What Is Pole Fitness? The Ultimate Guide. (All Your Questions Answered)
What pops into your head when you hear the term pole dancing or pole fitness? I know. You see, over the years pole dancing has been deemed ‘evil’ as it’s been associated with strip clubs and the adult industry. But again, it is increasingly being embraced in equal measure for good reasons – more on this in a minute.
In this post, I will convince you that pole fitness is the best exercise you are missing out on. I’ll also give you guidelines to getting started but before that…
Let’s address this controversial topic.
Pole Fitness Explained
Pole Dancing vs Pole Fitness
Pole fitness is a category within pole dancing that involves a combination of acrobatics and gymnastics. To understand what pole fitness is, you need to know that pole dancing can be broadly categorised into three components: acrobatic-oriented, dance-oriented and sensual. Pole fitness is the acrobatic orientation of pole dancing.
It is a full-body workout that incorporates all kinds of climbs, drops, spins, inversions and acrobatics, as well as floor work. In pole fitness, you maximise the use of pole as a piece of fitness equipment to train for strength, coordination, flexibility and balance.
History of Pole Fitness: Where It All Began
Indian and Chinese Pole
The use of pole for acrobatics can be traced 800-900 years ago in India, to the traditional sport of mallakhamb. To date, this sport involves the use of wooden poles with wider widths than the modern poles, but the moves and tricks are very similar. Check out this video of mallakhamb acrobats for more comprehension.
Around the same time, there was “Chinese pole” where acrobats would leap between two poles that were up to 20 ft high, alongside performing climbs and inversions. They completed these routines fully clothed since they used silicone or powder coated poles. ( Learn more about the different types of materials used for poles here).
First time in America…
These early types of pole fitness landed in America from Asia around 1870. It became synonymous with travelling fairs that were often performed by Ghawazi dancers from Egypt. By the 1920s, during the great depression, dancers would captivate customers to pay for shows by sexually dancing against the pole. The nature of this dance led to it moving from the circus to the bars.
Between the 1980s and 1990s, pole dancing became associated with strip clubs. More acrobatic and athletic tricks were nonetheless blended with striptease.
Pole Dancing Classes and the Olympics
During the 90s, pole dancing began to be taught in classes as an art and a form of fitness. It started gaining mainstream popularity in America, Australia and Europe by the early 2000s. To date, the classes are offered in gyms and studios in the majority of cities.
The number of people taking up these classes increases every day. In 2003, a campaign was launched to make pole dancing a sport in the Olympics and in 2017 the Olympics committee put it under “special observer” status. This means it is recognized as a sport but won’t participate in the competition until certain standards are met. Hopefully, pole fitness will be an Olympic sport in the next 4 to 8 years.
Benefits of Pole Fitness
Pole fitness is one of the most beneficial ways of exercising. As said earlier, it is a complete body workout that employs the same level of athleticism and skill as any other sport.
It has gained popularity over the years as people discover the following benefits.
Increased Muscle Strength
Even if you begin this fitness journey without much body strength, you’ll soon develop it as a majority of pole moves engage multiple muscles at once. Pole fitness requires you to lift and hold your body weight on a pole as you perform tricks. This not only builds up your upper body strength but also your core and leg muscles.
Also, the repetitions involved in perfecting pole tricks, will eventually leave you stronger and ripped without you realising it.
Increased Mobility and Flexibility
Mobility and flexibility are two very related concepts. Flexibility is the ability of your muscles to lengthen while mobility is the ability of your joints to attain their full range of motion. These two are required for you to be a good pole fitness athlete, and you can develop both of them in a pole fitness program.
A typical class will have flexibility exercises integrated with strength training. It may also involve some elements of floor work. All these improve your flexibility and mobility, making your body less susceptible to injury.
Improved Cardiovascular health
It is advised that adults spend at least 2 hours a week doing moderately intense exercises to improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system. I am gladly stating that pole fitness is ideal to keep your heart rate up alongside other health benefits.
Pole fitness falls between moderate and intense workouts, similar to aerobics. Most pole fitness sessions start with cardio exercises to warm up and prepare the body for exercises.
In 2019, a study was conducted to analyze the metabolic and physiological demands of a 60-minute pole fitness class. In an hour, the participants burned 281.6 Kcal and confirmed an RPE ( Rate of Perceived Exertion) of 6.3, on a scale of 1 to 10. This rate is high and comparable to other intense sports.
Pole fitness also raises your basal metabolic rate, that is, the ability of your body to burn calories when at rest. This means you’ll be able to not only burn calories during a session but also between sessions. Combined with a healthy diet program, you’ll bid goodbye to that stubborn fat.
Just like any other workout, pole fitness results in the discharge of endorphins which have been proven to reduce levels of stress and anxiety. Being part of the pole fitness community also brings a sense of solidarity, empowerment and confidence.
All these, combined with improved health levels and physical appearance achieved through this sport, will have your self-esteem shoot up. In simpler words, pole fitness is as fulfilling as any other fitness endeavour you can choose to pursue.
Getting Started With Pole Fitness
Is Pole Fitness for Everyone?
Absolutely. Anyone can do pole regardless of age, gender or fitness level. Young kids can learn this sport as well as the old. A perfect example is celebrity Jeniffer Lopez who started pole dancing at 50 and Dr Solomon at 40.
As a beginner, it may seem daunting to start and you may struggle depending on your baseline strength and mobility. However, be assured to gain strength and be fit over time.
Where To Start:
There is plenty of information about pole fitness everywhere: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, DVDs…you name it. There are also a bunch of online classes that you can learn from, such as Open Dance Academy.
As a beginner, however, it is advisable to have a personal instructor or enrol for in-person pole dance classes at a studio of your choice. Why?
- You will be in direct contact with an instructor who will check and correct you in every step.
- You will meet like-minded people who’ll motivate you to continue.
- You will progress faster compared to self-teaching.
- It’s also fun working out with other people.
Pole classes are offered in the majority of cities and towns in the US. You can find a studio near you here and enrol. Most of these studios offer drop-in classes or taster sessions for beginners. Do not be left out!
It is that simple! You just go, do it and get better at it. After your first classes, you can decide to pursue pole fitness as a hobby or take it more seriously and train for competitions. Your studio may have contact with one or more competition organizations or you can simply conduct an internet search and find a variety you can participate in.
Nevertheless, here are a few organizations you can consider that offer competing opportunities for pole athletes.
- International Pole Dance Fitness Association(IPDFA)
- Pole Sports Organization (PSO)
- Pole Championship Series (PSC)
- International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF)
- OG Pole Fitness Classic
Exercises and Habits to Improve Your Pole Fitness
A little more work besides the regular sessions will greatly pay off in pole. Pole fitness demands strength, endurance, and stability, and the following will help you achieve that;
- Cardio exercises: Pole is a tough sport, especially if you participate in competitions that require you to perform more than once a day. Having a strong cardiovascular system is therefore crucial. Regularly add a combination of low-intensity and high-intensity cardio exercises into your pole routine.
- Strength training: Strength exercises prepare your body for pole. I recommend deadlifts, planks, push-ups, pull-ups and dips alongside resistant training to help strengthen your core and posterior muscles.
- Nutrition: For any fitness program, nutrition is important. You will require foods for energy to exercise as well as for your muscles to repair and strengthen. Hence, consume with consideration of your calorie needs. Remember to get enough protein and hydrate as much.
- Rest: Recovery is as important as training in pole fitness. Your muscles repair and build up during recovery. You can recover your body through massages, yoga, breathing exercises, stretching, sauna, foam rolling, flossing and most importantly sleep.
Key Points to Take Home…
With its origins from the east, pole fitness is the sporty side of pole dancing and it comes with a variety of health benefits. It is a sport for everyone and all that’s required of you is to enrol in a pole studio near you and get started. In case there’s no studio in your location, you can sign up for an online class or utilize the free information on the internet.
Remember to practice the guidelines we’ve recommended to up your fitness game, whether you’ll take it as a hobby or career. Also, in case you’d want to participate in competitions you know where to begin, right? All the best in your fitness journey!
What’s In Your Pole Class Bag? Check Out Some Of My Recommended Essentials:
These are my must-haves!
Do you have any pole gear you cannot dance without? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to follow us on Pinterest & Instagram!
Last update on 2022-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API