Looking to get started fast Hula hooping?
This guide will take you on a tour of important information you should know before you get started.
It will tell you some of the secrets to getting better faster, it will give you guidance for some of the decisions that you will have to make.
1. You can do anything with a hula hoop.
While your first instinct will be to try hooping around your waist as you did as a child, make sure you understand that there is a whole world of opportunity in just this simple circle. You can physically make it do anything. Keeping an open mind before your hoop journey even begins is something that will come in handy later on.
2. It’s just not going to happen overnight.
This is brutal honesty based on experience; it’s important to know that your first time playing with a circle will not look anything like the graceful hooper who inspired you. It took them countless hours to get to that point. But if you are passionate about learning new tricks and are consistent in practice you will eventually get there.
3. This is your journey.
Don’t allow anyone to judge you for playing with a "child’s toy". Hone in on your creative aspects and have fun developing them whichever way you please. Never feel that there is a right way to perform a trick or combination. Put your own “spin” to the things you are taught. Make your dance unique to you.
Buy A Hula Hoop
So with all this in mind, now it’s time to pick out your first hula hoop.
Walmart and Target sell cheap hoops that do the job if you're in a pinch.
If you’re looking for something that won’t bend if it gets smacked too hard then you might want to look into online hoop shopping. On websites like Etsy.com there are an endless selection of hand-made hoops to choose from.
Make sure you understand the importance of the following details before purchasing:
How To Choose A Hula Hoop Size
You’ll want to carefully consider the size of your hula hoop.
This will depend on your body type and the style of hooping that interests you. The basic rule to understand is that big hoops spin slow and small hoops spin fast. If your hoop is too small you may find yourself frustrated and unable to master on-body tricks.
For this reason it is easier for beginners use hoops that are 36”-40”in diameter.
Here's some general sizing for a beginner hoop:
If you are under 5’4 then grab yourself a 38”
If you are under 5’10 then check out the 40”
If you are over 5’10, grab a 42”
If you are over 5'10" AND over 220 get a 44"
If this is your first hoop don’t expect for it to be the perfect match right away. The "right" measurements will even change as you grow as a flow artist. Experimenting with smaller hoops leads to off-body and illusion tricks. Hoopers will often have lots of hoops in all sorts of sizes and materials.
How To Choose Hula Hoop Material
What your hoop is made out of determines the responsiveness, strength, and weight of your prop.
There are 3 plastics that you are most likely to come across in the shopping process:
This black tubing is thick and heavy. It’s best used in large hoops for beginners and body hoopers. The extra weight is often needed in wider hoops to maintain momentum.
HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
This is a light and durable material that comes in a rainbow variety of colors. Used in hoops less than 38”. Great for hoopers who want to downsize, and weighs a small amount more than polypro.
Probably the most popular tubing and is very similar to HDPE. It comes in almost any color imaginable and weighs less than the other tubings listed. Beating HDPE by fractions of a gram. The main difference is the “springiness” of polypro. The plastic is less rigid than PE and HDPE, but this also makes it susceptible to temperature. Getting slightly bendy in extreme heat, and even cracking in extreme cold.
Understanding The Types of Hula Hoops
Knowing your goals as a hooper is what determines what hoop you should buy to start your practice. Are you hoping to learn to dance with tricks? You’ll want to buy a dance/performance hoop. Are you hoping to shed a few pounds while having a great time? You’ll want to purchase an exercise/fitness hoop to build up your core. Or are you hoping to become an all around hoop star and completely dive into your practice? You're gonna need more than one hoop!
Exercise and Fitness Hoops
Exercise hoops are typically made with dense polyethylene tubing and range from 3/4" to 1.5" in tube width, making them much thicker than dance hoops. If your goal with hooping is to shed a few pounds and gain a more flattering midsection you’ll have to use a wider and heavier hoop so you can hoop on-body continuously. Once comfortable with a hoop, many fitness hoopers naturally become hoop dancers. Here is a guide straight from The Spinsterz where they sell their exercise hoops in three weights; 1.3LB, 1.5LB and 1.7LB
This hoop is best for someone that is either already familiar with waist hooping or that falls into the category of small-medium waist, 5'5" or smaller and under 140 pounds.
This hoop is a little heavier and will be easier to hoop with if you are a total beginner. This hoop is best for someone that is looking for a good workout to lose weight. Someone with a Medium-Large waist, 5'6" or taller and under 220 pounds.
At 1.7lb and 1" thick, this hoop is a big one! It honestly feels really nice as it is rolling around your body. This hoop feels like it is massaging your back and your belly. Best for someone with a Medium - large waist, 5'6" or taller and upwards of 175 pounds.
Dance and Performance Hoops
"Dance hoops" are light and thin making them ideal for performance and movement. They are used for on and off-body tricks, faster spinning, and easier manipulation.
In the dance and performance hoop category you'll see polypro or HDPE tubing in 3/4", 11/16", and 5/8"OD. All will make great dance partners, but we'd like to help you narrow down your choices.
3/4", 5 - 12 ounces
This hoop is the go to for a beginner to advanced hooper, you can get it bare or fully taped (tape will add around 2 ounces).
If you've been using a weighted exercise hoop and want to start using a 3/4" hoop, it's going to feel REALLY light. In this case, we suggest getting something on the larger side, somewhere around 35"-37" in diameter.
11/16, 7-14 ounces
This size is relatively new to the hoop world, but it's being heralded as the "Goldilocks" tubing. It's sturdier than 5/8" due to a thicker inner wall but thinner than the 3/4", making it perfect for people who prefer the smaller hoop. Intermediate to advanced hoopers would benefit the most from this tubing.
5/8", 4 - 10 ounces
This hoop is the featherweight of the bunch and for that reason it is sometimes more challenging for people to use. 5/8" is about the width of your pinky finger! This hoop is great for smaller frames, double hoops, and people that like to hoop fast and not feel the weight of the hoop. This size is NOT recommended for breaks and reversals as the tubing is very thin and could kink if you are hooping in hot conditions, or snap completely in cold. Keep these hoops small, above a certain diameter 5/8" tubing will get floppy.
Hula Hoop Grip
One of the most important things to have on your hoop is some form of grip. Since there are a few options for this shops will usually leave their hoops bare for the customer, and some new hoopers never notice the difference!
The plastics used for hoops are way too smooth and in order to learn anything you will need some friction.
Using grip tape is one of the most popular methods. Hoop tape is called “gaffer”and provides friction through its rough texture. When buying a hoop online there is usually an option to add gaffer grip to your hoop. This tape will eventually wear off so it’s good to purchase an extra roll in your favorite color before that happens.
If you are frustrated by laying tape or prefer not to deal with sticky residue sanding may be the best option for you.
Some companies offer the service of sanding the hoop for you. If that is not an option you can go to any supply store and pick up a rough sand paper. We recommend 60-80 grit for the best results. Scratch your hoop in back and forth motions all along the inner rim.
Sanding is a permanent option. Afterwards grip tape and wax will not stick to your hoops.
A newer grip option for hoopers is wax. It is non-permanent, transparent, and easy to use. Simply rub a bar on your hoop to create a textured layer. Mood Hoops sells a cute heart shaped bar for just $3.
Learn Hoop Dance
After purchasing your hoop, you can choose to figure out moves and tricks by yourself or you can venture to the wonderful world of Youtube. We recommend a healthy mix of both. There are tons of tutorials online for beginners and advanced level hoopers. There are even traveling instructors who teach hoop dance, so keep an eye open for workshops in your area.
There is no order at all in which to learn these tricks. Go at your own pace, learn what attracts you, and be prepared to spend hours trying to nail it.
When the hula hoop drops just pick it back up.
Learn Everything in Reverse
When you first learn how to hoop you will find that one direction is more comfortable than the other. This is known as your "dominant direction", the uncomfortable way is your "reverse current". Even if it's frustrating, dedicate daily practice to your reverse current. This will ensure even muscle development and will expand your options in movement.
Finding Your Flow
“A mental state of operation. When in flow, the person performing the activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Hungarian social scientist on the “flow state”
Flow refers to the connection one feels with their practice. Everyone from the mathematician to the painter can achieve this mental state. In hoop dance this is expressed in long lasting, effortless manipulation and creative breakthroughs when learning.
It is common to wonder when or how you can find your flow state. The simple answer is that flow emerges through practice. Every time you pick up your hoop you engage your brain and learn something new. This knowledge builds into an understanding of your prop and your body which allows them to work together in a “flow”.
Hoop dance is an immersive and rewarding art. In this day and age there are not enough reasons to get outside, to move around, to dance, or simply have fun.
Once you’ve found your hoop, learned your favorite tricks, and expressed yourself in movement you can reap the benefits of fitness and meditation through hoops.
Katie Emmit takes us through 5 common mistakes beginner hoopers make: