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Physical stress is an essential aspect of getting stronger and controlling one’s weight. The ways to induce physical stress are wide and varied. Lifting weights, running, swimming, climbing –there are dozens of options available. A lesser-known alternative, however, is pole fitness.
To a layman, using a pole to exercise might seem odd, if not downright confusing, unless they’ve seen someone “do pole” before. After all, it’s just a pole, right? Where to even begin?
Pole fitness is actually an excellent way to burn calories, improve strength and increase flexibility. Starting might seem challenging, but there is hope.
In this article, we’ll go over how to get started with pole fitness by covering:
Before jumping into the core of this article, a brief note: there’s a slight distinction between pole dancing and pole fitness. We’ll get into that later.
Climbing up and down, twirling, holding poses on the pole – these and other movements will make you sweat. And while how many calories you burn ultimately depends on how intensely you engage with pole fitness, it can quickly become a terrific workout.
As you’ll discover later in this article under the “Exercises” section, there are a multitude of ways to get going on the pole. You’ll primarily develop your upper body and core strength, but your legs will also get a bit of action too since they’ll be used to clench the pole.
One of the fantastic aspects about this form of fitness activity, like all others, is that it will aid you to lose weight, gain confidence, build strength and even sleep better. The exercise will also help your heart and reduce stress.
According to this MCAT study materials website:
Kinesthesia is the awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body using sensory organs, which are known as proprioceptors, in joints and muscles. Kinesthesia is a critical component in muscle memory and hand-eye coordination.
Now that we’re all clear about what kinesthesia is, we can examine it a little further in the context of pole fitness.
Spinning, climbing, inverting and so on will likely affect how you perceive your body and its movements. You may not even consciously realize it, but over time your self-awareness might improve, which will in turn assist you in interacting with your surroundings.
For example, whereas before pole you may have unintentionally bumped into a cup on a table with your hand, causing it to shatter, now because of pole you’re more in tune with your body and its actions, both conscious and subconscious; you would avoid that cup and prevent the accident. While this is a random example, it demonstrates that with greater awareness of your body, you can potentially avoid this type of mishap and potentially even those that are more significant.
This form of physical activity doesn’t require a partner. It doesn’t require tons of heavy, bulky exercise equipment. To do it at home, at a minimum all that’s needed is you, a great pole fitness pole and adequate space.
Doing pole at home has other advantages too. You can avoid a costly gym membership or dealing with the people there. You can avoid snow, rain, intense heat and other unpleasant weather.
Another advantage: staying fit during the pandemic and reducing contact with other people. With the pandemic still underway and no clear end in sight, you might prefer to avoid large gatherings like a group exercise class. Pole at home might be just what you need to exercise but feel safe.
The flipside to these advantages is that at home you might feel too comfortable and unmotivated to exercise or there might be too many distractions.
There are some items that make doing pole fitness at home a bit better, and under the “Common questions about pole fitness” section of this article there is more advice on how to set up your own pole fitness studio at home.
Pole inherently has a little more “flair” than some other forms of exercise.
For instance, while Olympic lifts and sprints are raw displays of power, pole is more focused on gracefulness. It definitely requires strength too, of that there is no doubt. But training it is not like adding 10 pounds onto a barbell and doing 10 more reps or doing 3 sets of 100-meter sprints.
When practicing pole, you’re trying to constantly master movements and flow, transitioning from one position to the next. After successfully learning several spins and holds, you can add your own personality to each move and really make pole fitness your own. Contrasting that to back squats, for example, there’s a world of difference in stylistic and expressive potential, and showing some flair and getting fit at the same time might suit you better.
Following up on flair, let’s be straightforward here. Elegant pole movements can very quickly capture attention (some might even say they’re sexy) and you can use this to your advantage to impress someone.
You might be trying to wow a special person you’re interested in, send a captivating video to your Instagram story or maybe prove to yourself that you can do a complex move. No matter the reason, you can use your pole skills to impress viewers.
If you’re just starting pole fitness or aren’t familiar with it at all, you might be facing a case of “who, what, where, when, why and how”. While the Q&A below isn’t absolutely exhaustive, it will give you some fundamental knowledge about pole fitness that you can use to decide if it’s right for you and address some doubts or questions on your mind.
At its core, pole fitness is using a pole to exercise via a combination of spins, holds, climbing, inverting and other interactions with a pole. You can think of it as pole dancing but with the objective of getting a workout. And speaking of pole dancing…
When we engage in any form of physical activity, our bodies can’t differentiate it from dancing, art, play, exercise and so forth. To our bodies, it’s all the same – physical stress.
To our minds, however, there is a difference.
Your objective ultimately determines if you’re doing pole dancing or pole fitness. If you’re trying to exercise, then it’s pole fitness; if you’re trying to put on a show or express yourself, that’s pole dancing. But the line between this distinction is very thin.
While some practitioners of pole dancing might simply dance until they’re tired, those pursuing pole fitness might do, for example, climbs on the pole for 20 minutes followed by some ab exercises. The result in both cases is that they’re getting stronger, but potentially because of different objectives.
No matter if you’re engaged in pole dancing or pole fitness, you’ll always be able to reap the benefits. Been pursuing pole fitness for a while and want to engage in the artistic, expressive aspects of pole dancing for a change? No problem – with the skills and strength you’ve developed, you can switch relatively easily to dancing than if you were starting from scratch.
Some people use the pole to express themselves artistically, others for a workout and some like it to help impress observers. No matter the specific reason, if you start moving on the pole you’ll discover that you’re using muscles and getting stronger.
Pole fitness instructors and dancers may make this activity look easy, but make no mistake, it requires coordination, power and flexibility.
But don’t fret: you too can succeed with your exercise goals, you just need some patience, discipline and guidance. Before you know it, doing pole will become easier and easier!
Well, you’ve found this article – that’s a great start!
Private classes are definitely the fastest way to begin your pole journey and improve. You might, however, want to go with some friends to a group class, and that’s definitely a feasible option too.
It’s highly recommended that you find a community of fellow pole enthusiasts so that you can learn and sweat together. Exercising with them and exchanging insights will help you study new movements more quickly and motivate you to keep going. You’re most likely to encounter the most people that you can meet with regularly at a pole studio.
Yet let’s say you don’t have a pole fitness studio around you. Not a problem! Online discussion boards are also a place to connect with fellow pole enthusiasts, arrange meet ups and discuss technique.
And if you’d rather learn on your own, that leads us to the next question…
In addition to in-person pole studios and discussion boards, there are plenty of online learning aides available, such as workouts on YouTube and virtual classes via private vendors. Three websites you can consider for personal trainers and online lessons include:
Additionally, the “Exercises” section of this article has links to various videos on YouTube showing specific movements and in this Q&A section 3 sample workouts are provided (keep scrolling down).
It almost goes without saying, but here it is anyway. You’ll need a pole! We won’t conceal this point either – we make some of the best pole fitness poles out there and you can see them here.
Aside from a pole, here are other items to consider:
Remember: you’re going to be twirling around, so the more space the better.
Try first defining where you want to place the pole and then stretch out from that point so your body is fully extended. Then you’ll have an idea of approximately what your max reach from the pole is.
Assuming only you will use the pole, take this max reach and add at least 1 foot for safety. If people taller than you plan to use the pole, it’s a good idea to allocate more space.
Let’s say you don’t want to get that specific with your height, the height of the friend that totally wants to do pole with you but always bails, your partner’s height and so forth. A relatively safe amount of space to allot all around the pole is 6.5 feet.
I arrived at this number by looking at the average height in the USA, which is 5 feet 9 inches, and adding a few more inches for good measure. For other countries, you can follow this logic and then adjust the numbers.
If you don’t have 6.5 feet of space in a radius around the pole, don’t worry – you can still practice climbing and some static moves. You can even practice spins, but your selection will be limited if you’re concerned about safety.
If at home you have two or more poles near each other, then establishing a safe poling radius becomes a little more complicated. You need to factor in the possibility of two people doing pole at the same time and potentially colliding with each other. It would be a major bummer to spin and then hit someone in the process, right?
To avoid a collision like this, you can consider the guidelines offered by the American Pole league (section 5.2 in their guidelines), which is a minimum distance of about 10 feet between each pole.
Ultimately, how much area you need is contingent upon the moves you want to do. If you’re just starting out, then you likely don’t need all that much space. As you progress in pole, you can consider adding more room around the pole to accommodate your growing arsenal of movements.
Unless you’re really looking for a challenge or you’re trying to perform glow in the dark pole dancing, your home pole studio should have lots of light.
You’ll need all of this illumination to properly see the pole. It would be awful to mess up a movement just because you couldn’t see the pole clearly enough.
Additionally, all that brightness will serve well for all the photos, live streams and videos you may want, which leads us to the next recommendation…
Mastered a new movement and want to show the world? Maybe you’re just dying to livestream your pole workout on Instagram? Or maybe you want to ask someone to critique your form or do that yourself?
If you’re going to use your phone for any pictures, videos or live streams, a phone stand will help greatly. You’ll gain the ability to capture media with a stable piece of equipment.
By including at least one mirror in your home studio, you’ll get the chance to instantly see yourself performing pole movements. You can then observe your reflection and critique your form. You might even just want to admire yourself doing a cool move!
You might sweat up a storm after an intense pole session or have used a metric ton of grip aid. To clean off yourself, you can use a nearby towel. To clean grip aid from your pole, you can use a towel and alcohol disinfectant. No one wants a dirty pole studio right?
Coming down from your pole and landing on a hard surface might get painful after a few times.
If you want to minimize the pain of touching down on the ground after a pole movement, you can consider a mat that surrounds the pole.
The mat can also serve as a great place to do floorwork.
Like the mat mentioned above, a yoga mat can be useful because it’ll provide comfort. By using a yoga mat, you won’t have to stretch or warm up on a tough surface.
Pole fitness is better with a pole, but you might be waiting for yours to arrive or saving up for one. In either case, don’t fret! There are exercises you can do to prepare for pole in the meantime.
Later in this article, under the “Exercises” section, there are exercises that can help you strengthen muscles relevant to pole.
You can differentiate poles four ways: how it’s stabilized, spin factor, material & coating and diameter.
There are three main ways that poles remain stable. They can be divided into freestanding, pressure and fixed poles.
Freestanding poles combine a weighted base with a pole in the middle.
Since this type offers stability without requiring a ceiling, the base is relatively heavy in order to act as a counterbalance to all the movements that will be performed. What that means is the freestanding variety is harder to transport, but more convenient in the sense that a ceiling isn’t required. You will have more flexibility where to practice or exhibit your pole moves.
Pressure poles are secured with a base on the ground and ceiling. The pressure applied to the ceiling and floor keeps the pole in place despite movements on it. These are generally movable, making them a relatively flexible option in case you decide to relocate your pole somewhere else.
Fixed poles are secured with a base on the ground and a mount on the ceiling. The mount connects with screws that bore into a beam or other secure surface.
This type of pole is a real commitment to a particular location. If you’re considering a fixed pole, then make sure you don’t want to move it anytime soon!
To spin or not to spin, that is the question.
Some poles spin, others don’t move at all. Then there are those that can do both depending on how you configure it.
A spinning pole is more difficult to handle than a static one, so with that in mind, if you’re a beginner it’s best to start with your pole in non-spin mode and gradually work your way up to being able to use it in spin mode.
Pole fitness is rapidly growing in popularity and there are several choices for materials that reflect different expectations for grip and style. While new styles and materials might become available in the future, here are some common varieties popular on the market now.
Generally speaking, poles range from 38mm to 53mm. Depending on the size of your hands, the movements you normally perform and the type of grip you want, the thinnest or thickest varieties might actually suit you. But the 45mm pole is the most widely accepted one and is the standard of the American Pole League (section 5.3 in their guidelines), so if you’re considering buying your first pole for pole fitness, it’s a good idea to stick with 45mm.
It is, but there’s a caveat.
Pole fitness is not a panacea; it must be combined with other decisions to get a positive outcome. You need to frequently burn more calories than you consume and implement lifestyle changes. At a minimum, to see results, you need to pair this form of exercise with diet control.
And these habits must be consistent. If you do them regularly and in tandem, you can achieve healthy weight loss. Don’t give up!
At the links below, you can see some routines.
Yes, you do.
No matter what type of pole you buy, you should use a level to determine if where it’s being placed is straight and if the bases are level after they’ve been positioned.
Using a level is important because you don’t want your pole to be on an uneven surface. That could jeopardize its stability and your safety.
While this list is not an endorsement to go out and buy these tools right away without researching what’s necessary to install your pole, other tools to consider are:
It may seem like an odd consideration, but people ask!
From the perspective of hair impacting your movements, no, you don’t need to shave. But if you want hairy legs or armpits to be included in photos and videos, that’s up to you!
Raw forearm strength is a major determinant of your grip ability. As you practice pole, your forearm strength will definitely increase, but if you want to accelerate that process, you can consider buying a grip trainer or doing forearm exercises.
There are other ways to improve grip, such as by using grip aid. These come in several different forms, like liquids, gels, sprays and more.
There are at least two points to consider before starting.
The first is that it’s not reasonable to expect to be a complete master of pole fitness right from the beginning. It may just look like a pole, but don’t underestimate it.
Depending on how determined and active you are, you’ll see different levels of results. Remember to be patient, keep at it, and before you know it, you’ll see yourself improve. Don’t be discouraged – getting better at pole is a journey!
The second point is that pole fitness hurts. After all, you’re going to be rubbing raw skin against a metal object.
Pole fitness causes minor injuries and if you’re not careful or buy shoddy equipment, you can hurt yourself more significantly. Every form of exercise carries with it some risk of injury and training pole is no exception.
From doing pole in particular you can expect friction burns, blisters, soreness and bruises. Or in other words, “pole kisses”.
What would pole fitness be without the fitness?
Now that we have some background understanding of pole fitness, let’s look at a few actual exercises.
The suggestions listed below are by no means an absolutely complete list. But they will help get you started, whether you have a pole or not.
One quick pointer: when you’re doing these exercises, try to point your toes! It will make them slightly more challenging and stimulating. This adjustment can’t be applied to every movement but for those where it’s possible, give it a try!
Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for – recommended pole exercises! There are certainly more moves out there but these should get you going. Almost all of these target the whole body.
Last but not least: what should you wear when practicing pole fitness?
You’ve got your own style and personality. The specific color and appearance of the clothes are up to you, but there are some general points to consider when choosing what to wear for pole fitness. The points below are merely guidance; at the end of the day, wear (or refrain from wearing) what makes you feel comfortable.
Especially if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to wear and not wear certain types of clothing and articles because they can affect pole fitness movements. After all, in the early stages, your concern should be on having a solid grasp of doing the movements correctly and you don’t want the wrong clothing interfering with that.
For starters, you can consider removing jewelry because it may damage your pole. As for other “do not wears”, as you’re starting pole fitness it’s best to avoid shoes, socks, heels, and other footwear. But why?
Pole requires your skin to make contact with the pole and the more it’s exposed the more grip you’ll have. That includes your feet.
Fabrics can make interacting with the pole harder because most will affect how you slide up, down and around it. They inherently have a “slipperiness factor”. Looking at footwear, it separates your feet from the pole, which can at the very least affect climbing. And when it comes to heels in particular, if you’re doing a high velocity spin and they’re not secured, the heels could easily fly off and break something.
Essentially, fabrics and shoes add another level of difficulty to movements. They may even make pole fitness for rookies more dangerous since they won’t be able to get the grip they need, which could result in unforeseen injuries.
The considerations above are for doing movements with the pole. You may want to consider wearing leggings, socks, knee socks or knee pads for other pole fitness related activities, like floorwork.
It’s generally best to wear a tank top, t-shirt or sports bra and shorts. And when it comes to shorts, the shorter the better.
You can consider a tank top, t-shirt or going topless. Like for women, it’s best to wear relatively short shorts so that you can maximize grip on the pole.
Some people lift weights, others swim. Then there those that prefer running or climbing. There are countless ways to stay in shape, and amongst them pole fitness is growing in popularity.
To the mainstream, pole fitness may not seem like an obvious choice. But it offers great benefits and its differences from common exercise choices make it appealing to people who haven’t found the right fit with other methods.
So far, all it’s missing is you!
We sincerely hope this guide has been of use to you and wish you the best of luck in getting started with pole fitness. If you’ve found this guide helpful, please consider sharing it with your friends, family or fellow pole enthusiasts.
And if you’ve got an amazing picture using a Yaheetech pole, be sure to post about it on Instagram so we can reshare it! You can find us on Instagram at yaheetech_official.