Monday, September 19, 2011

How to stick to the pole

One of the top complaints I hear from novice polers is that they can't seem to grip the pole with their bodies. Pole-skin friction varies from person to person and pole to pole, depending on many factors: skin chemistry, pole material, products lingering on the skin or on the pole, temperature, etc. Since it's one of the questions I'm asked most frequently, I thought I'd write a little bit on "how to stick."

For the purposes of this article, I'm going to assume you're using a brass pole, but much of the advice applies to other materials as well.

For the love of god, don't wear oils or lotions.

This is the biggest problem I see in beginners. It's not that they're lubing up right before class; most know better than that. But they might have some product left over from after their morning shower, or putting on hand lotion on chilly days. This can kill your grip. I've found that some lotions affect my body grip much longer than others, and also that some dancers seem to retain product more than others. To be safe, it's best not to use any lotions the entire day before training. Ideally, apply them after your post-class shower, or at night before bed. If you really need something, there are some lotions made especially for pole dancers to be grippy, but I don't have a lot of personal experience with them.

Clean your pole

Maybe you're not wearing lotion, but the dancer before you was. Either way, cleaning the pole usually helps improve grip. Most dancers use Windex as they tend to have it handy, but rubbing alcohol I think works a little better. Wipe using a cloth or paper towels, and don't be afraid to wipe a little on your hands when you're done. It can help with your own grip.

Warm it up

Brass responds pretty drastically to temperature. The warmer it is, the grippier it gets. Cold temperatures make it slick. So if it's a chilly winter month, or a summer day with the AC blasting, you might consider heating up the room before getting started. Of course, you don't want it to be so warm that you sweat and that causes you to slip, so tread the line carefully.

Warm yourself up

A warmer skin temperature helps, too. Getting your heart rate slamming before you jump on the pole is not only good for your body, but helps you stick. I prefer kettlebell swings, but most people don't have both a pole and a kettlebell in their homes. So aim for anything that will get your heart rate up and your breathing hard. I've never understood the "jumping jacks" thing, but jump-squats might be a good option. Aim for something that will get you feeling warm without breaking a sweat. But then, I've found that dried sweat is the best natural gripping solution around.


There are tons of products out there to help you with your grip. If I use something it's usually Dry Hands, but Mighty Grip and iTac are popular as well, and there are many more options on the market. You can also use rosin spray or powder, but these might be too intense for most pole work-- too much grip slows spins and increases pole burn.

Check positioning

A lot of times I see students learning a new move who are convinced that they are too slippery-- but really, they're just not in the best position to complete the move. I feel like every dancer I've ever seen try to teach herself an inside leg hang (see photo above) thinks she's supposed to be using just her leg, and doesn't realize the armpit and the side of the torso are playing just as large a part. Reconsider your placement.

Don't be lazy- grip the damn thing.

At the end of the day, gripping the pole is your responsibiity, not a product's. You won't always be dancing under ideal conditions, and it's important to know how to hang on even if you or the pole are a little slick. Don't blame poor hand strength on hair oil, or inaccurate positioning on air conditioning. A good pole dancer has the strength and know-how to modify her force and angling to perform most of her rep under lame conditions.

If other dancers have favorite "grip tips," I'd really like to hear them!

Picture from Pole Dancing Expression

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