Pole Dancing for Fitness
About a year ago, I had the privilege of taking on a very talented client by the name of Amy Guion. Amy is the co-founder of the Pole Sports Organization and a very accomplished pole dancer in her own right. At the time we met, I was a personal trainer at the gym where she had a membership (although I have now opened my own training practice), and I was assigned to be her trainer. Amy and I actually had a lot in common, as she had been a ballet dancer that eventually transitioned into pole, and had studied exercise physiology. I myself was also a ballet dancer that had transitioned into training, and exercise science is an intense area of study for me.
Amy came to me specifically wanting to improve her physical strength relative to pole dancing. Because I wanted to train her in a way that would best serve her needs, I did a lot research about pole dancing, asked her a lot of questions and spent time at her studio studying the unique demands of the sport. It quickly became apparent that becoming skilled at pole requires a very unique blend of athleticism, flexibility, and creative coordination that few other sports can match. As a dancer, I have an immense appreciation for the movement capabilities of the human body. Watching pole dancing is incredibly impressive, and I’m continuously in awe of the physical feats these women are capable of. Most of the moves would readily thrash a lot of other athletes.
In this article I am going to highlight some of the immediate benefits of pole dancing and describe why it is such an awesome activity.
1. Pole works every muscle in the body, especially the upper body.
-From a physical fitness perspective, any activity that works the entire body is always good. Common activities like running and spin only work the lower half, and even most gym classes tend to be lower body dominant. Pole, however, requires total physical strength from head to toe, from the arms to the legs to the torso/core. While pole does not burn that many calories in a workout, the demands it places on all the muscles of the body lead to much stronger training outcomes in the long term. The most effective physical activities are the ones that work as many muscles as possible, while also requiring high levels of physical strength. Pole fulfills both of these criteria very well, which takes us the second physical benefit.
2. Pole requires A LOT of relative physical strength.
-Relative to what most women do for fitness, Pole is unique in that becoming skilled at it requires an immense amount of upper body strength. Pole is somewhat comparable to gymnastics in the level of strength it can build. It’s not just strength though. Pole is effective at building muscle throughout the entire body. In the world of athletic training, physical strength is actually the measurement that is used to assess how “fit” someone is, and pole is excellent at getting people strong. In my time as a trainer, women typically do not have a difficult time strengthening and toning their lower bodies. The upper body though is often where the “problem areas” are, and upper body training can be very frustrating. Pole is a very good at building upper body strength, especially through the back and arms.
3. Pole is always changing.
-One of the most common complaints I encounter with new clients is how boring many forms of conventional exercise can be. Especially with regards to cardio.. While all my female clients lift weights, lifting too can seem very routine once you learn how to do it properly. With pole however, every week there is a new trick, a new inversion, a new skill that can be learned. There is constant variety and there is always something new that can be mastered, and every month it seems there is a new twist on a movement that is being experimented with. Simply put, it never gets dull, and every female client of mine that I’ve sent to take class has had fun doing it.
4. Pole requires patience.
-So about those tricks…they are HARD. And they require an all around level of strength that catches people by surprise. No one is immediately good upon walking into pole class. Pole is a movement art form, and like any other art form, it takes time to get “good” at. This quality is something I really love about pole, . Aside from the physical fitness benefits, it also teaches people to slow down, to not expect instant results, and to really invest the time into becoming skilled.
5. Pole requires practice.
-Lots and lots of lots of practice. Every movement must be done over and over before it looks good, and everyone has gotten frustrated, stuck, caught, or plain pissed off at a particular trick that they can get into but not out of, out of but not into, or if only their leg, arm, lower back was a little more bendy and they could do it. The constant repetition builds up the patience that is required for pole, and when you do finally get the particular element down, it’s always an exciting moment. This is something that is often underappreciated in “popular” fitness. People have an expectation that getting fit requires simply doing XYZ, when in actuality it’s not about doing any one exercise or activity, but the consistency and reinforcement in practicing a bunch of them and really get strong at them. Pole is the exact same way, and requires a patient and dedicated mentality.
6. Pole is empowering.
-Since I have been working in the fitness field, I have always pushed for women to embrace feeling strong and capable. Developing a mentality of “Become More, Not less” is my primary passion in working with female clients. Pole dancing is something that allows women to work within a safe space, to embrace what their body is capable of, and to enjoy being sexy and strong. While regular gyms can be intimidating and lifting weights even more so, pole is something that is largely female oriented and fosters a sense of community that most other activities lack. While I will never be fully immersed in it, I am endlessly appreciative of what it has done for my female clients and what it can do for so many more women.