It isn’t stripper training, said Julia S., a junior liberal arts major and pole fitness trainer at FIT Tease. She said she is asked that question often, and dislikes the stigma surrounding the words “pole dancing.”

“When you tell someone ‘I pole dance’ or ‘I am a pole dancer,’ they immediately think, ‘oh, what club do you work at?’” she said. “That’s not what it’s about.”

Julia said she thinks of it as vertical gymnastics, and coordinates her routines to opera music. People of all sizes and ages are able to do these exercises, she said.

“Pole fitness isn’t just if you were born with a slimmer physique and doing gymnastics in high school,” she said. “Those things are helpful, but (with) the way that we have formatted, it is possible for everybody to grow.”

Brynlyn Loomis, owner/director of Southwest Pole Dancing, said pole fitness is a full-body workout. Loomis has been practicing pole fitness for more than seven years and trained at New York Pole Dancing in New York.

“I would be lying if (I said) there wasn’t some type of internal gratification for the ‘wow’ factor,” she said. “But the real gratification comes from wanting to inspire people to celebrate doing what they thought they couldn’t do.”

Her focus is on being able to encourage confidence and stability for her students, she said.

“The biggest muscle groups you do use are your back muscles, which is really hard for people to find in everyday life,” Loomis said.

She has participated in competitions such as the 2012 USPDF Pro competitions for the U.S. Pole Dance Federation.

Daniella Schatch, a Southwest Pole Fitness customer, said her core, abs and back are affected most by the exercise, which is helpful for when she is doing work on the potter’s wheel.

“Whenever I do classes, I am able to lift more every class and every week it hurts less,” she said.

Schatch said she felt she looked awkward at first, but has gotten better over time. She had a hernia correction through her belly button, and pole fitness has helped her in recovering her muscles.

According to the International Pole Fitness Association, pole fitness was established China and India.

“The history of ‘Chinese Pole’ dates back prior to the 12th century, when circus professionals of the era would use a pole, approximately 3-9 meters in height, laced with a rubber material and wear full-body costumes,” the IPDFA’s website said.

These routines are often jerky and not suggestive, and men are displayed performing these circus acts.

“This form was referred to as ‘Pole Mallakhamb,’ and was intended as way for wrestlers to train,” the IPDFA’s website said.

According the site, this gymnastic art form changed in the east during the Great Depression in the 1920s.

Imani Lambert is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.