Tuesday, 13 September 2016

So, you want to take a pole class? - The Ultimate Guide

Everyone in the pole world had to start somewhere. Contrary to popular belief you don't need a background in dance or gymnastics in order to take a lesson - in fact, you don't need any kind of talent whatsoever to become one of best pole dancers in the world. All you need is determination! When I started pole dancing I was a lazy alcohol drinking cigarette smoking junk food lover who could barely walk to the end of the road without getting out of breath. Now I do not smoke, am more healthy in my eating choices and am very active! Taking that first class was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life.
There is some weird pervading myth online that to partake in pole dance or fitness classes you already need to be flexible, strong and a good dancer. I call bullshit. Here is a guide to beginning out in pole fitness for those of us who are unhealthy, over or under weight and who have as much grace and flexibility as a herd of wild buffalo (and for anyone else who has an interest but no idea where to start).
Is pole for me?
Pole can be hard, really hard, but it is also a LOT of fun and addictive. This is what keeps so many people coming back! On top of that pole really is accessible for all types of people; old, young, disabled, fat, skinny. With a little bit of patience and determination almost anyone can make progress. It's all about muscle to weight ratio so, of course, if you're a little larger it may take longer to build the strength required BUT if you love it then stick with it. You can achieve the same as anyone else. Have no judgement or expectation about what you can achieve, and you will surprise yourself!

One of the most common worries I hear from most people is whether the poles will hold their weight. The weight a pole can hold varies depending on a LOT of factors but as an example; the X-Pole X-Stage (a portable stage pole) can easily hold the weight of two rather stocky men of about 13-15 stone each doing doubles, we have tested it, and the X-Pole X-Pert/Sport (the kind of pole you’ll most likely use in the studio) can hold a lot more as long as they are put up correctly. So, no excuses! Lulu is a great example of a larger lady working the pole without breaking it!! 

The other concerns are usually focused on strength, flexibility, grace and dancing skills. Our classes are designed for complete beginners, you do not need to be able to hold your body weight to begin with! Strength, flexibility, grace and dancing skills will come with time and practice. Don’t compare yourself to others; this is YOUR journey alone. If you achieve something new from yesterday or last week then that is amazing. Take that attitude with you and you will achieve so much so fast you won’t even believe it! The only competition is against yourself.
Finding your studio:
This is the most crucial and important factor as to whether you enjoy and/or continue pole fitness classes. The first step is to ask yourself why you want to take a pole class. There are so many different faces to pole and you’ll most likely be drawn to one area more than another. The pole is simply an apparatus and classes come in many formats from purely for fitness to erotic dancing to super crazy tricks. A perfect studio would allow you opportunities to do all of these things and more but some are more specialist than others. At Saints and Spinners we have instructors who specialise in lots of different areas of pole; this means there will be an instructor just for you! Check out our instructors page to find out more.

Ensure your instructor is fully qualified and experienced. There is no shame in asking. All of our instructors have a REPs approved qualification at Level 2 or above, are first aid trained, insured and PDC approved (or undergoing application for approval). This should be a basic requirement for safe teaching. 

Lastly; if your instructor tries to get you to invert on your first class….run away. Quickly. Unless you're an aerialist or gymnast; you should not be inverting in your first class. There is so much more to learn first!

Attending your first class:
Try and turn up early so you have plenty of time to find the studio and check it out. You’ll want to know where you can get water, where to get changed, where the toilets are, there may be forms for you to fill out and you’ll want to meet your instructor. It’s never cool to turn up late for a class, they may wait for you and thus hold up the next class or they may start without you and you will have to get warmed up and miss out. You may injure yourself if you do not warm up correctly. Some studios may turn you away if you arrive late.

For your first class you can probably get away with wearing jogging bottoms and a t-shirt but it won’t be long before you need to wear shorts. Most students go barefoot but I have seen people wearing trainers and ballet shoes. Always ask if in doubt. Bring a bottle of water with you! The cardinal sin of pole dancing is moisturising on pole days. NEVER do it! You'll make a lot of people angry and slippy.

You may be most worried about what you will learn in your first class so, here is a little breakdown of how we teach a group’s first ever pole fitness class; you will start with a short warm up that is designed to get your heart racing and your muscles warm. There is some debate as to whether a warm up should include static stretching or not so this may vary. Next you will most likely do some strength training. This is essential for you to build the strength you will need to make progress and learn those awesome spins and tricks you saw online. It will consist of a variety of exercises primarily designed to build your core and arm muscles; variations should be given for different fitness levels. You will then learn a few transition moves and spins such as a fireman, a pirouette and a step around. This may be put in to a routine or to music. Finally you will stretch to cool down.

There are many different types of pole. They come in different sizes, more info below, and finishes. There are rubber coated poles for students with slippy hands, or those who want to keep their clothes on a little longer. There are smaller poles for smaller hands. Some studios teach solely static pole, some spinning, others both. If you find spinning pole makes you feel sick or dizzy just let your instructor know! Usually it goes away but in some cases you may need to stick with static pole only.

Keep your pole clean! Your instructor will likely provide you with cloths and pole cleaner. It really does help to clean your pole throughout the lesson. Sometimes washing your hands also helps if you are sliding and there are a range of grip aids available online that can minimise slipping. Ask your instructor for more information on these. 

Remember to relax and enjoy it. Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle. There are girls who come to their first class and can immediately do everything we throw at them and girls who barely manage to do one spin. It does not necessarily correlate that if you are the second girl that you are just rubbish at pole and should not continue or that if you are the first girl that you’ll go on to be the best. Even the best pole dancers in the world have their weaknesses.

You may be sore for the next few days. Have a warm bath, do some gentle stretching, and remember; it gets easier!


There are areas of the country, and world, which do not have a pole dancing/fitness studio and even where there are classes available they can be VERY expensive. In cities you can be looking at over £100 for a 6 week course. Self-teaching is not something I recommend for the large majority of people but it can work in some instances; Jess Leanne Norris (Miss Pole Dance UK 2011), self-taught from the age of 15 and has won many prestigious competitions. The main things you have to remember with self-teaching is that pole dancing is dangerous and it is hard; many of you will give up without the structure of a class and you could get SERIOUSLY injured. I’m talking paralysis, broken bones or at the least sprains and strains. If you’re determined then take it slow and find a partner to join you on your pole journey; you WILL need a spotter and most likely a decent crash mat. Learn about warm ups, cool downs, safe stretching, anatomy and physiology. You’ll need it if you don’t have someone, who does have that knowledge, guiding you. A good way to start might be to buy a PDC syllabus (available from Amazon but also online) and work through the levels, perfecting each move as you go. It can be helpful, when you can afford it, to attend private sessions or group classes to supplement your home training.

Self-teaching links:
  • Cleo's Rock N Pole. Widely considered one of the best for video tutorials, rock and roll style!  
  • Pole and Aerial. Video tutorials from some of the world’s best pole dancers; Jenyne Butterfly, Felix Cane and Marlo Fisken among others.
  • StudioVeena. Another video tutorial site. The great thing about this site is the community, which you can access without having to subscribe. It really is an online studio as it provides the social element.
  • Pole Dance Dictionary.
  • PDC syllabus online.
  • Youtube in general is good for tutorials.
  •  And facebook groups, instagram etc are great for community and advice!

And finally, Buying your own pole:

Pole dancing is kind of like marmite and the old cliche; you either love it or hate it. It took me only a month of classes to want my own pole. Having your own pole at home is a great way to improve on what you learn in class and get extra training in. For those who can’t afford a weekly class it can be a good option to save money; take one class a month and train at home the rest of the time. So what are your options? Do not buy from a company unless it is included in this section (there may be a few professional grade pole companies that I am not aware of, please inform me if you know of others to add to this post!).

The world of poles is not an easy one to understand and you may wish to talk to your instructor for their opinion first. You’ll most likely want to buy the same pole you’re used to in class and may already know a little about the different features and types of poles out there. This is mainly provided for those who want to self-teach or just don’t have a clue. The main differences between poles are the way in which the poles are installed, the coating of the pole, the thickness of the pole and whether they are static and/or spinning.

The most popular pole in Europe (though it is sold in America and world-wide) is the X-Pole Xpert and the main reasons for this are its affordability and functionality. It can be put up in homes with varying ceiling heights and types; as long as there is a support joist (beam) to prop it up on. You can find these easily using a stud finder. The pole goes up in no time with no drilling. It takes all of about 10 minutes from the box. The Xpert also has spinning or static capabilities.The X-Pole Sport is an even cheaper option if you’re not a fan of spinning poles.

Other companies I am less versed in include; Lil Mynx, Platinum Stages, R-Pole, Aurelian pole and Lupit Pole. I cannot personally vouch for these poles, though they are considered safe by the community. 

There is a lot of debate over what type of pole is best for grip and many of the companies offer different coatings from chrome to steel to titanium to brass. Read reviews, try them out if your studio has a variety. Most people go for the cheapest and to be quite honest most studios use chrome as well!

Pole thickness:
38-40mm: Super skinny pole! If you struggle with gripping on to the pole because you have small hands then this may be a good option for you. It can be a more painful pole to train on but most find that in time they become accustomed to it. If you struggle with leg grips then this may not be the pole for you as there is very little to grip on with.
45mm: The skinny pole! Perfect for small to normal sized hands and provides just enough grip on the body without being too painful. I personally think this is the perfect all-rounder of a pole. You get the best of both worlds!
50mm: The fat pole. This used to be the standard pole size in most studios until people discovered how much better the thinner poles are. Some people do still love the 50mms though. It’s all personal preference. I think they are great to have in class when trying a new trick that requires a lot of body grip and not a lot of hand grip. It’s good to have that safety before moving on and trying it on a smaller pole.

So, hopefully this has covered everything you might like to know about pole dancing/fitness classes. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to pop us a message. Most of all; be BRAVE, take the leap. You may end up loving it!

Bonus tip: There are those that would have you believe that pole dancing originates from chinese pole and Mallakhamb. Whilst these art forms have had an influence on pole; the fact is that modern pole dancing comes from the strip clubs. The vast majority of our pioneers started in the clubs. There is NOTHING wrong with this. You may choose to do pole dancing solely for fitness, and that's okay, but it's not cool to slut shame. We're very lucky our stripper friends had the ingenuity to take pole to the dance studios!

1 comment:

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