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- Poling at Home VS. In a Studio
- Choosing Your Pole
- Choosing Your Crash Mat
Poling at Home VS. In a Studio
There are pros and cons to both, and it’s up to you to decide which is best for you. Many polers choose a mix of both when possible.
- Pole on your own schedule
- No travel time
- No cost for individual/package classes or open pole sessions
- Many online tutorials offer annual subscriptions, and there are various free tutorials as well.
- Customize your space
- Online community
- You rely on your own motivation
- No one-on-one instructor experience
- You must decipher moves from video tutorials
- Gauge your own skill level
- Crash mat would replace a live spotter
In a Studio
- Instructors can gauge your skill level and teach new moves in a safe, controlled manner
- Instructors can actively spot you in addition to crash mats
- Instructors can actively watch you, providing individualized pointers and education.
- A community of local polers to interact with
- Set class schedules don’t always work with your own.
- Travel time to the studio
- Cost for individual/package classes and open pole sessions
- You have to find a studio environment that suits you.
- Home pole
- Crash mat
- Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and cloth for cleaning.
- Brass poles require brass cleaner to help avoid tarnishing.
- Your pole clothes!
- If you’re doing a lot of floorwork, you’ll want to invest in some kneepads.
- If you’re interested in wearing heels, see our guide to Choosing Your Heels.
- Optional: Large mirror to help with body awareness and positioning.
This is just about everything you should need to get started. Beyond this, you can find several quality of life items, such as X-Pole’s PoleWarmer to help those in colder climates get their pole ready while they warm up.
TIP: If you’re struggling trying to find inexpensive options for mirrors, you can purchase several over-the-door mirrors and mount them together.
Ideally, you’ll want enough room to fully extend your body around your pole. You can determine this by taking your pole in one hand (or a chair, if you’re still waiting on your pole) and extending both arms completely out.
If you’re interested in doing floorwork or wearing heels, then you’ll want hardwood floors. You can absolutely pole on carpet but it can make things a little harder.
Not sure where in your room to place your pole? The best place is somewhere near the middle of the room, where your pole can stand against a ceiling joist. See the section on installing your pole below for more details.
Choosing Your Pole
There are dozens of home pole options available on the market, but do you know which is best for you? What’s the difference between them, anyway? In this section, we’ll cover everything you need to know to choose the pole that’s right for you.
Tension, Bolt-In, and Stages, Oh My!
For the sake of simplicity in this article, we’ll assume you’re looking to purchase a tension pole in this section, as that’s the most common pole purchased for home use.
This does not, however, mean we won’t educate you on the choices available.
- Tension – Tension poles are secured by tension between the floor and a ceiling joist. They are safe to put up in apartments.
Tension poles are easily identified by a large upper dome and a small floor base. Some tension poles will have a small upper dome.
- Bolt-In – Bolt-in poles are secured by bolting or screwing into the ceiling joist or trussing above, and the floorboards below. These are usually better as permanent installments in studios or homes as not many leases will allow this.
Bolt-In poles are easily identified by a floor and/or ceiling dome with bolts.
- Stages – Stages are secured in a central stage that telescopes out for balance. They don’t have a top to them as they are built to be placed just about anywhere.
Stage poles are easily identified with their circular stage and a pole extending from the middle without any upper dome. Some stage poles have a square stage or may telescope out on their own.
The diameter of your pole makes a difference in how easy it is to grip, the moves it’s best used for, and personal preference. 45mm is the best of both worlds and great for competition prep. 50mm is what many clubs still use as it was the original size introduced.
Some people prefer practicing on 50mm not because of how it feels, but because it typically makes it easier to move to a smaller diameter; once you and your hand grip become accustomed to the largest pole diameter, you can handle any of them easily.
- 38mm– Smallest. This size is popular in Australia, perfect for people with smaller hands or a preference to spins and hand-holds.
- 40mm– Small. Perfect for people with smaller hands or a preference to spins and hand-holds.
- 45mm– Medium. US competition standard and current industry standard.
- 50mm– Large. This was the original size introduced to the industry. Perfect for people with larger hands or a preference to body and leg holds.
The finish you choose makes a big difference in how well you can grip the pole, and it also depends on your skin type. If you have dry skin, many people say stainless steel will be your best bet. If you have trouble with sweating too much, try a titanium gold or brass pole.
Always keep metal allergies in mind as well – if you’re allergic to nickel or similar metals, then a stainless steel or brass pole will help reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.
- Stainless Steel– Least amount of grip. It can be weather dependent, best in humid conditions. It is great for those with metal allergies.
- Chrome – Moderate amount of grip, US competition standard. Good in all types of weather, but it can show wear over time and can show rust in very humid conditions. Not ideal for those with nickel allergies, but otherwise works well with most skin types.
- Titanium Gold – Moderate to High amount of grip. Electronically coated gold over a chrome pole. OK in most weather types, but it will show wear over time and can show rust in very humid conditions. Comparable to brass without special care requirements.
- Brass – Moderate to High amount of grip. Works well in hot weather and is great for those with metal allergies. Scratches easily and requires special care to avoid tarnishing.
- Powder Coated – High amount of grip. This type of pole isn’t widely used but it is fantastic for those with very poor grip strength. If you’re not comfortable in shorts, powder coated is a good option. Spins and drops can be painful and can sometimes cause friction burns on bare skin.
- Silicone – Highest amount of grip. Standard in Chinese Pole, where clothes are worn. Do not try to use silicone poles with bare skin as you can suffer from friction burns.
The Difference Between Spin and Static
There are three main types of poles, and which one you have will determine how you use it.
We recommend spin/static combination for the best of both worlds.
If you’re just starting and don’t want to shell out the dough, consider what you want out of your pole. If you’re looking for strength and control, try static. If you’re looking for flow and dance, try spin.
Overall, we believe static is the easier to start with as you can get a feel for pole without worrying about controlling your momentum as well, especially if you are prone to motion sickness.
The image to the right shows an X-Pole that features spin and static modes and the difference between those and the screws you use to tighten the tension against the ceiling.
- Spin Pole – Spin poles rotate with your momentum, helping you carry your weight around the pole smoothly. Your momentum will increase the closer you are to the pole, and decrease the further away you are.
- Static Pole – Static poles remain stationary, so you’re carrying your weight and controlling your rotation around the pole.
- Spin/Static Combination – Spin/Static poles typically have a bolt or dial you can change to switch to spin or static mode, giving you the best of both worlds. This is ideal if you want to progress in both pole types or want to compete.
There are a variety of brands on the market. Unfortunately, a lot of these are also $30 poles on Amazon which break easily and will make it difficult for you to learn and progress safely.
To avoid these safety hazards, it’s important to get a reputable pole brand you can trust. Below are the common trusted brands in the market (in order.)
There are also some pole dance resale groups where people will be reselling their old poles. If you choose to do this, beware of fake brand poles as they can break and cause injury or damage. Always do your brand-specific research on how to spot a fake, never trade safety for a few extra dollars in your wallet.
X-Pole Australia has put together a quick briefing on how to spot a fake X-Pole:
So, Which Do We Recommend?
We recommend the 45mm Chrome X-Pole, X-PERT Pro (PX).
Whether you’re a beginner poler or a little more advanced, this is a pole that gives you the best of both worlds, and it’s the US competition standard.
This pole is perfect for apartments and rental spaces alike because it doesn’t bolt into the ceiling, it relies on tension to create a secure seal. If you have a nickel allergy, you may consider swapping the Chrome for a Brass or Titanium Gold pole.
How Do I Install My Pole?
When you order your pole, it should come with instructions, no matter the brand.
Just remember, your tension pole should always go below a ceiling joist to help secure it – and always use a level after you have it in place to ensure it’s straight! If you don’t have a level around, you can download a level app to your phone.
Common Concerns and Troubleshooting Tips:
- How do I find my ceiling joist?
Once you know what to look for, ceiling joists are easy to find. You’ll need a stud finder – these are inexpensive, around $20 at most hardware stores.
Choose your pole room and start a suitable distance from the wall or any furniture. Turn on the stud finder and run it straight across the ceiling. It will beep when it comes across a stud; mark this spot with a pencil.
Do this in the opposite direction to find the point where the beeps cross over. Mark that with your pencil, and now that nice little X marks where the joist is.
- My pole is coming loose from the ceiling and sliding.
- Check to make sure your pole is under a ceiling joist.
- Next, use a level to make sure your pole is completely straight when it’s in the upright position.
- Always, always, always test your pole when you’re done tightening it against the ceiling. You can do this by firmly gripping it in both hands and pulling back and forth. If there’s ANY movement, it is not secure.
- If you’re poling on carpet, you may need to let your pole sit for a few hours before tightening it further to ensure the carpet is matted down.
If you’re using an X-Pole X-Pert, ensure the bottom red line is lined up with the eyelet when you’re done tightening the bolts with your hex key. Also ensure that you are loosening the correct bolts to switch from spin and static – the spin/static bolts are at the very bottom of the pole, right above the base. The screws to tighten/loosen the entire pole are a few inches above those.
- I’m worried my pole will crack the ceiling
If this is a concern, check to make sure your pole is under a ceiling joist and completely upright. The pole’s weight should be distributed evenly along the joist.
If your home is particularly old, sometimes sheetrock ceilings can start to crack from age, especially around corners. If your pole is installed correctly, it likely has nothing to do with it.
Some polers will get sturdy plywood cut and bolted into the ceiling if their sheetrock is particularly brittle. Never install anything above the pole that can slip out of place, such as cardboard, or wood that is not bolted into a joist. This is incredibly unsafe and can cause the pole to slip.
- My ceiling is uneven, is it still safe to pole?
In many cases, the slant is slight, and it should be fine so long as you are able to set up the pole properly and level out the pole. If this isn’t the case for you, you can purchase a special ceiling mount.
Purchase additional mounts from your pole manufacturer only – you never know how third-party parts will work with your pole, and you can’t guarantee the safety!
- I’m worried my pole will leave marks on the ceiling.
It shouldn’t. If your pole has been up for several months at a time, you may see slight marks from the rubber inside the ceiling base. This is normal and will come off with washcloth and a solution of soap and water, or a mixture of soap and vinegar.
- Can I pole with a popcorn ceiling?
Absolutely! Popcorn ceilings are still safe to pole on, though you may find the rubber around the base will squish some of the popcorn. This is hardly noticeable; however, if it really needs a touch-up, popcorn paint is inexpensive to purchase from most supermarkets or any hardware store.
- Can I put cardboard or plywood between the pole and ceiling to shore up gaps?
No! You never want to place anything between the pole and the ceiling. By doing so, you are creating unnecessary weak points and your pole is more likely to slip and come down.
Think about the difference between pressing the palm of your hand down really hard against a table. Pretty solid, right? Now imagine you’re doing that same thing, but with a piece of cardstock underneath your hand. You’re suddenly much more prone to slipping, and that’s without someone pushing your arm around.
If you need to shore up any gaps, then you may need to purchase a pole extension or find a room with a slightly lower ceiling. If you are attaching plywood directly to a ceiling joist to extend the width slightly, make sure you secure it firmly with heavy-duty screws or bolts.
Do I Need to “Break In” My Pole?
Your pole may be a little slippery when you first get it out of the box and set up. This may be a little confusing, especially if you train in a studio or club where the poles are well broken-in and much grippier. It’s not just in your head, it really is a little slippery; new poles have a fine coating of oil to protect it during the manufacturing and shipping process.
The goal of breaking in your pole is to remove that oil layer. Breaking in your pole won’t happen overnight. It is a process that pole dancers have been trying to figure out for a few years now, balancing what’s good for the pole with ease of use. Unfortunately, there’s no set method for doing this, but there are some guidelines that many people follow with success:
- Your pole is going to break in with use and wear over time, so just use it as much as you can. Every time you walk by, do a quick spin or two.
- Clean Your Pole! As a rule of thumb, you should always clean your pole after you’re done using it, especially if you’ve used grip. You can use special pole cleaner, but many people just use isopropyl alcohol and a clean cloth.
- While you’re breaking it in, try to make it a habit to clean it several times a day, including before and after you use it. Some people vouch for breaking a pole in with distilled vinegar, and others with vodka, instead of rubbing alcohol, but exercise caution and test a small portion of your pole first. Note that there’s some debate on whether vinegar is safe for brass plated poles.
- Warming up your pole and your body will help. Many poles are temperature dependent, some more than others. The warmer the pole is, the easier it’ll be to grip. If your body is warm (say, after a pole warm up) then your skin will have more grip.
- Use grip on the pole! Grab your favorite bottle of grip and rub the pole down with it. It will wear off, especially as you clean it, but it provides an excellent temporary solution.
Others have taken to using extremely fine grit sandpaper on their poles, but we don’t recommend this! This will completely take off the finish of the pole and shorten its longevity.
After having used well-loved studio poles for a few months before I got my first home pole, I was surprised to find out that I had to break in my pole. I had no idea why my pole was so slippery, whereas the ones in the studio were so much easier to grip!
After hours of research, and many months of trial and error, I found a solution for my 45mm chrome x-pole. I followed the general guidelines, of course, and over time it helped, but it made home poling difficult.
I finally soaked a rag in distilled vinegar and gave my pole a thorough cleaning with it, rubbing it down after with isopropyl alcohol like normal (with a new, clean cloth.) Since then, I still follow the general guidelines, but I haven’t had any problems with my grip slipping.
Choosing Your Crash Mat
So, you’re poling at home and you want to try something new. Maybe it’s something you’ve never done before, or you’re moving from one level to the next with this move. Sometimes, even the moves we know well can be slightly misplaced and send us to the ground.
What do you do?
It’s likely that you don’t have a trained spotter to keep you from falling. Crash mats are an easy alternative that will help cushion your fall, if you do fall. Of course, there’s no replacement for a trained spotter, but it’s better than your floor, and it can help prevent serious injuries.
A crash mat is a thick gymnastics pad meant for cushioning falls. If you purchase one meant for pole dancing, it will have a hole in the center to wrap around the base. It should be foldable, so you can store it away when you’re not practicing. Many also have handles on the sides so you can easily carry it around.
Now, many crash mats that are worth anything may seem a little pricey, but we don’t plan for accidents, and a medical visit will be even more expensive. So, if you’re poling at home, take care of yourself and make sure you get something to cushion potential falls.
Typically, stage poles almost always include crash mats. Tension poles and bolt-in poles don’t typically come with crash mats, however. This can make it a little overwhelming to pick out the one that’s right for you.
Lupit Pole sports their own brand of crash mats. Their standard mats are rather inexpensives
Most crash mats will range from 2” to 5”. In some cases, you’ll find thicker mats. As a rule of thumb, the thicker, the better.
After all, you’re cushioning yourself from the floor. If you’re small and lightweight, you can usually get away with a 2” thickness. If you’re taller or heavier, you’ll want a 3-5” crash mat. In the end, it all comes down to preferences. No matter your weight or height, if you feel more secure with a thicker mat, then get a thicker mat. Any hesitation you have will leave you frustrated when learning new moves, and most of the time, the difference amounts a few extra dollars, which are well-spent.
As far as diameter, the only difference you’ll notice is how far you can extend your body without pulling yourself past the cushion.
Regarding material, you’ll want a crash mat that is constructed from high-density foam, so it will absorb more weight upon impact – even if you’re incredibly lightweight, if you fall, your crash mat should be able to keep you from hitting the ground underneath.
So, Which Do We Recommend?
We recommend Lupit Pole’s Standard Crash Mats in 12cm (4.72”)
These crash mats have been in the market long enough to be improved, and they’re at an affordable price when it comes to crash mats. With a 59” diameter, you don’t have to worry about falling past the cushion, even in intermediate and advanced moves. Their premium crash mats are also available in metallic colors.
Thanks for reading our Home Poling Handbook, and we hope you have a wonderful poling experience!
Let us know how this has helped you, or if there’s anything you’d like to see in an update to this guide. Leave a comment on this post or give your thoughts on our social media! We love seeing everyone’s feedback and suggestions!
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