Anatomy of the Spatchcock Revisited

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The Elusive Spatchcock

When I posted this in 2015, it was right in the middle of a great debate about the Spatchcock’s aesthetics, there were some very strong comments made and a lot of equally strong responses. It was quite a stir! Whether you like the look of the Spatchcock or not is a matter of your personal taste and each to their own, the fact remains that the Spatchcock is one of the most revered, desired, and elusive pole tricks. Why is it so dang hard to get? Before we take a closer look, we need to get on the same page with straddle terminology. Thanks to my obsessive photo-documentation habit, I was able to dig up two old pictures to show you.

This is what I mean when I say straddle/ middle split.
Hips NOT folded.

Straddle. Pole Physio Blog

This is what I mean when I say straddle pancake, or just pancake.
Hips folded

Straddle Pancake. Pole Physio Blog
What Does it Take to Spatchcock

To be able to do the Spatchcock, you need a strong anterior pelvic tilt with hips in end range flexion, abduction and external rotation with concurrent thoracic and lumbar extension.

Come again? What the hell does all that mean?

It means you need to be able to confidently and competently do an aerial sideways straddle pancake with a little back arch.

To Spatchcock, you need a straddle pancake with a little back arch, sideways and in the air.
The Spatchcock Myth

Contrary to common belief, you do not need a full straddle (180 degree flat middle split) to do the Spatchcock. This is deceptive because some of the most amazing Spatchcocks we have seen are from people with extreme movement ability and their legs do look very straight, this is usually because they are in an over straddle pancake.

Your legs need to make a wide “V” for the Spatchcock and your “V” needs to be as wide as it takes for you to fold flat and get your back through the pole, this is a matter of proportion between your torso and your legs, the longer your legs are in proportion to your torso, the bigger the “V” needs to be for you to fold flat and get through.

To achieve this “V” you need good active range of both your adductors and hamstrings, good neural mobility, you must also have good awareness, strength, and control through the entire range of movement of your “V”, and especially right at the end range of your “V”, otherwise you will not be able to handle the load on your legs whilst you transition in and out of, and when you are in the Spatchcock. The lack of any of these movement component puts you at risk of injury whilst attempting the Spatchcock, many adductors and hamstrings have succumbed to this.

You must have good awareness, strength, and control through the entire range of movement of your “V”, especially right at the end range of your “V”.
The All Important Anterior Pelvic Tilt

To fold down from a seated “V” to a pancake, you first and foremost need an outstanding anterior tilt of the pelvis, if you don’t have this available to you in your Movement Sphere, it is not going to happen. This is something a lot of people struggle with.

If you have a solid straddle pancake plus good technique, you should be able to do some form of a Spatchcock. But a straddle pancake is just the beginning! From here on things get seriously difficult. Let me show you.

I had a decent straddle pancake to make it but I didn’t quite have enough active external rotation (turn out) in my hips to get my Achilles on the pole. I could have gotten away with that if I had better extension in my thoracic and lumbar spines (middle and lower back) to get through the pole more. I didn’t, which is why my back was rounded and the whole thing looked very squished and precarious. It wasn’t secure at all and I have fallen out of it many times. I got lucky and stuck it on stage and Brad captured it. Thanks, Brad!

You can see very clearly that my legs are in a wide “V”.

Selina. Pole Dance Spatchcock
My Spatchcock.

The Queen of Spatchcock
Felix Spatchcock. Front. Pole Physio Blog
The Queen!

How does one get a Spatchcock like our Queen Felix’s? Apart from the pre-requisite straddle pancake, you also need very good lumbar and thoracic extension so the pole can sit nicely across your back, meaning that you need to add a little back arch whilst in your straddle pancake, and you must of course have good awareness, strength and control in your back also.

Imagine doing a straddle pancake on the floor and actively peel your sternum off the floor whilst keeping your belly button touching the floor without losing the turn out in your legs and the size of your “V”. Oh and don’t forget to breathe. This is hard! Now take all that up the pole and try to actively manoeuvre your body in and out of it without falling off whilst looking graceful! Crazy hard.

One Last Thing

When doing any pole tricks that require extreme flexibility or strength, you only ever want to use a maximum of 85% of your available movement ability to execute that movement, you need to leave at least 15% to allow for error. If you use 100% of your movement ability to perform a trick, should something go wrong, like if you fatigue or sweat and slip a little, with no margin for error you’re very likely going to sustain an injury. When you take this margin of error into consideration, the level of movement ability required to safely do the Spatchcock is something very few people have and hence why the Spatchcock is one of the most elusive pole tricks there is.

Felix Spatchcock. Back. Pole Physio Blog
Lovely back arch in Felix’s Spatchcock.

Does it mean there is no hope for you? Not necessarily. If your body proportion is favourable for you to achieve all the components of the Spatchcock and you’re happy and willing to commit to a long-term project and train consistently for it, a Spatchcock is not impossible.

All Spatchcock images courtesy of Vertigo Photography. Thanks, Brad!

’Til next time, Be Free In Your Movement™.

B. Phty
This information is not medical advice. Got health concerns? Consult a real-life health professional.
Views are my own

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Selina Asirus Tannenberg. Voice Physio


Selina Tannenberg is a Meanjin (Brisbane)-based Physiotherapist, Singer, Composer. She believes a Strong, Limber and Fit body is an under-utilised key to enhancing Vocal Efficiency and Performance so has created Voice Physio to help Singers build Strong Bodies for Singing! She publishes music under her nom de plume, Asirus, and has a pet dragon named Sk’on.

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