Is Pole Fitness as Effective For Building Muscle as It Seems? We Asked Experts

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Pole dancing isn’t just an incredibly fun and confidence-building activity, it’s also hard work! I mean, if you’ve ever tried to hold yourself up on a pole – let alone twirl your body around it – then you know how challenging pole dancing can be. Thankfully, that difficulty is also what makes it such a good workout! Whether you take a pole fitness class in person or at home, you can count on being sweaty and exhausted by the end. But is pole fitness really effective for strength training? POPSUGAR spoke with three fitness pros to find out.

Does Pole Fitness Build Muscle?

There’s a reason pole athletes look so toned. “Pole fitness requires a lot of upper body strength, core, and abductor muscles,” Laura Giromini Arrigoni, an XPOLE group fitness instructor at Crunch, told POPSUGAR. “Not only will you get stronger, but also, you’ll shape lean muscles. It’s all about strength, flexibility, and balance.”

Colleen Freeman, DPT, a physical therapist and Pilates and group fitness instructor, added that pole fitness is effective for building muscle for a couple reasons. Pole dancing is essentially suspension training (Freeman likened it to TRX), and it involves constant dynamic movements. “You are required to hold onto a pole during a pole fitness regimen, which challenges your grip, shoulder, upper back, neck, and core strength tremendously,” Freeman explained. “Not only are you having to hold your own body weight up on a pole, but add in constantly spinning and changing positions on the pole, and now you are really challenging your body. Not only will your muscles be stronger, but also your vestibular, or balancing system, within your brain will improve.”

Pole fitness is also a departure from other forms of strength training, and that’s a good thing. “Pole is an excellent way to build muscle and remain physically active – it’s so fun that it’s addictive,” said Shelly Murdock, a certified pole instructor and owner of three Exotic Workout Studios, as well as the Fit to Flaunt app. “You honestly don’t even feel like you’re working out until the next day when your muscles are sore. It forces you to embrace and appreciate your body for all that it does. It takes you out of your comfort zone and helps you to see beyond any perceived flaws.”

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle With Pole Fitness?

Like any workout, results will vary, but if you consistently take pole classes at least a few times a week, you should start to feel (and see) a difference within a few months – or even sooner. “You will notice you are stronger before your muscles grow, because the number of nerves going to your muscles multiplies before your muscles get larger,” Dr. Freeman explained. “You actually grow more nerves to the muscles that you use more often! Once the muscles cannot support more nerves, the muscle cells get larger and you continue to get stronger.”

So, even if you don’t look like you’ve made progress in the first couple months, keep it up. “Progress can be found in how long you’re able to hold onto the pole, your perceived exertion at the end of a workout, and your ability to do harder and more complex pole techniques,” Dr. Freeman said.

Is Pole Fitness Good For Beginners?

“The beauty of pole fitness is that it’s a workout anyone can do,” Murdock said. “Beginners typically start off by mastering basic spins and beginner-friendly conditioning exercises that improve neuromuscular coordination and build strength. Once those skills are no longer a challenge, slowly and safely, new skills will be introduced into the workout sessions.”

Arrigoni agreed. “Anyone who’s an expert today has been a beginner before,” she said. “Everyone who takes my pole classes leaves empowered, challenged, and excited about it. I also teach to over 60-year-old students who have never trained before. The secret is not to give up!”

If you’re looking to incorporate pole fitness into your routine and wondering if it’s worth it from a strength-training perspective, the answer is a resounding yes. Just stay committed, don’t be afraid to modify, and most importantly, have fun. You’ll be stronger before you even realize it!

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