When pole dancing for fitness started to gain popularity a several years ago, 50mm poles were the standard. The studios that taught pole dancing for fitness had 50mm poles. However, women often have small hands and getting a secure grip on the pole is a challenge on a 50mm pole so 45mm poles were introduced. The quickly caught on as the preferred pole size. Australia, where pole dancing for fitness is very popular, 38mm has even become very popular.
However, there are some in the industry who would like to see 50mm be the standard in studios as well as competitions. While others prefer the smaller poles.
Each size has benefits and drawbacks. In a lot of competitions in the UK and Europe 45mm poles are used, they are usually chrome or stainless steel. 45mm poles are great for most women because it allows them to get a secure hand grip making many tricks that would be impossible on a larger pole easier. However, they can be harder for some tricks where a lot of skin grip is needed on the pole and holding poses can be uncomfortable- or at least less comfortable than on a larger pole.
50mm poles are what I started learning on, and as a really petite person (barely 5’ tall) and I have really small hands, while many tricks were really difficult for me, I was able to develop great grip strength which has been invaluable as I advanced to elite tricks. In that sense, I believe a 50 mm pole does have a place to help improve grip strength.
38mm poles and smaller are also gaining popularity. Personally, I love them for handsprings and deadlifts as I can get my hands totally wrapped around the pole providing me with security that I don’t normally have especially when using a spinning pole. However, for some tricks that require a lot of skin grip, for instance the elbow grip inverted straddle (also known as the Elbow Grip Ayesha) I feel extremely insecure and like I am going to lose the grip and fall. Whether this will change if I practice more on a 38mm pole, I don’t know.
There are some people in the pole community who believe smaller poles are going to become obsolete and others who have the exact opposite view. I do believe there needs to be some standardization in pole size and finish especially as it pertains comes to competitions; I hope that the 45mm poles become the standard as they seem to be a decent middle ground. Realistically, no one will ever be totally happy, but as an industry and community we need to come to a consensus and have some sort of standard.