Pole dancing has come a long way. The racy workouts rely on slow movements off the pole to stretch and lengthen the body, followed by twirling and twisting on the metal pole to build upper body and core strength. Dancers can also work their way into "inversions"—upside-down positions—on the pole. Classes are offered in gyms, in private studios and by personal trainers.
Benefits of pole dancing classes: Pole dancing builds strong core muscles. The strenuous movements also benefit muscles in the arms and legs. If nothing else, pole dancing workouts are said to be a lot of fun.
Who pole dancing classes is best for: Once considered an exotic dance form reserved for scantily clad women on glitter-strewn stages, pole dancing is now a popular way for anyone to exercise—and the platform heels are optional. Though some classes are women-only, others are open to men as well.
It may also be possible to work the pole, so to speak, at home using a DVD. If you don't have a vertical pole in your living room (and don't plan on installing one), there are videos that teach pole dance movements using the wall or a chair.
Getting ready: If you do decide to work the pole, keep a few safety tips in mind. Don't wear lotion, as it can make the pole slippery, both for you and anyone else who uses it after you. Bare skin makes it easier to get a grip on the pole, so wear biking shorts instead of baggy sweats. And don't wear jewelry—it can fly off during a spirited spinning inversion.
Calories burned: Pole dancing workouts can burn 250 to 400 calories per hour.
Not surprisingly, pole dancing workouts have attracted many female celebrities (no male A-listers as of yet). Some of its most avid fans include Teri Hatcher, Carmen Electra, Pamela Anderson, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Though Martha Stewart tried her pole dancing shoes on her daytime talk show, the wholesome host has yet to take up the skill regularly.
Inversions can be tricky to master. Falling off the pole while attempting to spin upside-down can result in bruises or broken bones. Many of the positions are performed while upside-down, making it possible to land face first.
Who shouldn't do it: Because pole dancing can place enormous amounts of pressure on the back, women should not perform the exercises immediately after giving birth. Most new moms can get back on the pole after about two months, though it's always best to get the go-ahead from a doctor first. The majority of classes have age requirements too. Clients younger than 18 years of age are typically required to get parental consent before participating.