Lately, exercise studios are sprouting up everywhere offering pole dancing classes. I had the pleasure of taking a private class with a friend of mine. I was pleasantly surprised with my first experience learning this “sport”. A misconception that most people have is that they associate pole dancing only with strippers and gentleman’s clubs. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Pole dancing is re-inventing its reputation and offers classes that are technically challenging and give you a total body workout, rather than focusing on the “stripper” pole aspect. You would never associate a Cirque de Soleil dancer with a stripper, yet they use many of the same techniques and principles. This exercise craze promises to deliver an enviable, lean and toned dancer’s physique. Here is a list of everything you may want to know about pole dancing but was too afraid to ask!
So what exactly is pole dancing?
Pole dancing is an acrobatic-inspired regimen that is designed to lengthen, tone, and strengthen the entire body. Small, isometric movements work your core, thighs, butt and arms. Different studios vary the class equipment and routines; the constant being the floor-to-ceiling brass pole bar and elements of ballet, gymnastics, acrobatics, Pilates and yoga. Fusing these disciplines allows you to work out the small and large muscles, build a long and lean dancer-type body, and have overall improved flexibility and agility.
Is there stripping involved?
There is absolutely no stripping. Pole dancing is a fitness class geared towards athletic performance, not towards stripping. You wear comfortable, form-fitting clothing that will not get stuck on the pole. Beginners also go barefoot and are advised against wearing lotion, which will prevent traction.
What can I expect from a typical class?
Classes are generally 45-60 minutes of pure intensity and can burn up to 350 calories. Every person I know (including myself) that has taken a pole class is surprised at what a good workout it delivers. The first time I saw a pole class, I did not think it looked very challenging. To say that I was wrong was an understatement! You can feel muscles that you did not know existed soon after your first couple of classes. Most of the instructors I spoke to suggested starting out several times a week. It is important to skip a day between workouts to allow muscle repair and rest.
Introductory classes focus on getting comfortable with the pole. This will include hand and grip techniques, basic pole dancing form, and class terms. It may look easy to maneuver, but it is a learned skill that requires practice. As you become more comfortable, you can progress to climbing up the pole, inverting your body, and doing spins.
Instructors vary on their floor work techniques, which comprise a small amount of the class time. Floor work focuses on gymnastics, acrobatics, dance elements, increasing flexibility and improving balance. Stretching is also incorporated in order to safely achieve splits, back bends, forearm stands, and hand stands. As you become more fluid and confident in your technique, you will quickly build strength and agility.
Please explain a typical pole dancing move
As a beginner, you will learn a basic invert. This will basically turn your body upside down on the pole in a very controlled and deliberate motion. To start, you will do a basic warm-up. Your hands should be together just about shoulder height. Move your left hand on top, position your right torso close to the pole, with your hips directly in front. Slowly lift your knees to your chest 5-8 times, while keeping the pole close to your chest. Your hands should stay near your shoulders. Keep your lifts slow and controlled; do not jump. Repeat 5-8 times on the other side, this time starting with the right hand on top.
After the warm-up, it is time for the invert. Position your torso close to the pole, with your hips in front of the pole (just like in the warm-up). Slowly lift your knees to your chest, while moving your head back. The move is similar to a see-saw. Your groin area should be as close to the pole as possible. Make sure to keep your head down. Once you have maintained your balance, extend your legs outward. In order to stay inverted, keep your legs as close to your head as possible. As you bring your legs back in, continue to keep your knees close to your chest. Then slowly pivot back down and lower your legs. Remember, these are slow and controlled motions. Your body should not be bouncing or jumping at all. You will notice how much this move relies on core focus and strength.
Can I do this at home?
There are many commercial DVD’s available, but I believe it is key to go to a studio first to get familiar with the techniques and proper form. Pole dancing has so many specialized movements and postures; you need an instructor present in the beginning to guide you. It also helps to have the huge studio mirror there to see yourself and check your form, as well as a safe, permanently installed pole. Also, you always have a buddy in the class to spot you or help steer you into a move if you need help.
What it’s not
This definitely is not a workout where you can go on autopilot (i.e. skimming through a magazine or watching TV). Each move requires concentration and correct form in order to achieve the desired results. It is not a high-energy class like spinning or most cardio classes. Music is played, but everyone is focused on their individual movements.
How does pole dancing compare to other classes?
First of all, traditional pole classes are not a cardio workout. If you are looking for the type of sweaty, faced-paced workout that you would get in a spin or a kickboxing class, you will not find that here. If you enjoy group classes, yoga, Pilates, or barre, this would be a great option for you. This is a fun way mix up your exercise routine and work different major and minor muscle groups.
What do you think about your first pole dancing class? Whether if you’re an expert or just starting out, feel free to leave a comment below!