Pole dancing is one of those activities that targets your entire body but also happens to be good for the mind and soul. And as it becomes more mainstream, we take a look at the benefits pole dancing can have as a fitness regime and sport.
Pole athletes from X-Pole SA Tarryn Knight, Sherry Bremner and Joanna Pawelczyk share the benefits of pole dancing:
1. Core workout
“Pole is a fantastic core work out. You won't ever have to do sit ups or crunches again, and with time, that six pack will be yours. As someone who did weights at gym religiously four to five times a week before I started pole I can confidently say that no amount of gym gave me the same toned body that pole does”, says Joanna Pawelczyk.
Read: 5 floor exercises for flat abs
At first glance, most people won't consider pole dancing to get their heart rates up, but this is where they're wrong because “cardiovascular activity is a key element to pole dancing routines. It can be quite an exhausting workout as you're doing lots of hectic strength moves in a row for three to four minutes. It's amazing for your body.
"If you want to whip yourself into shape just work on a routine for three months! That's where competing is good because it gives you a solid reason to work hard”, Joanna advises.
“When training for a competition or show, running a four to five minute routine provides a great anaerobic cardio burst. Depending on one's fitness levels, and the routine, a pole workout can easily provide you with the peak heart rate bursts you need for cardio health”, agrees Tarryn Knight.
“There’s nothing like doing a pole routine to get the heart racing. It’s not all just strength training, you build up a sweat very quickly if you keep moving around and on your pole”, says Sherry Bremner.
3. Tone up and lose weight
If a strong core and cardio workout is not enough to convince you then perhaps toning might.
Joanna explains that “pole fitness is a very upper body intensive sport so your arms, shoulders and abs will be the first to tone up.
"You won't ever get huge or bulky though as you're always working with your natural body weight. Your pectoral (chest) muscles develop with pole which is the same effect as doing lots of push ups, just not nearly as boring, and you won't need a wonder bra for that extra lift"
She says that certain poses in pole work the inner thighs and quads as well but the real leg work out comes from doing dynamic stretching exercises, which not only works your butt fantastically but makes you more flexible at the same time.
With regard to dropping some kilos, Joanna says that pole fitness "can definitely help with weight loss as well but like any other form of exercise it’s not going to make you shed weight if you only do it once a week. I recommend three to four times a week minimum, and naturally, a healthy balanced diet."
“Whilst I have always been blessed with an athletic physique, I can certainly confirm that my muscle definition is much more pronounced when I've been training. I've seen my pole fitness friends develop defined abdominals, biceps and triceps. Even the conditioning exercises that we do off the pole are a very good workout for all areas of the body”, confirms Tarryn.
4. Strengthen your back
In addition this, “pole fitness moves will develop your back muscles to be very strong. This, combined with a strong core, means reduced injuries from everyday life. You won't need a man to carry your groceries or move your couch - you can do it yourself!” says Joanna.
5. A healthy metabolism
“My pole friends swear that they burn food more quickly when they are training for a show or competition. Since one of our pole friends owns a bakery, an increased metabolism is a welcome side-effect because we always have her delicious cupcakes backstage!” confesses Tarryn.
She says that pole fitness has given her 'hobbit eating habits', especially when she is training extra hard. "I eat breakfast and second breakfast, a pre-lunch snack, lunch, a pre-tea time snack, tea, my 4 o’ clock snack, pre-dinner and then dinner. Sometimes I have an after dinner snack if I am still awake working."
The pole athletes eat regular meals but try to keep it healthy, with lots of fruits and vegetables and proteins.
6. Coordination and balance
Pole fitness also requires an incredible amount of coordination and balance. Learning to control spins, turns and pivots will strengthen muscles throughout your body.
“Back and core strength are required for pole fitness and these same ingredients enable good posture. Good posture is important for optimal lung functioning, healthy digestion, a healthy spine and an alert, engaged mind”, says Tarryn.
Because Twirling yourself around a pole involves quite a bit of stretching, your flexibility will also reap the benefits.
Tarryn explains that flexibility is so important in aerial arts because there is often nothing off of which to leverage. Leg extensions, aerial splits, back bends. . . all pole poses and moves have to be performed with a person's own ability to create the shape without any leverage or assistance.
She reminds us that flexibility has undisputed benefits for injury prevention, recovery, general muscle and joint health.
8. Body confidence
In addition to all of these fitness benefits, Joanna says that “pole fitness also gives you a sense of confidence, independence, sexiness and strength that no other sport can do. It isn't just amazing for your outer body but for your inner self too.”
It has helped Joanna and many other women with "body acceptance", she explains:
"When I first started pole I was horrified at the thought of having to wear shorts in public, being exceptionally shy about my legs and my pale skin. It was less than two weeks of classes before I owned my first pair of pole shorts and would happily walk about the studio in them. I very quickly realised that no one in a pole class judges you! Everyone is there to learn and be challenged and it unites you in a common cause. You learn to accept your body for what it is and turn your focus away from appearance and on to achieving that new pole trick you saw on Instagram. It's incredibly liberating. Of course, being such a great form of exercise, you start feeling stronger and more confident, and suddenly can't understand why none of your jackets fit anymore”, says Sherry.
“Pole, and the expression of dance, is so much fun that it's easy to lose track of time. When you don't realize how long you've been training for, your endurance increases with little effort. It's also possible to become so distracted by the determination to get a new move that one doesn't realise how much muscle power they are using. It's only the next day or two when your body feels stiff that you become aware of the good workout pole fitness provides.” says Tarryn.
10. Laughter is the best medicine
“The best part of pole is that it's incredibly fun – you don’t even think you're exercising. This also makes it easier to keep going and not give up,” says Joanna.
All the fun and laughter that comes with pole fitness allows you to tap into the mental and physical benefits to laughter – stress relieve, heart and general health benefits.
Read: The healing power of laughter
“Have you ever looked at a bunch of kids playing on a jungle gym and thought “Man, I miss having fun like that”? That’s exactly what pole fitness is like. You get to run, jump, climb and swing with all the enthusiasm of a seven year old. It’s incredibly fun and you don’t even realise that you are exercising. You also build close friendships with the women in class with you”, says Sherry.
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