Roadmap to Pole
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions based on the length of time others have been poling.
Not quite sure what you’re looking for? Explore the timeline or jump to a certain time period with the buttons below. Check back often for updates and new information!
Select one of the options below to start exploring.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING AND WEAR TO MY FIRST CLASS?
IS POLE DANCING SAFE?
Yes, because given ideal conditions – physical health, a safe training space, proper precautions, and knowledge of proper form – you are equipped to do everything you need to do safely.
Mistakes do happen, unsafe training spaces do exist, and sometimes we might be a little overzealous in what we can do, however. Pole dancing is indeed an acrobatic sport; as you progress, you’ll be in the air, upside-down, and maybe you’re just anchored from one point on your body. You can take the best precautions and get to know your body, but like any other sport or workout, you are taking that risk, so allow yourself to progress at your own pace.
You’re not going to be in danger by just standing next to your pole. Build a strong foundation of knowledge and take care of your body and mind to stay at peak performance. Let yourself have rest days and eat to fuel your body as it takes this journey.
DO POLE DANCERS ALWAYS WEAR HEELS?
It really depends on the dancer. Some people prefer to wear heels, others prefer to go barefoot.
There’s a time and a place for heels; if you’re learning something new, it will be easier to learn it barefoot. Once you get more comfortable with the move, you can give it a test run in your heels.
No matter the height of your platform, wearing heels will be like strapping ankle weights onto your feet, so be prepared for everything to be just a little bit tougher. If you like heels, strength conditioning will be your friend!
CAN I WEAR STREET HEELS INSTEAD OF PLATFORMS?
No. There are a few reasons for this:
First, your street heels can make your feet hurt while you’re dancing and can make it impractical to move around smoothly.
Platform heels, also referred to as stripper heels or Pleasers (brand name) are balanced and weighted so you have maximum comfort and control over your movements.
Secondly, heels made for pole dancing are shaped to help you achieve certain moves – as an example, you might notice your pair of Pleasers are curved upwards at the front of the sole – this allows you to rock forward or pivot over the “toebox” or platform.
I DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE WEARING SHORT SHORTS, WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
That’s fine, you don’t have to be.
Wear the shortest shorts you are comfortable with. For your first few classes, you can typically get away with mid-thigh shorts and sleeveless tank top shirts since you’ll (ideally) just be going over foundation steps or spins from the floor.
Once you progress further, you may need to wear shorter clothing. Pole dancers wear what they wear partially because of aesthetic, but for a practical reason as well: what holds you to the pole isn’t magnets or any other illusion, it’s pure skin contact.
Pole dance poles are smooth metal. They’re not textured or tapered. Without that skin contact, you won’t be able to hold yourself up, and you’ll slide off the pole.
If you would prefer to pole in clothes, then you’ll likely find inspiration in Chinese pole, where they utilize silicone-coated poles to allow them to “stick” even with the fabric.
WHY IS POLE DANCING PREDOMINATELY FEMALE?
Well, there’s a variety of reasons, and many are speculative. In short, it’s a culture thing.
Pole dancing was brought to North America by sideshow acts and pop-up circuses. The showgirls would attract audiences by dancing – eventually, they began using the center tent pole as a part of their dance. After that, it became a popular act with burlesque dancers and later clubs. All these forms of entertainment were typically performed by women.
The exception is older than these performances, and it is an Indian strength sport called Mallakhamb, which is a male gymnastics sport where men would showcase their ability to climb a wooden pole with impressive acrobatic tricks. There is speculation that this is where the circuses got the idea for the show.
When this was becoming a popular form of entertainment in North America, not many clubs accepted male dancers. This means while many women had an easy “in” where they could make a living and develop a style, there weren’t as many opportunities for men to pole dance.
Now, as pole dancing is becoming more widely accepted, more men are learning the art. There’s even a Men’s Division for many professional competitions.
WHY DO PEOPLE ASSOCIATE STRIPPERS WITH POLE DANCING?
Strippers helped popularize the act of dancing with a pole, but they weren’t the first ones to do so. Since this act isn’t common in traveling circuses anymore, people associate pole dancing with what they culturally know.
Pole dancing came to North America with traveling performance shows such as circuses. Showgirls would use the center pole of their tent as a prop to dance around.
The idea caught on and became popular through themed burlesque shows, and soon after, many clubs and bars across North America began installing poles into their stages to accommodate this type of entertainment.
Many people in the modern era still think of strippers when they hear the words “pole dancing” because it’s not very widely known outside of strip clubs. Now, there are competitions, studios, style branches, and an entire global community!
POLING AT HOME VS. IN A STUDIO
Poling at Home:
- 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
Poling 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
ARE ALL POLE DANCERS STRIPPERS?
No, not all pole dancers are strippers.
As pole dancing becomes more popular, more women (and men!) are starting at home and in dedicated studios for a variety of reasons from fitness to body image, graceful movement, activity, feeling sexier, to simple enjoyment.
Becoming a pole dancer does not automatically make you a stripper and becoming a stripper does not automatically make you a skilled pole dancer.
We find that people often ask this question because there is a stigma around the entire subject, but we’re calling shenanigans! There’s nothing wrong with being a stripper, and there’s nothing wrong with being a pole dancer, but being one doesn’t automatically make you the other.
WILL PEOPLE THINK DIFFERENTLY OF ME FOR POLE DANCING?
That depends on who you are around. Pole dancing may be in studios now, but many people’s thoughts still go right to gentlemen’s clubs.
For close friends and family members, only you can make an educated guess at how people will react, and it’s up to you to tell them accordingly.
When it comes to complete strangers or potential dates, you can’t know for sure how they’ll react. Depending on who they are, they may appreciate the skill, or at least understand it. On the other hand, they may not be sure how to react because it’s a ~social taboo~. Others may boldly ask for a dance, which is why many pole dancers avoid telling their partners until at least a few dates in.
In the end, someone else might think poorly of you for pole dancing, but it’s up to you to either help educate them or ignore their opinion.
The pole community is largely open-minded and incredibly encouraging, so you won’t have a hard time finding a pole sister to support you. Be who you want to be, not who somebody else wants you to be.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A STUDIO?
There are dozens of factors that can play into whether you are training at a “good” studio, and you may have your own personal qualifications as well. We’ve created a short checklist of our recommended or ideal qualities in a studio; whether it plays into your opinion of that new studio that opened down the street is up to your discretion.
- You feel safe
- The environment and people are overall positive and encouraging
- The front door is locked during class for student safety and to avoid class interruptions
- Any street-facing windows are covered during class
- There is at least one crash mat available to students
- The poles are trusted brands and securely attached to the ceiling (i.e., not using pipes)
- The instructor(s) are attentive and experienced – preferably pole or fitness instruction certified
- There is at least one instructor available to spot you during classes or open pole sessions
- The studio offers intro or beginner classes
- The poles are regularly cleaned
- The bathroom and/or changing area is clean
- The floor is kept clean and free of debris or cracks
WHAT DO I NEED TO START POLING AT HOME?
- Home pole
- Crash mat
- Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and cloth for cleaning
- Brass poles require brass cleaner to help avoid tarnishing
- Your pole clothes!
- Large mirror(s) to help with body awareness and positioning
CAN I WEAR HEELS?
Absolutely! Men were the ones to invent high heels, after all.
Pleaser runs in women’s sizes, and for men, they suggest sizing up two sizes. We suggest taking your foot measurement and ordering according to the size chart.
WILL MY LOCAL STUDIO ACCEPT ME?
Most studios accept men.
Yes, some studios are women-exclusive, but most studios do accept men so long as they show interest in pole and aren’t there to gawk at the women.
You may be asked to come in before your first class to meet the instructor(s) and answer some questions about your interest in pole. Some studios have men frequently and will allow you to join no-questions-asked.
I FEEL AWKWARD JOINING A STUDIO WITHOUT OTHER MEN THERE
You can always ask the instructor(s) if there are other men in your class prior to showing up.
Sure, if you’re the first guy to join the studio, you may get some apprehensive looks when you first walk in the door. It’s normal, but there are plenty of male pole dancers. Don’t overthink it, don’t gawk, and do your best in class like everyone else.
Seriously, if you feel awkward about something, consult your instructor. They’re there not only to teach, but to create a positive and safe space for everyone. If you feel uncomfortable or have concerns about your class, tell them.
WHAT DO I WEAR TO KEEP MY BITS IN PLACE?
There are a few options for men.
The most common option is to wear two pairs of form-fitting underwear underneath your pole shorts; one to keep everything in place and another to compress it down.
Some men opt for a dance belt underneath their pole shorts, but this can be a little pricy.
DO I NEED TO SHAVE MY LEGS?
You don’t have to, but some men swear by it.
If you’re worried about “not sticking” that’s normal for everyone starting out. It’s all grip strength and getting used to the movements.
If you can’t get enough skin contact with the pole because you have too much hair, you might want to consider shaving your legs. Some men have found that, while leg hair wasn’t the issue, they still preferred how shaved legs felt, so you never know until you try!
HOW DO I WORK AROUND MY JUNK?
Keep your bits in place! Double-layer your underwear or try a dance belt. These extra layers help protect everything down there as well.
Give yourself some space and pick a lane. You don’t have to do a sit with the pole jammed into your groin, you can give yourself a few inches and favor tilting to one side – that will give you more thigh contact with the pole anyhow.
Experiment with modifications that make it easier for you, such as different ways of tucking your bits in, or gripping the pole with a different part of your body.
WHAT DO I DO ABOUT MY MENSTRUAL CYCLE?
If you are still physically able to pole, then you absolutely can pole.
If you wear tampons, consider getting heavy flow sport tampons.
If you wear pads, consider getting heavy flow wingless pantiliners.
If you wear a cup, take it slow and check for leaks. You can always wear a pad underneath for extra security.
If you can’t bear to pole while on your monthly but you still want to do something, consider spending your pole time doing floor conditioning exercises. You can also go through flexibility stretches, just keep in mind you might not be quite as flexible this time of month.
ARE BIRTH CONTROL IMPLANTS OK TO POLE WITH?
It depends. Typically, these implants are placed in your arm, so it can be a concern for pole dancers. Some women haven’t had trouble at all with their arm implants, but others report bruising and just don’t want to deal with it.
An alternative to discuss with your doctor is an IUD, which shouldn’t affect your pole dancing regimen at all.
HOW DO I ALLEVIATE OR PREVENT BRUISING?
There are a few things you can do to alleviate or prevent bruising.
First, if you are easy to bruise or are considered anemic, you can consult your doctor about taking ferrous sulfate (iron) supplements. Do not start taking any medications or supplements before consulting your doctor.
Many pole dancers swear by applying Arnica gel immediately after classes, or when bruising appears.
To alleviate bruises that appear:
- Practice RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.)
- Massage the bruised area every few hours, especially if the bruise is swollen or feels hard.
- Ice the area as soon as possible after bruising occurs.
Light stretching a few days after bruises appear may help it heal.
THE POLE IS PULLING MY SKIN! AM I DOING SOMETHING WRONG?
It may sound surprising, but that’s normal.
The pole constantly pulls against your skin because your skin contact is what holds you against the pole. Over time, you’ll get used to the pulling and pinching feeling, but every new move will pull at new areas. There’s a reason why everyone loathes learning Superman at first.
Again, you get used to it; you just do it over and over until you do. Such is the nature of pole.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POLE DIAMETERS AND FINISHES?
The difference between finishes:
Least amount of grip.
Stainless steel can be weather dependent, and it’s best in humid conditions. It is great for those with metal allergies.
Moderate amount of grip, US competition standard.
Chrome is good in all types of weather, but it can show wear over time and can rust in very humid conditions. Not ideal for those with nickel allergies, but otherwise works well with most skin types.
Moderate to High amount of grip.
This pole has electronically coated gold over a chrome pole. It is OK in most weather types, but it will show wear over time and can rust in very humid conditions. Comparable to brass without the special care requirements.
Moderate to High amount of grip.
Brass works well in hot weather and is great for those with metal allergies. Scratches easily and requires special care to avoid tarnishing.
High amount of grip.
This type of pole isn’t widely used but is fantastic for those with very poor grip strength. Bare-skin spins and drops can sometimes be painful and cause friction burns.
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 diameters:
Smallest. This size is popular in Australia, perfect for people with smaller hands or a preference to spins and hand-holds.
Small. Perfect for people with smaller hands or a preference to spins and hand-holds.
Medium. US competition standard and current industry standard. Typically, in asia
Large. This was the original size introduced to the industry. Perfect for people with larger hands or a preference to body and leg holds.
CAN I INSTALL A POLE IN MY APARTMENT?
Tension poles are fine for apartments, even on carpet, though hardwood flooring is preferred. Just follow the instructions that come with your pole, install it against a ceiling joist – which you can find with a stud finder – and you’re ready to start poling.
WHERE CAN I FIND POLEWEAR?
Anywhere you can find sportswear.
Many online stores sell polewear brands, and you can always purchase from your local sportswear or yoga shop.
The hardest part of finding polewear is the right length bottoms. The key things you want to look is moisture-wicking fabric, breathability, and comfortability.
HOW COME SOMEONE ELSE PROGRESSED BEYOND ME?
Progress isn’t a race, it’s a journey.
We all come from different backgrounds, different health histories, and a different understanding of our own bodies.
Other people are going to pick up certain things faster than you will, just like you’ll pick up certain things faster than others.
Put the time in, learn how to take care of your body and mind, and don’t stress out about it. You’ll get it in time, but for now, learn from the journey.
WHEN WILL I BE READY TO INVERT?
Inverting takes full-body strength in specific areas, and it can be frustrating to obtain at first. Try practicing floor prep to get used to being upside down, and work on conditioning exercises.
Remember, don’t kick up or “kip” into your invert. This is a bad habit that can put a lot of stress and torque on your muscles too quickly.
If you are ready to invert, you should be able to do it in one fluid and controlled motion. If you’re not ready, stick to invert prep and conditioning. You’ll thank yourself later for building a better foundation.
HOW DO I SPOT BAD HABITS?
What does a “bad habit” look like to you? Whether it’s not pointing your toes or unknowingly putting your body at risk for injury, bad habits can be hard to spot.
We’ve compiled some tips below to help you find those sneaky habits.
- Watch other pole dancers on YouTube and Instagram – do they do moves differently? If so, why?
- Do your research on body mechanics or consult your physical therapist about specific concerns.
- Learn from multiple instructors to gain nuggets of information – and then research to verify.
- Listen to your body, above all else. If something feels harsh or unsafe, then don’t do it.
Always listen to your body and don’t partake in something that feels wrong – remember, even if dozens of others have done it without injury doesn’t mean you’re immune, it just means their anatomy is different or they have managed to avoid injury thus far.
HOW DO I GRIP THE POLE WITH FAUX LEATHER?
This question is typically asked because Pleaser sells a line of beautiful faux leather (pleather, or PU) heels. There are also many brands that sport faux leather in their polewear, and you may find that it doesn’t grip the pole very well.
You’re going to have a harder time sticking to the pole because you’re not able to rely on your skin contact, but instead have to work around a layer of fabric between you and the pole.
Some pole dancers have used hairspray to achieve the level of stickiness they need, but it needs to be reapplied. Hairspray will also leave small amounts of residue on the pole, so be mindful of extra grippiness and post-practice cleaning.
It’s all about squeezing your legs extra hard so you’re held on by force, rather than skin tension. If you are able, find a different grip placement that allows you to use your skin instead.
I’M HAVING TROUBLE WITH XYZ. I DON’T THINK I CAN PROGRESS.
We’ve all struggled through different aspects of pole dancing. No one does well on their first class and expecting that you will is like asking a baby to run before it can crawl.
You can get past this plateau. It may take a modification, more strength, or more flexibility. You may need to break down the move and practice the movements repeatedly until you can achieve it. You may need multiple people to explain it so it mentally clicks into place.
At the end of the day, it is achievable.
We all progress at different rates, and every one of us have moves that are personally harder than others.
You can do it. Stop telling yourself you can’t.
There’s an old saying: “whether you think you can, or you can’t, then you’re right.” Pole takes not only physical strength but mental strength – and luckily, you can build both.
SHOULD I CONSIDER SIGNING UP FOR A LOCAL COMPETITION OR SHOWCASE?
Absolutely consider it, but that doesn’t mean you should.
Competitions aren’t right for everybody, so don’t let someone else push you into going on stage when you’re not comfortable. Do it for yourself, for your own reasons.
If you decide the answer is yes, then great! There are many resources available to you to help you get started. You don’t have to commit to multiple competitions if you discover you don’t like it.
If you decide the answer is no, then great! You made your own choice and now you get to determine the next step in your pole journey. You can always reconsider and try out a competition later.
I FEEL LIKE I’VE PLATEAUED! WHAT DO I DO?
First, consider why you’ve plateaued. Not every person will go through a plateau for the same reasons.
Is it a lack of a goal or next step?
Did you have a life-changing event keep you out of pole, and now you’re not sure how to get started again?
There are things you can do to spice up your relationship with pole again. We’ve provided some ideas below to help you get started.
- Visit other studios and train with multiple teachers.
- Watch video tutorials from multiple brands and websites.
- If you haven’t yet, buy your own home pole to facilitate learning any time.
- Reach out to more pole community members.
- Participate in challenges on Instagram or from your favorite brand.
- Try your hand at a showcase or competition.
- If you favor one style, try diving into the other.
- Participate in workshops from your pole idols or nearby professionals.
SHOULD I START TEACHING?
Only you know whether you’re ready to start teaching.
As an instructor, your knowledge must be well-rounded, from physical safety to technical movement. Many good instructors are certified in calisthenics, physical therapy, and/or pole instruction.
When teaching pole, it can be easy to fall into routines and always teach the same thing over and over again. It can also be easy to put off further reading material and learning, but as a teacher, it is now your job to learn, experiment with styles, play with move variations, and get to know all the move names.
We all have our expertise, however.
If you’re not comfortable answering a question, don’t try to make something up – It’s easy to say something that sounds good, but that thing may cause injury.
SHOULD I GO PROFESSIONAL?
Going professional means pole becomes your career.
You no longer pole as a hobby, but as your job and life. You will have to learn, train, eat, and rest like it’s your job to, because it is.
- Reach out to other professional pole dancers, tell them you’re seriously considering it and would like some advice.
- Reach out to other professional athletes to get an idea of their eating, sleeping, rest and workout schedules.
- Pick up some Tim Ferriss “4-Hour” books.
- Research what you need to get started, who you need to know, and where you make your money.
Lastly, if you haven’t made the jump yet, then it’s time to consider signing up for a competition.
Try one level below professional and gauge how you feel about the process. For many professional pole dancers, competitions gain them their reputation and make for a great resume piece.
WHEN DO I BECOME AN EXPERT?
“Expert” isn’t a clearly defined title in pole dancing. Becoming an expert can mean different things to different people.
Some may consider you an expert once you start teaching, while others may only consider you an expert once you’ve mastered all the moves and are beginning to create new ones.
You may consider yourself an expert once you have the paper qualifications or x number of years in experience.
Becoming an expert is all about what you know and what you’re willing to learn to push the envelope. Even the most advanced “experts” always have more to learn.