The science behind backwarmers

The science behind backwarmers.

Wearing backwarmers has lately become very popular in the pole and aerial community. Many sport apparel companies has add them to their shops, and they are now available in diverse range of materials. They are cosy, comfortable and cute, but are they really that important when it comes to your flexibility progress? And what is actually the whole science behind this item?
As everyone knows, during any physical activity your body temperature rises. As the heart rate and blood circulation increase and breathing becomes deeper ,your body starts producing sweat. It's an absolutely natural reaction which prevents your body from getting overheated and your whole system to collapse. Sweat on skin can cool the body down in very short amount of time. The problem with the whole process is that when it happens too fast, it is basically a temperature shock to which not only the skin, but mostly the muscles can react with soreness, stiffness and a lot of discomfort, especially the next day. All high level athletes want to prevent that from happening and they do that simply by putting on clothes right after being done with their physical activity.
Stretching doesn't make you sweat like for example running, but still, it is not a passive or relaxing activity. If done correctly, active flexibility training should make your heart rate come up.  After all, it is very important to be properly warm before you even start stretching. Keeping up your body temperature stable during your flexibility practice will give you the best results and that is when a good quality backwarmer can come in help. It will be able to absorb sweat, while still keeping you feeling warm and cosy. A good backwarmer should also be long enough to cover your entire middle and lower back, and stay on place without rolling down too much.


Progress and injury prevention

It's really not rocket science that warmth is helpful during flexibility training. As stretching and bending in sauna sounds like a great idea, dropping into a split right after ice cold shower feels like pure madness. When muscles and joints are not warmed up, the risk of getting injured is much higher. The joints are crucial to warm up as well, as they help the muscles to release the tension. Warming up your muscles with at least 10 minutes of cardio activity should be mandatory before you even get into stretching. You can try jogging, jumping over the rope, or riding a gym bicycle, but when it comes to warming up your joints, the best what you can do would be lot's of circular motion such as hip circles, leg swings and all the yoga poses that include twisting your spine.
While working on backbends, the focus is not only on muscles, but also on deep connective tissue and joints. Everything in the whole body is connected together. Very often the biggest issues that are keeping you away from your dream backbend and splits progress, might be blockages in your pelvis, lover back, hips and abdominal. Not saying that warmth will cure all that, but together with focused breathing and some myofascial release techniques, it will help your body to relax and go further in stretches.
After all, backwarmers were used long time before the whole pole/aerial community even "discovered" them. They were mostly used by rhythmic gymnastics schools who are known for their intense backbending trainings, by ballet dancers who often suffer from poor circulation and low body temperature due to small body fat percentage and professionally trained dancers in general.
The conclusion is that wearing a backwarmer might be very useful, helpful, cute and fashionable all together but at the end, it is something you just need to try for yourself.. literally on your own skin.
Article written by Michaela Aerial ,with help of Nicky Van Bommel.
Nicky Van Bommel is a personal trainer/coach specialized in flexibility and mobility, certified pilates instructor, certified pfysio in 4xT method and techniques. She is a passionate aerialist as well. Loves helping circus artists to increase the ability of their body in a safe & quick way and trying to bring physio and PT knowledge/skills together as they belong. 

Backwarmers, why suddenly such a big whoop?

I guess you have already heard about backwarmers and all the great reasons why it is good to wear them. But maybe you might be interesting in knowing why they came out so suddenly and why everybody is wearing it today.

Well, safety in every sport developed in time and it is known that humans unfortunately tend to learn mostly by their mistakes. In this case mistakes would be different kind of injuries in sport. When it comes to pole-dancing, only about 10-15 years ago, girls were already performing floor-work and exotic moves, but nobody thought about the impact it might have in the future for their knees. In the beginning of my pole career myself I ended up in a hospital with swollen painful knees. And nowadays? Every exotic pole-dance class requires to wear protective knee pads. Yes, it is not just a fashionable article that makes you look cool but hey, it serves it's cause.

When we look for example to some other sport, lets say Ice Hockey. Around 1920's when this sport came out as international competition, clothing was mostly protecting players from cold weather. Uniform contained shorts, high socks, gloves and t-shirt. It was only in 1979 that helmets finally became mandatory for all NHL players, because obviously in history countless ugly injuries had happened.

In gymnastic schools, many teachers and trainers were already working with backwarmers and did recommend them to their students for safety reasons, especially during back-bending practice. But because there were no clothing companies producing them, parents from young gymnasts were knitting them themselves or simply made it by cutting off an old pullover or thick t-shirt.

Pole-dance as a sport went through long period of evolution. Before it was all about the power tricks and dancers were training for those dead lifts, handsprings and flags. Now almost every dancer I know has Rainbow Marchenko on their dream-move wish-list. Most pole-dance studios used to put much bigger focus for example to leg flexibility practice over backbending. But as the demand for back flexibility training increased, it has been added to stretching lessons.

Contortion and back bends are quiet heavy for your spinal muscles, so be gentle to your body and advance slowly. Be aware about your limits and never push through pain. Practice regularly and under surveillance of experienced trainer, and always, ALWAYS do a proper warm up. And last but not least, learn from mistakes of others and protect your back with a backwarmer.

Why should I wear a backwarmer?

Why should I wear a backwarmer?

A backwarmer will keep your back warm while working on your backbends. They are used by contortionists, ballet dancers and gymnasts during stretching and working on their overall flexibility, but mostly backbends. Some gymnastic schools even require wearing them during their lessons, especially for children and youths.
To bring faster progress and to prevent injuries, you should keep your spinal muscles, joints, ligaments and fascia warm with a backwarmer.
Circular movements together with warmth makes your joints become smoother and ready for deeper backbends. 

A warm back is a happy back!

It is better for your muscles to stretch if  they are 1 or 2 degrees above your usual body temperature. This is particularly important for the small, delicate muscles of the lower back, which are prone to tightness, bruising, cramping and possible injury when engaging in deep backbends (or even little backbends if your back is just getting used to that range of motion).

Also for poledancers?

Yes, it is especially for pole dancers! Even if you’re not doing any flexibility training, this can be helpful in terms of keeping your body temperature stable during workout. 
A backwarmer can be handy for pole dancers, who typically wear very little clothing in order to grip the pole. That is for example during a cool down sequence of the class. The moment when the body gets very warm and start sweating, it will cool down easily without proper clothing. This can cause muscle strains and injuries.
Not letting your body cool down too fast after your pole exercise prevents soreness and helps muscle recovery. If you need more grip on the pole, simply roll your backwarmer lower, or take it off. It takes just few seconds. But actually wearing it during your next class ,will make big difference on how you are going to feel the day after.

For the aerialist...

Backwarmer can act as a protective layer while doing your exercises on the hoop, silks or trapeze. MiiWear Backwarmer Velour edition are little bit less stretchy then models made from lycra, but they slide less and provide thicker layer of protection. They are more likely to stay on the right place to protect your body from bruises and burns. For aerial exercises it's very important to keep your back warm, even if you are not very flexible, because most of the poses and movements are done in your maximum range of motion. And of course, warmth helps your body get further in the movement, be more flexible, and make your moves look prettier.  

Got inspired to get a backwarmer of your own?
Then get one at our MiiWear webshop!