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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • November 2017
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Men can fly in the aerial arts too!

The following is a question-and answer section with Russ, a male aerial arts student.

Tell us a little about yourself, Russ. What do you typically do for physical activity/strength training?

In the past I’ve done MMA, but more recently my primary activities were weight training, running, scenario paintball and jet skiing.

How were you introduced to the Co-ed Pole Strength and Hammock Fit classes?

My girlfriend is a longtime member of Aerial Dance, and Co-Ed Hammock classes started around the time we started dating. She knew that I enjoyed working out and staying in shape, so she suggested I go to class with her. Since I’m willing to try anything twice and I liked spending time with her, I agreed.

Before you tried these strength and conditioning classes, what were you anticipating?

I expected to get a good workout. Not necessarily a workout that keeps my heart rate up the whole time, but more tricks. I anticipated that it would be difficult to pull the moves off using my own bodyweight, but I wasn’t expecting the heavy focus on conditioning.

What was the most surprising aspect of the pole strength class you tried?

I was surprised to find that it was even more painful than I thought it would be on my skin. I was not desensitized to that type of activity at all. I naturally used my upper body a lot more than I should have due to not being prepared for the discomfort. For example, when we would do pole pumps, I would use only my upper body because it hurt to brace my leg on the pole, so I wasn’t able to work my legs in addition to my arms and shoulders. That’s getting better the more I do it and desensitize.

How about the hammock fit class?

I didn’t have a lot of surprises with hammock. Diane gave me a good idea of what to expect. I knew I’d be utilizing muscle groups that I hadn’t before, or at least for a very long time. I expected there to be some challenges with teaching me the moves and also the physical differences of teaching a man as opposed to a woman. I was not expecting the upside down and spinning portions to be as hard on my equilibrium as they were.

You and Diane are now going beyond the strength training classes and working on a doubles pole routine for the Christmas Show on Dec. 9. How is that going?

Couples lessons are going well! When we first started, we focused more on getting me up to speed on the pole basics, and now we’re moving into tricks, which is pretty exciting. Instructor Kelly is very enthusiastic about working with us, which makes it more fun, and is adapting moves to capitalize on my existing strength.

How does it compare to the pole strength class?

The lessons are a lot more fun and challenging. This is definitely what I was looking for from the beginning. Because of the way I’m used to exercising, it can be difficult taking what the instructor says and applying it to the pole. Watching a demonstration and hearing instructions is a very different thing when you’re upside down and spinning and trying to figure out where you’re supposed to put your hand. Not being able to do it repetitively is a challenge. You get more repetition of conditioning moves during a class and they are more familiar, where learning tricks takes more work to get into and I can’t do as many “reps.”

Other than getting to bond with your girlfriend, what is the coolest part of working on a doubles pole routine/aerial training?

The coolest part of working on a routine is getting to see what I’m actually capable of. I would see people do these cool tricks and moves and wonder if I was able to pull it off. Guess what? I am! I also like that when other instructors and students are in the room while we’re training, they get just as excited as we do and are always willing to lend a hand or suggest new things for us to try.

Some people might think, “Why are you not doing a ‘manly’ sport?” What would you say to that?

I don’t think that it’s not a manly sport. Pole definitely has a stigma attached to it, but when you show people or tell them about the moves that you’re pulling off, they understand the strength and skill required, and that you’re not trying out for Magic Mike 3. It’s just as empowering for men as it is for women.

What would you say to other men who are considering trying an apparatus in the aerial arts to work on strength, endurance or flexibility?

I would tell other men interested in aerial that they should definitely give it a try! It will challenge your body in ways that it hasn’t been challenged before. Aerial helps with body awareness and it will help you become more flexible. My best advice is that if you’re going to try pole, for God’s sake, shave your legs because sweaty hair does not stick. Do your homework. Look at what other pole athletes wear and recommend and draw from any experiences they’ve had that might help you. 

Kelly Wolff

For additional information about the aerial arts, go to or call 920-750-1441.

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