realign your hips center, roll down slowly. Repeat all to the left. That is one repetition. Do 5-8 repetitions.

So there you have it! Four on the ground and non-superhuman exercises to help you (some day) master the Cup Grip Handspring Deadlift!

*Big thanks to Dr. Misty Austin of Pole Art Athletics (POLElates Dance Science Instructor Course) and Cade Holmseth of 2Defy Gravity for providing learning and inspiration for these progressions and exercises!

For a visual of these moves, plus a few bonus moves on the pole to try after you’ve mastered these four above, click below to see Betty's video:

PPA Guest Blogger Betty Ann is an aerialist and dancer who loves nerding out about strength training and Pilates. She trains out of Aerial Affinity ( in South Central Minnesota.