BODY WEIGHT TRAINING – Aerial Arts & Pole Fitness

The aerial arts, also known as cirque arts, are increasingly trending along with stunning posts on social media. This month we speak to pole dynamo Joanna Pawelczyk, an X-Pole South Africa ambassador, about her interest in the aerial arts for our Body Weight Training Series.

With experience in both, Jo tells us more about whether she feels aerial and pole dance can complement each other...

Jo ambassador


1. Please provide a brief background on how you got into pole dance and what keeps you going.

About six and a half years ago a friend of mine said she did pole dance at this place in Cape Town and I should try as it is fun. So, on a whim, and discovering that said studio (Pole Dance Cape Town) was down the road from my flat, I started, and the rest is history!

What keeps me going is the challenge of trying things that are difficult for me and conquering fears, but also teaching and spreading my knowledge and experience with others – it is the most rewarding and happy feeling when you see your students do well and fall in love with the sport as much as you did.

Jo pole collage


2. Please provide a brief background on how you got into the aerial arts and how you are progressing.

I messed around on silks and hoop a little bit in the first few years of my pole career, but it never really bit me like the pole bug. Then about a year and a half ago I got irritated with myself for never using the hoop I bought years ago, so I took a private class at Art of Synergy and from there just fell in love more and more. I started finding cool videos on Instagram to try out and started training hoop by myself. From there I also tried silks, straps, handstands, duo trapeze and other disciplines. Hoop is my favourite - it’s similar enough to pole to be a bit familiar but different enough to be a new kind of discipline.

Jo lyra


3. Do you find that pole and aerial complement each other? If yes, how so?

Yes and no!

Of course, there are a lot of similar movements in both that if you can do on one chances are you can do on the other. However, one of my biggest challenges has been teaching my body different techniques to use in aerial. Pole is all strength, control, grip and contracting of muscles (I mean, we never really “chill out” on pole – you’re always engaging muscles and using some amount of power to hold on, even in a sit). Often in aerial, and especially when working on duo acts, you must learn to relax parts of your body and lengthen the muscle – for someone like me who is very strong and likes to power through everything it’s very difficult!

I think both disciplines have pros and cons and when you do both you can find ways they can help each other.

Oh, and when its Winter you can do more aerial as you can wear lots of clothes whereas in Summer more pole :)


4. Which discipline have you found more challenging?

Both have their own challenges to be honest. Pole is more difficult in terms of strength and tricks – if you want to have an impressive routine you really need to be strong and flexible and it’s hard to cheat it. With aerial, you can get away with more “beginner” movements that look impressive but you have to work with getting used to performing routines much higher off the ground – not always that easy!

I also find with aerial that there is less instant gratification – with something like handstands or straps you need to work on fundamentals for months and months before you get anywhere!

Jo pole and Lyra combo


5. Do you have any safety messages with regard movements and gear?

One thing I’ve noticed since adding aerial, handstands, acrobatics etc to my training routines is that I have a very balanced workout. I rarely get injuries because I don’t really overwork one part of my body continuously. Sometimes just training pole would lead to niggles because of doing twisted grip or shoulder mounts too much. Now my training is more balanced and I have so much to choose from that I never ever get bored!

With regards to aerial and equipment, it can be very dangerous and you want to make sure that where you train has certified equipment and a rigger who is qualified to install it, especially when working at heights. Always use a crash mat (the X-POLE crash mat is fabulous, I must say) and avoid training completely alone.


You can read more on our body weight training series -> here as we cover acrobatics, calisthenics, yoga, running, parkour, boxing, CrossFit and more.

Date added: 09/21/2017