I decided to find out what plus size students really wanted instructors to know about teaching them. So, here are their top tips for how to most effectively operate your studio and your teaching in a plus size friendly manner.
Everyone Prefers Different Descriptive Words
Fat, curvy, bigger, plus size. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to what kind of words people prefer to use to describe their body type, so keep this in mind when you are talking through moves or referencing different body types during your teaching.
As a general rule ‘curvy’ or ‘plus size’ are a little less loaded than ‘fat’ or ‘bigger’, which some people still find insulting. So although some people prefer ‘fat’, not everyone likes that word, so probably don’t make it a go-to unless you are very familiar with your students and which descriptive words they prefer.
Don’t Ignore Their Bodies
They have a body, it is bigger, do not ignore this fact. It can feel maybe rude to acknowledge the fact that someone is plus size, but by ignoring it and acting as though their body is exactly the same as a thin body, you are doing your teaching, and them, a disservice.
Every body has different limitations, and different strong points, whether it is a tall body, a short body, a body with a long torso and short arms, a body that have more rolls, a body with large breasts, a body with a penis. We are all different, and there is no reason to ignore this difference when it can fundamentally change how some moves are taught.
Some Things Are Just Harder When Fatter / Bigger / Curvier… FACT
Because every body impacts their pole practice uniquely, being aware of the fact that some moves are just a lot harder or challenging in a different way when you are a plus size individual is important to remember as an instructor.
They may have rolls, and stomach, and breasts or thighs that get in the way. They may have larger muscles to get through spaces, or heavier body weight to try and lift. They may be very pear shape, in which case there is an unequal weight distribution between their top and bottom half, so their center of gravity will be different. Or likewise, they may be apple shape, with slender legs, but more weight around their torso.
For example, teaching a chair spin to a plus size lady with a larger rack requires you to be mindful of the fact that ‘just reaching across the chest’ might not be as simple a task for them, if you yourself have a modest chest size.
There is no way to teach a single move in a single way that works for every single body type, so be open to finding ways around it. And, if you aren’t sure, ask plus size students and instructors for their tips on how to teach a specific move to a plus size poler. There are plenty of pole groups you can ask in, including instructor groups and plus size pole groups.
But Do Not Underestimate Them
However, although certain moves can be more difficult whilst having a plus size body, it does not mean you should assume that they won’t be able to do something. Still challenge your plus size students, they may be stronger than you assume, and plenty of larger ladies (and gents) are totally killing the pole game with their awesome tricks, sassy dance moves, and awesome floor work.
Stripper Hoe – Cardi B . . . I’m really trying to speed my flow up a little, I’ve been at this on and off for a for a while. It was also really strange waking up today and not seeing my gorgeous babes from work. I miss them so much ( @_squinnstagram @hollylongstaff1 )they were the best girls I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. But this morning I also woke up free! Free to tend to my creative needs I’m so sad I don’t work with them anymore but if I didn’t walk away I’d never have known how far I could have gone with dancing. I have two fully booked classes and a waiting list and I’m meeting so many amazing women along the way. So for now I’m on a hopefully permanent break from the rat race fully embracing my hoe life. What more could I ask for ps. That sassy hand I stole from EVERYONE on #rupaulsdragrace – hopefully no more Reptar Claw for me #exoticpoledance #floorwork #pdfloorwork #pdfloortwerk #floorfuckery #pdfloorflow #pdfloorfuckery #poledancersofig #poledancersofinstagram #plussizepoledancer #plussizepoledance #inthezone #udapole #cardib #moneymoves #udapole
Not Every Plus Size Girl Lacks Body-Confidence
A lot of narratives around plus size bodies can revolve around self-confidence. This is all well and good, and we can all face our own challenges in building our self-esteem, but you shouldn’t assume that your plus size student has low self-confidence because of her body type. Doing so implicitly suggest that having a bigger body type is something to be ashamed of, and there are plenty of plus size people who love their bodies and themselves.
For the same reason, don’t express how ‘brave’ a plus size girl is for coming to pole, as though they should be embarrassed of their bodies. Sure, tell people they are kick ass, inspirational, and awesome, but for so many reasons other than just showing up. Congratulate them on nailing that spin, on popping that booty, on wearing that awesome outfit that you are just a tiny bit jealous of, but not for being ‘so brave’ because they simply exist.
Unless someone comes up to you and expresses they have issues with their body image, or they ask you for advice, I would keep all positive and affirming messages pretty general. As I said, every type of body struggles with body confidence issues, and you can bring these up without making them specific to one body type or one person in the room. If someone then wants to open up about their own body struggles, then so be it, but you might be surprised by who is insecure and who isn’t.
Don’t Assume They Want To Lose Weight
For the same reason, do not assume that a plus size girl wants to lose weight or ‘tone up’. These may well be side affects of taking up pole, but they may just be a side note to someone’s true motivations, which may be for numerous other reasons, including:
- Making new friends
- To have fun
- Boosting your confidence and self-esteem
- Challenging yourself with something new
- They always wanted to try it
- To get in touch with their sexy / sensual side
- To get stronger and more flexible
They also may never lose weight during the course of their pole journey, and that is completely fine too. Many plus size people have tried numerous weight loss methods, but have found that a low weight does not feel good or healthy for them.
Likewise, your student may have just gotten out of a cycle of abusive dieting and exercise that took a negative emotional or mental toll on them, and pole should be a fun and positive environment. Not all eating disorders look thin, or bony, many plus size people have or had eating disorders, so assuming that weight loss talk is a positive and beneficial topic of conversation, even in passing, is not a wise decision.
Adapt How You Train Inverts
The traditional route towards inverts is not necessarily achievable or realistic for some larger body types. Trying to get everyone to train inverts in the same way, by fan kicking or rocking back into it, is not going to work, and can leave many plus size students feeling frustrated and upset as they feel their pole progress stagnate.
A good way to train inverted poses for plus size students who are strong enough to do these, but not strong enough to invert in the traditional way, is to incorporate descending inverts.
A descending inverting is from a climb or a side climb, and involves the students entering a side spin position, from which they can then lower into the inverted pose of their choice (such as Starburst) with the support of their instructor. This requires far less physically demanding effort as the normal invert, and allows students to practice their inverted poses, thus preventing them from getting frustrated with their pole progress.
Learn How To Spot Plus Size Students
There are now many helpful online discussions around how to best spot a variety of students in a variety of different poses, tricks and so on. There are also various different spotting workshops which are now available on the market. It is always worth looking out for new resources to improve your teaching, to make it safer, and more effective and enjoyable.
If you are short and slim like many pole instructors are, your very tall or plus size students may look at you with a little fear in their eyes when you offer to spot. 110 pounds soaking wet and 5 foot tall doesn’t seem like a good option to someone who may weigh twice that and is trusting their life in your hands. But, learning the best techniques through which to support their progress and spot them in their pole training will help them to trust you, and to smash their pole goals.
Use Images Of Plus Size Bodies On Your Social Media & Marketing
I know that pole is technically a ‘sport and fitness’ industry, but that doesn’t mean we have to copy every other sports industry by only using one type of thin, athletic body in our marketing or on our social media. Pole is for every BODY, which means we should present ourselves as such online.
I’ve heard of students who feel left out and glum because their studio will only post photos and videos of the slim girls from class. As though their achievements aren’t worthy of public recognition.
I’ve seen pole adverts with six pack abs and slender physiques that look like a gym advert, when my pole studio doesn’t look anything like that. We have tall and short, fat and thin, and we all giggle and have fun and do some cool moves together. Sure, pole is a tough workout, but most of us aren’t there for fitness, and although we may get a good beasting from our conditioning, it never feels like a gym where the ultimate aim is to all look to same and be the same size. So, why would our marketing not reflect this diversity?
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Hire Plus Size Instructors & Host Plus Size Polers
If you are looking to hire a new instructor, whether externally or from your current student base, why not think about hiring a plus size instructor? They have their own unique knowledge and expertise, and could be a great asset for your school, especially if you have a larger customer base of plus size students who would appreciate seeing a similar body type teaching them. It makes it feel more achievable, seeing the cool tricks and awesome moves that these plus size dancers can do. Watching someone skinny inverting with ease and doing a crazy combo may not inspire them as they may not relate with your body and what it can do, not in the same way that seeing someone a size UK18 do it for example.
If you cannot hire a full-time plus size instructor for whatever reason, why not host plus size instructors for workshops? This allows your girls to get a taste of learning from someone who knows their challenges, struggles and strengths. A confident, empowering plus size instructor showing them some sexy and sultry choreography is sure to make them feel really good, and I’m sure they will leave that workshop with a total buzz.
Roz The Diva is one of the most famous plus size names in pole, and offers various workshops, from working with plus size students, to choreography, inverting and more.
If you don’t see anyone marketing their workshops, why not do a call out? Or perhaps ask a plus size instructor you really admire to come and guest teach / do a workshop? I’m sure they will be flattered you asked, as many instructors feel too nervous to offer workshops as they worry they aren’t ‘good enough’ or that people won’t be interested, this is regardless of size, age or experience – we all get these feelings of doubt sometimes!
Ask For Feedback From Your Plus Size Students
Most importantly, have an open dialogue with your students. Welcome feedback about the classes and the way things are taught. They may even have helpful suggestions on how to approach a certain move that you did not think of before. Put your ego to one side and be open to change, and working on your approach. When it comes to teaching, we are always developing and getting better with time, and feedback from our students can help us get there.
Any other top tips for instructors? Leave them in the comments below.
*Featured image provided from the above video*