Brandis Atwood Unpacks Her Pole Fitness Obsession

Brandis Atwood discovered pole fitness while browsing Pinterest and what she calls her obsession with the craft has only grown over time. Let’s find out more about this awesome wife and mother who’s embracing the adventure of pole fitness, and aerial rings with the occasional Warrior Dash thrown in the mix!

Brandis, I have been aware of pole fitness practices from Chinese Martial Arts to the modern entertainment industry for a while now. It is a well respected fitness practice across many global communities. Have you researched the history of pole fitness along your own journey?

Oh yes, most definitely! For me personally, it was, and still is an obsession. I spent a lot of time learning about the craft, and how far it has come to be as mainstream as we see it today. It has most definitely given me a deep appreciation and respect for the art of pole. I love the diversity, but I have seen, first hand, people try to discredit the exotic side because of the stigma attached. Many of the trendy moves we see on social media were made famous by people who began their journey by working in the clubs.

Did you have a sports, dance or gymnastics background before you started pole fitness?

Yes, but when I started pole fitness it had been at least twelve or thirteen years since I had done any of that. I had taken ballet, tap, jazz and gymnastics at various points in my youth.

Brandis Atwood incorporates aerial yoga into her trainingDo you think having that dance and gymnastics background helps you with your training now?

I had muscle memory and I think that helps with learning certain tricks. I know how to fall safely and know my body’s limits. I really credit my youth training in those regards.  With that said, I was not very active in my twenties.  I worked a sedentary desk job, didn’t work out and ate terribly.  I lost all my flexibility and strength during this time, so it basically felt like starting from scratch.  Slowly, with dedication, everything began falling in place.  My body was like, “Oh! Okay, I know what you want me to do now!”  Its like waking up something inside of you that you may have forgotten was there.

What influenced you to practice your pole fitness at home?

Mainly the initial attraction was convenience. With a pole at home, I could effectively workout without having to worry about a babysitter for my girls. I was also pretty unhealthy and insecure with my body at the time. My second child had been born only a few months prior, so I was intimidated by the gym. I had no idea at that point that I would be breaking through those layers and becoming a new confident person! I’m grateful my family has been so supportive of letting me put the metal pole in the middle of our living room! Ha ha!

Most people are unfamiliar with pole fitness outside of the entertainment industry and therefore attempt to cast judgments on pole; how do you deal with ignorance thrown at you on social media or anywhere else regarding your pole practice?

I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. I have been called names on Instagram and told I am a bad mother because of my preferred choice of fitness. You do, over time, grow a thicker skin, block them and move on.

As women, taking control of our fitness is an empowering and rewarding path, particularly when pursued at home; how do you incorporate your home pole fitness practice into raising  empowered children educated on the home gym life?

It’s hard to find that balance. I have to make sure that I am teaching self love and confidence as well as self discipline. I show them that it’s okay to be non-conventional. They see the hard work I put in every week, and the result of me being more and more active with them as a parent, and that’s pretty rewarding for everyone in the household. If they grow up to be confident, self loving adults, then I will have succeeded.

Brandis Atwood using the aerial hoop in her backyardBrandis, I also saw you on the aerial hoop. I am terrified of heights, so to me, that’s incredibly impressive; have you found another practice to add to your home collection?

Most definitely. I too am afraid of heights, so it’s very odd that aerial apparatus give me such a satisfying rush. Its cathartic in a way I suppose. Hoop is a difficult apparatus but it is something I am going to actively pursue alongside pole.

Pole practitioners have an impressive level of upper body strength; did you develop yours strictly from pole work or do you include other exercises in your training regimen?

Almost all of it is from pole. I will do planks and stuff like that, but lifting my body weight repeatedly has given me some really cool upper body strength.

Do you compete in ​International Pole Dancing Fitness Association ​competitions?

I have not as of yet. It is something I go back and forth on every year since starting pole. I have a bad case of stage fright. I am inspired by people that I see conquering that fear in order to compete. Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll take the leap.

What do you think of the possibility of pole fitness being recognized by the IOC for the Olympics?

Right now there seems to be a divide among the community on that possibility. I can see both sides of the argument. I can tell you if it is officially introduced into the Olympics I will be cheering for all the athletes. I get excited any time I see pole in a music video or movie so one could imagine my reaction for it being in the Olympics.

How do you structure a training session? Is it by skills, move, choreographed routine or is it according to body parts that need training?Brandis Atwood using her fitness pole in her living room

Well my end result changes every week whether its learning a new skill or combo or participating in a challenge. I start out every training the same regardless of what my end goal is for that day. I begin with 45 minutes to an hour of full body warm up and stretch. If I know I’m going to be working on splits, I may spend more time prepping that part of the body to avoid injury. I will then usually do some work on pole conditioning, which warms the pole and makes it safer to attempt new moves, since the pole is then able to have more stick and friction on the skin. Once I’m done with that, I move on training whatever goal I may be working on that day.

Do you need special equipment to practice pole sport? What would be considered ideal pole fitness attire?

Aside from my X Pole brand pole, I use pole grips aids to help on slippery days. There are various grip aids one could choose depending on how you sweat and your grip strength. Also as far as attire goes, you need skin contact or you’re going to slide right off the pole when attempting tricks. I usually wear small pole shorts over underwear and a small top or sports bra. That gives me contact on my legs, torso and arms.

Katja Makynen said much the same thing about her pole practice attire when we interviewed her: minimal clothing because you need skin contact with the pole to help keep you from falling. It’s not that different honestly from what female Crossfitters wear to train. Still, you said that you aren’t comfortable wearing it when your daughter’s friends come over.  Is that just to avoid potential problems with other parents?

Yes exactly!  You never know how someone is going to interpret and react to something.  I just am very careful even though I am sure they see way more at the swimming pool.

Brandis Atwood lets her youngest daughter climb and practice gymnastics moves on her fitness poleIn one video, you mentioned that another of your daughters was waiting for her turn on the pole. How much does she train on the pole with you?

Yes, that was my littlest. She is three and enrolled in the gymnastics center not far from us. When we are home, she thinks the pole is her personal playground and will spin and climb on it everyday for hours sometimes. She doesn’t quit, has endless stamina and incredible grip strength. It will be cool to watch her accomplishments.

When you were setting up the pole in your house what were the most important things you needed to consider?

Space is vital; you don’t want to kick anything so make sure you have an area big enough for spins. Also, make sure your home structure can support the pole. I have a pressure mount pole that can be raised or lowered. I used a stud finder to locate the beams in the ceiling and put my pole directly under that beam.

Are there any other things to watch out for?

It’s important for a person to do their research and find a credible pole retailer. There are some cheap knock off brands that may tempt people into a purchase, but those can be very dangerous. Make sure you install your pole properly, so that no injuries or damage occurs. I check the tension weekly for safety.

How much space do you need to set up a pole training area in the house?

X Pole explains it like this: “Get a chair, and, walking in a circle with your arms stretched out, make sure you move anything out of the way that your arms or legs are able to reach”. That’s easier for me to comprehend than reading exact measurements. Additionally, everyone’s reach is going to vary.

When you began practicing, what were the safety precautions you took to ensure you didn’t injure yourself if you fell?

I have fallen when I thought I was ready for a move but wasn’t. Those falls can set a person back further than where they were. So don’t get cocky; and know your limits. I began practicing things over and over until I felt safe to move past that point. If you build off the initial fundamentals of pole, then those moves become your safety net. Soon, if you are advanced and you feel yourself falling out of a pose, then your body will have the muscle memory to fall into a fundamental move like a leg hang. Fundamentals + muscle memory = safety net.

Where’s the best place to buy a pole and get training on how to use it if you’re a beginner?

X Pole, Lupit Pole, Lil Mynx; and, there are a few newer brands out there I may not have heard of yet. There’s a new LED programmable pole that’s in testing and looks to being released soon called Pole FX that looks pretty cool, and has some big names backing it up.

Where did you go to get your beginner lessons?

I started on Studio Veena. That website taught me everything from the muscles you are using to points of contact on the pole. There are discussion boards that you can refer to for any questions. I loved the tutorials and break downs she made available for her users. I also ventured to other online pole studios like Cleo’s rock n pole and 123poling.

Tell me the best pole moves to build upper back strength.

While trying to hold your body weight for a few counts, try different pole holds and alternate hands:

  • Invert crunches and choppers
  • Shoulder mounts
  • Pole climbs and flags.

There’re so many, but those fundamental pole moves, I swear by.

What is the best methodology you’ve found to learn the most complicated pole moves you know?

Oh my gosh! Ha,ha! Well, I’m not sure that is something I have mastered. I usually will break down as much as I can, and just try over and over and over, sometimes for weeks or months or years in some cases.

You do a fair amount of challenges on Instagram. Is that just a way to keep yourself on track with training, to keep your training from becoming stale or because you can’t back down from aBrandis Atwood uses yoga to prepare for pole fitness training challenge?

Its a little of both. Some days I don’t know what direction I am going and if I’m doing a challenge it helps me not feel so lost. I am doing a challenge now that puts emphasis on transitions. They will give two tricks and you have to figure out how to piece a combo together with the tricks provided. Its something I haven’t explored too much on my own.

What’s been your favorite challenge this year so far?

There was one by Twisted Polerina that I loved.  Each week featured an Exotic, Strength and Ballerina style move or combo.  From there, each posting had variations.  I thought it was fun and one of my all-time favorites.  Also, challenges that attract me are the ones that don’t require you to do something every day.  You need rest days because doing it everyday can lead to burn out and injury.

Do you ever like a challenge so much that you permanently incorporate it into your normal training routine?

Yes! Actually, I recently did a challenge that was by Jamilla Deville who does CrossFit and pole.  It was a strength-based challenge and I have been using those specific workouts weekly ever since.  For reference, I believe the hashtag was #jamillastrength.  I highly recommend checking it out.

When you don’t want to do pole, like when your daughter’s friends are over, what are your go to fitness alternatives? Do you do yoga?

I do yoga usually alongside my pole routine. There are various other activities I do outside of pole.  For example, I have a Swiss ball that I will mess around on from time to time.  About a month ago I bought a booty band and have been trying to stay consistent with that.  Also, its summer, so I like to get out with the kids. Taking walks and going to the park are fun active things to do as a family.

Brandis Atwood and her husband after a Warrior DashI see on your Instagram you participated in a Warrior Dash; is that a regular occurrence or just for fun that one time?

Oh my gosh! Yes, that was so much fun! This year was my first time running the Warrior Dash. I’m not a runner so it was difficult for me in places during the course. Despite that, I feel like I am at a good place in my fitness journey that I am challenging myself to new exciting experiences. I will be returning to do it again next year.

How are you planning to adjust your training to help you get ready for your next Warrior Dash?

I think maybe I will just try increasing how long I can do combos on pole. It’s a great way to build stamina.  I also think I will try jogging with my husband in the months leading up to that.

Your husband did the Warrior Dash with you and you are both smiling so he obviously keeps himself in good enough shape to handle obstacle course racing. What does he do to stay in shape?

Yes, he has been going to the gym since we began dating. I’d say he is pretty dedicated and makes it there five days out of the week. I’m not sure of the specific workouts he does while in the gym. I do know that when he is home he lifts weights in our basement, does cardio, stretches, and runs.

Okay, time to cause trouble then! Who can hold a dragon flag longer? You or him?

After getting this question, we had to go test the dragon flag out.

My work is done. And the winner is?

My husband is a beast and came out the clear winner!

You can follow Brandis @luvpole_brandis on Instagram.

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