Buying a Pole for Home Use
Originally written and posted December 14, 2016. Updated and re-posted on new platform January 2019.
Are you considering buying a pole to use at home? Not sure where to start? Here are some commonly asked questions and their answers to help you decide.
First though, who am I and why should you take my advice on buying a pole? My name is Heather, and I’m the owner and lead instructor at Brass Butterflies Pole and Aerial Studio in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. I've started taking pole dancing lessons in 2010, became an instructor in 2011 and purchased my own studio at the end of 2012. I purchased my first pole for use at home after I had been taking lessons for just a few months. I wanted to be able to practice at home, in between my weekly classes. I did a lot of research at the time, and the first pole that I purchased for home use was an X-pole. When I became a studio owner, I registered to become an authorized X-pole dealer and have been selling X-pole through my studio ever since. So, fair warning, this post is not going to be an unbiased, objective comparison of different home pole products or companies. I have researched and even tried some other manufacturers’ poles, but I have found that, in my opinion, X-pole is the best in terms of safety and value.
If you wish to buy an X-pole through Brass Butterflies after reading this blog post, you can do so by contacting the studio.
Frequently Asked Questions and Considerations When Buying a Pole For Home Use
Are the poles removable/portable?
Standard X-pole Sport and Xpert models are installed using pressure. They have a patented mechanism that you twist to increase the upward/downward pressure when installing, which then gets locked/covered and is independent of the pole surface so that you don't have to worry about it "unscrewing" if you spin in a specific direction. Some other types of poles have this issue. The poles disassemble into several pieces and extensions and come with a carrying case so they are definitely removable and portable. Depending on model and material, they range in weight between 15-20 kg. The can be assembled and installed by one person in about 15 - 20 minutes.
What material should I chose?
There are several different materials available for poles. The most common in Canada are Brass and Chrome. Slightly less common are Titanium Gold (electronically coated finish exclusive to X-pole) and Stainless Steel. Even less common but available for sale are powder coated and silicone.
Chrome - Standard grip. Industry standard for competitions and showcases. Students who are used to brass will generally find chrome "slippery" but will eventually get used to it. People with contact allergies to metals such as nickel may react to chrome depending on length of exposure and severity of allergy.
Brass- High grip. Common in studios (in Canada). More expensive.
Titanium Gold - Electronically coated to enhance grip to somewhere between chrome and brass. Esthetically looks more like brass (yellow/gold colour). Mid-priced. Coating will eventually wear off with extensive use to reveal chrome beneath.
Stainless Steel- Grip similar to chrome. Best for sensitive skin. Will not tarnish in humid climates.
Powder Coated- Painted surface similar to automotive paint or the paint on playground play structures. Also better for sensitive skin or those with metal allergies. Very high grip (could be too much for students learning spins on static poles).
Silicone covered- Maximum grip/cannot spin on static mode or slide down. Can wear clothing. Similar to Chinese Pole.
What size/circumference should I chose?
Poles can be purchased in different diameters. 45mm is the industry standard now, used for most competitions and showcases, especially in North America. Standards in studios will vary regionally. Thicker poles (48-50mm) will be more difficult for students when learning spins and tricks requiring hand grip, however they may make sitting and tricks that involve hanging from the legs easier/more comfortable. Skinnier poles (38-40mm) are the opposite. They are easier to grip with hands for the beginner but will make sitting and leg tricks harder to learn. This is why 45 mm seems to have been chosen as the "happy medium" standard for the industry. Students with larger hands/longer fingers or smaller than average hands, may want to opt for a larger or smaller pole diameter but I recommend sticking to 45mm for most students.
How much space do I need?
You should be able to swing your body out from your pole without danger of kicking a wall or furniture. A good rule of thumb is minimum 5.5' from a wall or solid object and at least 7.5' between two poles. If you are very tall/long limbed, you may want a bit more space.
How much height do I need?
Standard X-pole kits (Xpert or Sport) are adjustable and come with extension pieces to allow installation with ceiling heights ranging from 7.5 - 9'. Extensions can be purchased to install poles up to 12' for brass or 14' for chrome. Anything higher than this will have too much sway/give and could be dangerous.
Spinning or static?
You can purchase poles that contain bearings which, when "unlocked" or set to spin mode, allow the pole itself to spin in place. Spin pole is an integral part of competition and showcasing, however it is not usually introduced to students in North America until they are at least at an intermediate level. Spin pole, for the most part, is actually more difficult and requires more strength than static pole. However, investing in a pole that will eventually be able to be used on spin mode is a good idea, even for a beginner, if they think they will eventually want to learn spin pole, so that they won't need to sell and upgrade their pole later, which may cost more in the long run.
Ceiling and Flooring Considerations
Will it damage/mark my ceiling/floor?
Because standard X-pole Sport and Xpert models are installed using pressure, you do not have to drill into the ceiling or floor. The dome at the top and the foot have silicone pads that prevent slipping and marking. You can get permanent block mounts which would screw into the ceiling for added stability and security, however these are typically unnecessary for home use, unless you have vaulted ceilings. You will need a stud finder when installing your pole so you can centre the dome on one or two ceiling joists, depending on your ceiling construction. This is an important step to prevent uneven pressure from causing damage. If you have a "popcorn" stucco ceiling, the top dome may leave a faint ring in the pattern of the stucco.
What if I have vaulted ceilings?
X-pole sells special mounts for vaulted ceilings. These do have to be screwed into the ceiling.
What if my ceilings aren't finished?
You will likely need to affix a piece of plywood across your joists and mount your pole to that.
What if I have carpet in the area where I want to install my pole? What if I have a cement floor?
X-poles can be installed on wall to wall carpet. You have to make sure to install tightly, and it will compress the carpet and leave a "dent" similar to if you placed a heavy piece of furtniture on your carpet. You will want to consider that pole dancing often has you dragging toes or feet on the floor or landing on your knees so you'll need to be careful of carpet burn. The same thing if you have an unfinished cement floor; this could be very hard on your feet/knees.
WARNING. DO NOT place a loose mat or area rug under your pole. This compromises safety as the material could slip, even if it's "non slip" material, with lateral force and the base of your pole could "kick out".
Notes on Safety
Do I need a crash mat?
It's a good idea to have a crash mat if you will be practicing inversions or high climbs. It is also a good idea to always have a buddy nearby when you are poling. One who is trained to spot you properly is even better, but beware of untrained spotters. They could cause injury to you and themselves rather than preventing it.
You can buy crash mats specifically made for installing around the base of a pole from various sources. I bought my studio crash mats here: http://www.yogaaccessories.com/Pole-Crash-Mats_p_125266.html. Another source within Canada is Splat Mats by Pole Junkies https://www.facebook.com/splatmatcanada/
What are the best/safest ways to learn if you pole at home and don't attend lessons at a studio?
Pole dancing is a sport/art similar to other forms of dance and is progressive in nature, meaning you need to learn foundational skills then layer progressively more difficult skills on top of these. It is really best learned from an expert who is experienced and trained in safety and proper teaching techniques. Being a good pole dancer does not make someone a good teacher. So, along these lines, if attending a reputable studio with experienced instructors is not an option available to you, it is best to use a reputable source for online video lessons. Please, do not use random YouTube or Instagram videos to teach yourself on the pole. Watching these videos is great for inspiration and motivation. However, you should use the same criteria for choosing online lessons as you would for choosing a studio. Usually for good quality you will have to pay a subscription fee, but not necessarily. There are some good YouTubers out there who have been around for a long time. Just research the background, training and experience of the person making the videos. Here are a few sources I've used and know are reputable. This is not an exhaustive list.
Aerial Amy Blog http://aerialamy.com/blog/
Studio Veena http://studioveena.com
Tantra Tutorials http://www.tantratutorials.com/
Pole and Aerial.com http://poleandaerial.com
Open Dance Academy https://www.opendance.academy/