How long to get good at pole dancing

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Ask a Fitness Pole Dancer

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Welcome to Racked's Fitness Week: five days of workout coverage, so that you can start your New Year's resolutions off right.

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We're picking the brains of some of the city's most interesting—and out there—fitness instructors in the name of Fitness Week. Yesterday we got the low-down on CrossFit and today we're sharing what 2012 US pole dancing champion Michelle Stanek has to say about her sport (yes, sport).

After the jump, learn how Demi Moore accidently redefined pole dancing, why there's no gluteal fold in competition attire, and what to expect if you take a class with Michelle at Body & Pole.

How did you get into pole dancing?

I got into pole dancing through one of my co-workers when I worked at a design organization. She and I used to take dance classes all the time—hip hop, jazz, ballet, whatever. She took me to this pole dancing class at Crunch and I really liked it. It was really hard—I thought I was going to be good at it because it was a dance class and I thought, "Oh, I can do dance classes." It was surprisingly difficult.

When did you take that first class?

That was in 2008.

So you really haven't been pole dancing for too long, considering you've won championships.

No, not at all. It's been just a few years. It's hard to find people who have been pole dancing—in this way—for more than eight years. It just hasn't been around for that long.

How have you seen pole dancing transition from entertainment for men to a legitimate fitness workout?

The program at Crunch—where I took my first class—originated because one of the directors at Crunch met Demi Moore when she was training for that movie Striptease and watched [Demi's] body completely transform just because of the movement of pole dancing. She was studying to be a stripper in a movie but her body just became slammin'. Crunch is always thinking outside the box so they decided to create a [pole dancing] class. It was starting to become an all-women's fitness class in various places around the country.

The fundamentals of pole dancing if you're a stripper in a strip club or a pole fitness athlete are the same. The audience and the purpose are completely different.

[Fitness pole dancing has] changed in the past few years—it's growing. There are more competitions, there are more performance opportunities, there are more media outlets and magazines, people are doing it at sport events and fitness events. [Fitness pole dancing is] starting to become more in the public awareness for what it really is instead of what people kind of condescend it to be. Awareness is getting better.

[The fitness pole dancing industry] went in a dramatically fitness avenue for a minute to legitimize itself, to prove itself as a sport. Like, "We're not doing this to become strippers, we're trying to take the sexual nature out of it." [It became] very strictly fitness.

What characterized that movement?

For example, these competitions that I'm talking about, you have to wear very specific [outfits]. You can not show gluteal fold—that's the term for it. You have to keep it covered at all times. You have to wear a certain type of top, it can't be too revealing. You can't do any kind of sexual movement: You can't whip your hair or do a body wave. I think it went in that direction to help legitimize [pole dancing] as a sport but I'm hoping we can open pole dancing to dancers and artists and athletes and bringing back the sexual content, if someone chooses.

What we're doing is not part of the strip clubs, anymore. It came out of that and it will always be part of the legacy of pole dancing but now it's a completely different entity and you can make it as fitness as you want or as sexual as you want or as artistic than you want. It's still completely different from where it was when it was in gentlemen's clubs.

What kind of experience does someone need prior to their first pole dancing class?

There's nothing required to be able to do it. If you come into pole dancing from a dance or gymnastics background, you will advance more quickly, but it's not required. As long as you have a good teacher, a good coach, and a good studio, you can become excellent.

Would you say there's a certain body type that's better suited to pole dancing?

If you have the rare opportunity to have very broad and strong shoulders and teeny, tiny, skinny legs then you will find that a lot of things will be easier for you. You do so much of inverting your body over your head with the strength of your arms.

It's very rare that people have those proportions. Just as long as you're fit. There's a definitely element of flexibility and strength that comes with pole dancing, so you have to be able to work at those things. For me right now, I'm working on my flexibility. I know there's so much more I could do if I could just open up my shoulders and my lower back more.

What muscle groups does pole dancing target?

All of them. It's a common misunderstanding that you don't use your legs as much, but especially when you get into more advanced moves you use your legs a lot in pole dancing. In the beginning, you will use your arms a lot—your shoulders, back muscles, and core. Upper body is definitely targeted.

How long does it take for a new student to "get it"?

That varies per student for sure. Some people get in the groove right away. For someone who leaves their first class a little unsure, maybe after three months of doing a beginner level class they'll start to kind of get it. Once you start surprising yourself with what you can do you're hooked.

What does one wear to a pole dancing class?

It is essential when you get on the pole to have shorts on. You want to have exposed leg skin—so short-shorts, not bicycle shorts. A tank top or a sports bra—you need to have your armpits exposed. You probably need your waist or your belly exposed for some holds.

What about on your feet?

Mostly bare feet. Shoes can be an optional choice later. But you should learn in bare feet. We do teach some speciality classes in heels.

Do you cover the pole or yourself with anything for traction?

You don't want to put anything on the pole, you want to keep the pole clean and dry. On your body, if you feel like you need a grip there's a lot of different types of grip aids. For example, there's this product called Dry Hands that's basically like a liquid chalk a gymnast would use. Your palms sweat, especially if you're nervous. If you're getting into more advanced moves and you need a little more extra grip, there's a beeswax type of product you can use in tiny doses to give you more tack on the pole. You don't want any kind of lotion or oils on.

Are there any other types of workouts that you think complement pole dancing well?

Crosstraining of any sort is promoted to keep yourself fit. I think a good complement to pole dancing is a yoga class or a flexibility class because that's going to focus on your body awareness, alignment, and flexibility. A lot of the moves you do in a yoga class will transfer directly to moves that you would do on the pole. I do a lot of indoor cycling classes because I love cardio and also as a balance for the lower body.

Lastly, do you ever feel the urge to practice on the subway?

Oh, definitely. That happens all the time. You can't resist it. Then you see the guys that come through and do their performances and they have no real pole dancing experience and they do the craziest tricks! They're so dope at what they do and I'm like, "Oh I gotta try that."
· Body & Pole [Official Site]
· Everything You've Ever Wanted to Ask a CrossFit Instructor [Racked NY]
· All Fitness Week 2014 posts [Racked NY]

115 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Pole Dancing


Most pole dancers, regardless of age, are in the best shape of their lives.

Pole dancing is a full-body workout. It is resistance training and cardio in one, and flexibility is improved as well. Pole dancers perform acrobatic tricks either suspending their weight or propelling it around a metal pole. The simple act of climbing a pole is an incredible display of strength. It is no surprise, then, that most pole dancers insist they have never looked or felt better.

Natasha Wang, a world champion pole dancer, didn’t even start the exercise until age 29. Greta Pontarelli is a champion pole dancer at age 63—and she only began a few years ago!


There are many different types of pole dancing.

Pole dancing is extremely versatile. There are three main branches: sport, art, and sexy:

  • In sport, you have the serious athletes performing difficult tricks and displaying unfathomable muscular strength. (Some have even petitioned for pole to become an Olympic event!)
  • Then there are also those who embrace the artistic side pole has to offer. The simplicity of a vertical apparatus like the pole is appealing in that there is no shortage of creativity—so many stories can be told. Many pole dancers perform barefoot and have been known to incorporate modern dance, props and costumes into their routines.
  • Finally the sexy side of pole is still practiced by many. These dancers usually wear heels and favor more sensual, erotic movement.

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Although there is some debate within the community about which direction pole is heading, all three forms flourish, and many pole dancers enjoy all styles. There is something for everyone!


You need your skin exposed to grip the pole.

Pole dancers must have their legs, arms and stomachs exposed to safely grip the pole. There are some grounded spins, poses, and floor work that can be performed while wearing pants, but in order to perform more advanced moves, we must have the proper amount of skin exposure.

At first, the idea of working out in a sports bra and tiny shorts may seem intimidating. But most new pole dancers quickly discover they are having too much fun to worry about what they look like. Their focus shifts instead to what they can accomplish—a freeing notion, really, that can help build confidence.


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It can be dangerous without proper training.

Although pole dancing is fun, it is a serious athletic endeavor that should not be taken lightly. Some people do not realize how challenging pole can be on a first attempt (re: every muscle in my body ached for days). In addition to bruises, pole dancers can experience shoulder or back pain with improper technique or overtraining.

You should always learn from a certified instructor. If training from home, take time properly installing your home pole according to manufacturer instructions and vetting a reputable online learning platform. If you're too eager to flip upside down, it can be especially dangerous and can lead to injury.

That said, I encourage everyone interested in pole dancing to go through gradually progressive training with a professional.


Men can (and do!) pole dance.

The number of men pole dancing continues to grow every year. There are men’s divisions in competitions now, and I see more men joining classes I take or teach than ever before.

Men’s natural inclination toward upper body strength makes them ideal candidates for the sport. There are many ancient forms of pole dancing such as Mallakhamb, a traditional Indian sport where the practitioner performs yoga postures on a wooden pole—and has actually been performed exclusively by men throughout history.


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“Not having upper body strength” is not an excuse to avoid it.

I understand that you may be nervous to try pole dancing. Maybe you don’t feel you are at your ideal weight, or you think you have no rhythm, or you think you're too old. But I encourage you to stop creating roadblocks for yourself. The best way to get better at something is to work on it! Every athletic journey requires a first courageous step. You'll grow over time as you build skills, strength and body awareness. Overcoming feats is part of what's so inspiring and empowering about pole.

Whether you’re uncoordinated and can’t lift your own body weight or you're an athlete with gymnastic capabilities, there is always a new trick or transition to learn with pole dancing. The process of growth never ends, and the possibilities can be as creative as your imagination allows them to be.


It’s not always so sexy.

Pole dancing is not always as overtly sexual as people may believe. The process of training is often full of awkward and unglamorous moments. Many of us end up with bruises, burns, and scrapes from trying new moves. And although we may wear sports bras and tiny shorts when performing, most dancers opt for comfort over fashion in between training sessions.


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But it can be very sexy.

The seductive allure of pole dancing still remains steadfast. There was a period of time when pole dancing first became mainstream where many pole dancers sought to distance its association with strip clubs. They felt this link delegitimized efforts to be taken seriously. The community has since evolved to understand this denial as a form of appropriation and recognizes with respect the roots this art form holds in exotic dance.

While many styles of dance and movement currently inspire modern pole dancing, the kind we practice today would not exist without strippers. Many of the first informal pole dancing classes in the US took place in strip clubs and many of the first pole studios in the US were founded by strippers who became small business owners and entrepreneurs.  


The community is very tight-knit.

Because what we do is still considered taboo by many, there is a unique closeness that bonds us together. There are pole dancers of all professions, ethnicities, religions, cultures, sizes, and ages. I have friends all over the world because of pole dancing, and I have friends who have been able to travel the world because of it.

We support each other through learning new moves. We share each other’s videos, and we watch each other perform. This shared interest bonds us with a special understanding, just like any other team sport.


Pole dancing can be emotionally healing.

This is one of the biggest reasons I've stuck with pole dancing as long as I have. The physical benefits are great, but the feeling you get from mastering a move or expressing a particular emotion is indescribable. For example, when I am able to assist a student without any fitness background in their first pole climb, it is an honor to witness their feeling of accomplishment and resulting boost in self-confidence.

You can dance out any emotion in class, whether joyful, angry, or sad. The combination of athletic skill and artistic influence makes it unique to any other form of dance or sport. To me, it is both dance and sport woven together into one beautiful, athletic art form.

10 tips for beginners to know

1. What is the essence of poledance?

Poledance is a dance that combines elements of choreography, acrobatics and gymnastics. Do not confuse Poledance with the usual striptease or strip plastic, because during this sport there is a significant physical load. It's like gymnastics on the bar, only the pole is upright.

Pole dancing is especially suitable for women who often slouch. It has a good effect on muscles and joints. Therefore, by exercising regularly, you will achieve a beautiful posture and, as a result, an easy gait.

2. How does this affect my body? Why is poledance good for health?

Pole is a great exerciser for arms, legs, back and abs. Poledance not only helps to get rid of complexes, it teaches you to move beautifully, improves stretching and endurance, and also helps to lose weight and make your figure slim. During the exercises on the pole, you lose a large number of calories, the muscles are tightened and strengthened. Active movements speed up the metabolism, thus increasing energy consumption and forming a beautiful body. This happens almost imperceptibly, because during the dance it is much more interesting to form relief muscles and beautiful skin than sweating in the gym.

3. What do I need to bring to my first poledance class?

Pole dancing involves serious physical activity. Therefore, before each lesson, we warm up all the muscles of the body, joints, do stretching exercises. This requires clothing that will cover the entire body, thereby retaining more heat. Therefore, for a warm-up, we recommend using long T-shirts, T-shirts, leggings, leggings. A good warm-up, when all muscles, ligaments and joints are involved, allows you to avoid serious injuries and sprains.

In addition to warm-up clothes, you need to have a uniform for training - a short top and short shorts. The body must be in constant contact with the pole, so this is the kind of equipment that is needed. In long clothes, you will not be able to stay on the pole.

4. How are poledance classes at your school?

All our classes begin with a warm-up. First comes a set of exercises for warming up the muscles, then stretching and flexibility exercises, then for strength in the arms, back, etc. Next, we proceed directly to classes with the pylon.

Pole dancing requires a special approach. Our teachers work with students who have different physical fitness and expectations from the lessons. In our classes, we learn tricks, twists, stalls (dance on the floor, near the pole) and learn to combine all this into a beautiful, graceful, feminine and sexy dance.

In our school, you can start poledance without being physically fit. The program of our classes is designed so that you first master the basics with a gradual increase in intensity and load. You yourself will not notice how, after a few lessons, you will already be able to perform tricks that previously seemed unrealistic.

5. How is the Polepassion school different from other similar schools in Kyiv?

The Polepassion School takes place in small groups of up to 7 people. When attending a poledance class, you can be sure that no one else will take your pole! You will dance on it 100% of the time, that is, a whole hour.

Teachers, real professionals and experts in love with their work, as well as an individual approach distinguishes our school from others of its kind. These benefits allow you to exercise effectively while developing strength, sexuality and flexibility!

We have an affordable price! You can sign up for a trial class to see if you want to continue with poledance. You will have the opportunity, for a nominal fee, to try your hand at the art of pole dancing, and then make an informed decision. Check out all the necessary information on our website, look at the photos - we are waiting for your call!

6. Tell us about CrossFit training - what is it and what are they for?

CrossFit - a word of English origin: cross - cross, combine, force; fit - in good shape, strong, healthy. There is no exact analogue of the word crossfit in Russian. CrossFit is a broad concept, it is a set of training, a fitness exercise program designed to work with all muscle groups, which brings up the strength and endurance of an athlete.

CrossFit was born when the need arose for training suitable for any sport and people of all fitness levels. This technique includes the techniques of such sports areas as light and weightlifting, gymnastics, bodybuilding, powerlifting.

CrossFit is a complex of trainings for the work of various muscle groups (sometimes several at the same time) with high intensity. CrossFit develops not only the muscles of the athlete, but also trains the heart muscle, respiratory system and brings up the overall endurance of the body.

7. Don't you think CrossFit is too aggressive for the female body?

Many women feel that CrossFit exercises are not suitable for their fragile bodies and they will not be able to withstand training. Fortunately, these fears are unfounded. You can train, having any physical fitness, and at any age. You have the opportunity to independently select a load for yourself, based on your own feelings.

How useful is CrossFit for women? A variety of exercises and the high intensity of their implementation affects the metabolic rate, so the body begins to actively burn subcutaneous fat. Interestingly, this state is maintained even after the end of classes, for several more hours. CrossFit for women is an effective way to quickly get rid of excess weight and put your body in order.

8. Are there any health restrictions, such as CrossFit? How do you follow this?

Given the high intensity of this set of exercises, of course, there is an extensive list of contraindications. Simply put, CrossFit can be done by those whose health does not cause any concern. However, below we provide a list of contraindications when it is absolutely impossible to do CrossFit:
• Diseases of the cardiovascular system;
• Pregnancy and breastfeeding period;
• Any recent trauma;
• Recent surgery;
• Pathology of the musculoskeletal system;

Do not underestimate the upcoming load and before deciding to do CrossFit, you should consult a doctor.

Before class, the trainer asks about various illnesses/injuries/general fitness; then he explains safety precautions, and before starting the lesson, he shows how to perform all the exercises: how to do push-ups, pump the press, legs, etc. correctly.

9. Tell me about exotic poledance? What is this direction and what benefits does it bring to the body?

Pole Dance Exotic - one of the types of pole dance, aimed not only at the study of tricks and dance sequences on the pole, but also at the development of plasticity and sexuality. Pole dance exotic (floor dance exotic) includes the study of the elements of strip plastic and strip dance.

Exotic Pauldance is, first of all, a dance that symbolizes women's freedom, joy, femininity, theatricality and artistry. This dance can be practiced by all women who want to discover new facets of their character and their sexuality, regardless of age, height and configuration .

10. Do I need to have some basic physical fitness to practice pole dancing? How do you select students for your school?

Being physically fit is an advantage, but not a requirement to start training. Most people who have expressed a desire to take up pole dancing have no sports or dance experience. In the classes, we pay attention to general and special physical training, as a result of which you get an excellent sports shape, improve your physical abilities and easily perform tricks that previously seemed impossible.

Recommendations for beginners:
You need to be prepared for difficulties, especially at first. Pole dancing requires iron endurance and good endurance. It will hurt, hands will give up, but success in such a difficult sport is worth it.

Be prepared for sprains, sprains, bruises and injuries. Poledance is very traumatic, however, like other sports. You can not neglect the warm-up and stretching at the beginning of classes. It is very important. You need to prepare your body for the main part of the workout.

Be optimistic. Don't get discouraged if it doesn't work the first time. First you will develop flexibility and endurance. And after a few lessons you will be able to perform many tricks. And after 2-3 months - and complex acrobatic elements.

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FAQ / Skypole Dance Studio

What do you need to get started?

What do you need to learn pole dance? Only two factors: in fact, the pylon and desire. The desire to discover oneself from a new side, to try something unknown, to feel like a fatal temptress... Then - patience and diligence. When you look from the side, how easy and relaxed the dancers move, it may seem that they make almost no effort. In reality, this is a huge work, because a professional pole dance contains elements of acrobatics. You should not be afraid of difficulties, it is not in vain that they say that "patience and work will grind everything." As in any sport, you need to train a lot, and then the result will not be long in coming. The only difference from boring workouts is the fun that comes with pole dancing.

Who can dance at the pylon?

You will be surprised, but in fact - anyone! Pole dance knows no limits. For him, it doesn’t matter how old you are, what your physical fitness is, how you look ... If you want to dance, then there are no barriers for this, and pole dancing will only help to liberate the body and give vent to the spiritual impulse! Looking at professional dancers gliding easily and gracefully along the pylon, some have doubts: “I can’t do this…” But it’s not at all necessary to strive to become professionals, and almost any woman can master the simplest elements and use them profitably. Everything is in your hands - in the truest sense of the word!

What will I gain from Pole Dance?

First of all, a woman always dances for herself, her beloved. For the soul, for the mood! To correct posture, to improve the figure, to burn adrenaline. In general, everyone's goals are different, but pole dancing gives advantages over other styles: it is a dance to express your most secret feelings. It is with the help of sensual movements at the pylon that you can excite and surprise your beloved man. Remaining for him a beloved woman, you will turn into a Goddess, stunning in your feminine essence! And the dance at the pylon will allow you to paint ordinary everyday life in picturesque colors, to bring something new and interesting into your life. Pole dance will become not just your hobby or sports training, but a part of life - exciting and vibrant!

What is the dress code for the classes?

In order not to slide on the pylon, the legs must be bare. So the best form of clothing is short shorts and a T-shirt. Socks, ballet flats are suitable for the feet for the first lessons, you can practice barefoot. After a while, it will be desirable to purchase special shoes (but not necessary).

Who should practice pole dance and why?

Absolutely everyone can do half-dance! Height, weight, age, appearance do not matter. We especially recommend half-dance to girls who want to strengthen their muscles, make their bodies toned and graceful. There are no boring, repetitive exercises in half-dance.

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