Why a Pole Dancing Workout Class Isn't as Intimidating as You Think

Pole dancing is a popular form of dance that people of all fitness levels can (and do!) enjoy. While some people still associate it with entertainment of a more adult nature, studios continue to pop up around the country, presenting pole dancing for what it is: a form of artistic expression. Or, if you're more fitness-inclined: a killer full-body workout.

Pole dancing provides a surprisingly tough full-body workout for all fitness levels. (Image: Getty Images/BraunS)

Yes, pole dancing is legit exercise. It incorporates moves like spins, climbs and holds on a pole, as well as transitions from the floor to the pole. Expect to work your upper body, legs and core.

Here's everything you need to know before signing up for your first class.

Who Are Pole Dancing Classes For?

"Pole dancing classes are for anyone looking to have a good time, learn new things and surround themselves with good people," says Jordan Mazur, owner of Muse Pole Fitness in Columbia, Missouri.

To that end, most studios welcome people of all genders, abilities and fitness levels. "We've had men and women in their 60s and children as young as nine," says Brittin Leigh, owner of Frestyl Fitness, a pole dancing and movement studio with locations throughout Minnesota. "Our curriculum is accessible, so we've also had students who don't have two arms and two legs." Still, some classes may be more advanced than others, so check with the studio to find out which classes are appropriate for you.

No matter your skill level, pole dancing will give you a full-body workout. You'll build strength, endurance, balance, mobility and flexibility in a single session, which makes it a great option as a primary workout. Or, it can be a fun way to supplement an existing fitness routine.

Leigh says many pole dancing studios emphasize enjoyment of the process over a specific outcome, but it depends on the studio: "Some [studios] are more performance-based, where you walk in and say, 'my goal is to climb to the ceiling,' and within the next couple of months, they will help you do that."

Pole Dancing Class Format and Size

In general, pole dancing classes are small (Frestyl limits them to five people, while other studios max out at 10 or 12 students), which means you'll get to know the instructor and other students pretty well.

In terms of format and style, there's so much variation between pole dancing studios that you'll have to do some research to find the one (and the type of class) that appeals most to you.

At Muse, classes begin with a 15-minute warm-up, followed by tricks and transitions on the pole. "Depending on the level of the class, students will either finish by doing a combination together with music or freestyle to their song of choice," says Mazur. Expect to share the pole with one other person throughout the session (there are up to six poles in one room).

Muse also offers choreography classes where you learn a set of moves for a specific song and perform the choreography in groups of up to three people per pole.

At Frestyl, a 75-minute workout begins with an extensive warm-up on a yoga mat before progressing to standing work — moves like climbing and holding positions — on the poles. Expect to perform moves off the pole, too, like getting down on the floor and standing back up.

Call studios or visit their websites to get an idea of what class will be like: Some focus more on sexy movements, while others are more sports-based and artistic, says Leigh. Doing your homework can help you make sure you end up in a class featuring the style you're looking for.

Most pole dancing studios do have one major thing in common: The instructors and students are generally friendly and accepting of all body types, skill levels and identities. "Each class has a welcoming and supportive atmosphere. Everyone is there to succeed together and have fun," says Mazur.

What to Bring and Wear to Pole Dancing Class

Leigh recommends wearing layers to pole dancing class: a pair of leg warmers or sweatpants over shorts, and a long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt on top of a cropped top or sports bra. This way, you can stay warm at the beginning of your workout and easily strip layers away as you start sweating.

Wear what feels comfortable, but keep in mind that you'll want some exposed skin to help you grip the pole. Some studios may even require shorts and crop tops (men go shirtless), so check with the studio beforehand if you have concerns or if you're not comfortable wearing minimal clothing.

As for footwear, you'll want to practice barefoot or in socks, though some studios allow dance shoes with heels. You may also want to bring a yoga mat, towel and bottle of water, though some studios provide mats and towels. Ask the studio before your first class.

How to Make the Most of Your First Pole Dancing Class

Avoid any and all face, body and hair products before class to make sure your grip isn't compromised by grease. Not to mention, moisturizer can damage the poles and may require extra cleaning. When in doubt, wash your hands and any other exposed skin before you get started.

Be sure to sign up for the class that's appropriate for your skill level. Some studios offer sessions that are suitable for all levels, but others work at different tiers. Many studios that offer advanced sessions require you to take prerequisite classes or go through testing before you can move on to the next level. Check with the studio beforehand if you're not sure the class you're interested in is appropriate for you.

Pole Dancing Locations and Pricing

Pole dancing studios are popping up in cities all over the country. Check for local studios in your area. Here are a few places to start.

  • Frestyl Fitness
    Buy one class for $30 at any of their Minnesota locations, including Minneapolis, Mankato, Rochester and Blue Earth. There are also a variety of membership levels available, including an unlimited membership for $195 per month.

  • Muse Pole Fitness
    Pricing at Muse in Columbia, Missouri varies depending on the class, but they also offer several membership options, such as an unlimited membership for $145 a month and 12 weeks unlimited for $360.

  • Divine Movement Pole Dance and Fitness
    Divine Movement, which has two locations in the Seattle area, offers workshops and series, as well as drop-in classes for different skill levels. New students should take the Pole 101 drop-in session ($34).

  • Catalyst Movement Arts
    This Chicago studio also offers a variety of classes and workshops for different skill levels. Pricing varies according to the class, so check their schedule for specifics.

  • Southwest Pole Dancing
    Book an intro to pole dancing fitness for $15 at this Albuquerque, New Mexico studio. Single classes are $20 after the intro-level class, or you can opt for one of several membership options.

  • The Vertitude
    The Vertitude in Santa Rosa, California offers classes, series and workshops to suit a variety of skill levels. Pricing varies, so check their schedule for specifics.
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