New hoopers- READ IT ALL! Don’t skim on your knowledge.
Hoop Size vs Body Size
Hoops come in a massive variety of colors, sizes, weights, materials, and even shapes! (Square hoops do exist, but I don’t suggest using them quite yet.) Lots of hoopers will tell you their favorite size, or type of tubing, but let it be known that there is not one golden perfect hoop that every hooper uses. We all have to measure our hoops to fit our body types, and skill levels. Someone who is 6ft tall might be better off with a slighter larger hoop than someone who is 5ft tall. Someone who is 5ft tall, but has a bit of a belly, might be better off with a bigger hoop than someone who is the same height, but skinny as a board! Do not be put off by how many different hoops there are because it’s very easy to get a feel for what you like.
For a new hoop dancer, take a measuring tape/yard stick and measure the distance from the bottom of your belly button all the way down to the floor. That measurement will be your new hoop’s outside diameter. NOTE: In the hooping world hoops are measure by either their outside or inside diameter. The outside diameter(OD) is the hoops OUTER measurement taken OUTSIDE of the tubing. The inside diamter(ID) just measure the INNER space WITHOUT the tubing. These two numbers can be drastically different if the hoop is made out of 1/2 inch tube vs a 1 1/2 inch tube. Most skilled hoopers measure in ID, but for starting out OD is just fine and makes things less complicated.
Now you have a base measurement for your hoop! This is where some people might need to make a little adjusting. There is a difference in how a hoop goes around your body based off of how big it is. You want that proportion to about the same on every new hooper’s body type. So if you have some belly your hoop will have less room even if you are the same height as someone with no belly, which is absolutely easy to account for. Lot’s of tutorials skip this very important factor in the measuring process, but I know that not all bodies come the same. Take your measuring tape and measure your wasit line. Then measure your hip line. If your waist line is bigger then go ahead and add a half inch to your base measurement for every inch that your belly is bigger than your waist. That should make the space proportional and feel a lot more comfortable! Example: Pretend I am 6"3. My hoop needs to be roughly 46" to account for my height. Now let’s say my hip measurement is 36", and my waist measurement is 40". That means I need to add a half inch for every inch of difference. So 40" – 36" = 4", 4" / 2 = 2" I need to add 2" to my hoop size making it 48" total. WOW that’s a big hoop, but it will get me started out! Remember that this is 48" OD (outside diamter). That is important when you go to order your brand new shiny hoop.
If this number is equal to or less than 0 just use your belly button height as your OD:
Great, we have you all measured up. The last factor is hoop weight. For new hoopers I cannot stress enough that you should snag a hoop with 160psi tubing, at 3/4inch diameter. PSI is the pound per square inch that a tubing type can hold of water bursting through it. Hoop tubing is made out off irrigation tubing that normally would have to undertake such pressure. Since 160 is relatively high compared to what skilled hoopers use it means that the hoop is also HEAVIER. You WANT a heavier hoop when you start out because it will force your muscles to work harder to nail in the basic motions. Yes, it will hurt when you inevitably smack yourself in the face, but it is sooo worth it.
Also a little tip to consider while shopping: Do not buy the shiniest hoop in the world for your first hoop. It WILL get scratched within a matter of DAYS. You want to go for something with a lot of grip tape so that way the hoop really sticks to your body and you can learn. After you have some experience totally buy a fancy hoop.
I do sell the 160psi hoops if you need one, one of mine is in the diagram above, but there are other stores online that I will list in the bottom of the post! Feel free to add ones you love in the comments and I can throw them up here too.
Ahhh waist hooping. This is the iconic hula hoop motion. Please keep in mind that this is not something that you have to be able to do right away. There are tons of other body parts to practice hooping on if you can’t seem to keep it around your waist. Try switching to your hands, or around your neck where it is harder for it to fall down. No hooper wants to be known as the one that has a hard time waist hooping, so I will give you a crash course.
First, stop thinking too hard about it. New hoopers seem to default to thinking that you have to move your hips around in a circle to make your hoop go in a circle. This is wrong. I just typed up something really elaborate about catching and throwing but I think I should save that for a less nubile introduction so stay tuned. ANYWAYS you do NOT have to move in a perfect circle like a weird spaghetti noodle to keep the hoop up. There are two ways people prefer to correctly waist hoop.
One way is to put one foot in front of the other and gently rock back and forth trying to keep your legs straight so that way the rocking moves your hips and waist not your legs. Go FAST and use sharp movements. I am talking go so fast that you think the hoop will fling over your body and crash into a wall. You want to hear it wooshing. Momentum is a hooper’s best friend. Speed will ALWAYS help keep a hoop where you want it to be. I know you advanced hoopers reading this have some things to say about that statement, and how slowing down helps you go at the same speed with the hoop, but I am talking to the noobs that just need to keep it up at this point, not work on their flow.
The second way is to spread your legs out side to side lined up with your shoulders and rock from left to right and switching your weight from one foot to the other with feet pointing forward. Again try keeping your legs straight so the momentum is carried up to your waist/hips and not your legs. Just like the first option- GO FAST. FASTER THAN YOU COMFORTABLY WANT TO. I am not kidding you better lock up your cat or he will get knocked out. My cat won’t even get near my stationary hoops anymore.
How to Move Forward
As for EVERY trick in hoop dancing it will take time and practice. Seriously, it took me about six months and a plethora of briuses to hoop around my knees. I cannot stress enough how important it is to not be frustrated with yourself. Sometimes you have to spend eight hours straight hitting replay on a YouTube tutorial before the trick finally clicks. Sometimes you have to spend eight months straight on that YouTube tutorial before it finally clicks. Also the amount of time it takes you to learn one trick might be really short, but another will take you a year. Just work with it! I wrote another blog post about my personal methods for learning that you can check out that details my own learning process, and how it’s shaped me as a hooper.
There are good practices for new hoopers than can help you build a strong scaffolding for your new hoop life. Always try to hoop in both directions throughout your practices. At first you won’t favor a specific direction much over the other, but in time you will see how stupid one half of your body seems compared to the other. The best reason for doing this when you first start out is because you WILL have bruises all over one side of your body from going one way so you can’t practice without it hurting. Try going the opposite way and beating that side up and giving your main side a break. This might sound weird to read, but after a good day of practice you will know what I am talking about the next morning. New hoopers especially will have massive horrible bruises all over! They go away with time but they do hurt a ton. Try taking a bath in epsom salt to speed up the healing process.
If you feel yourself becoming frustrated with not being able to do a hoop trick, just move the heck on. Put it around your neck and try it there for a while. Try practicing isolations. (Google it!) Try spinning it around your hands and arms. Get weird.
A lot of hoopers have the trick pony syndrome. They can do the coolest tricks in the world and look like a hot shot doing it, but they still look like they are just doing tricks rather than dancing. These are two different venues in the hooping world. If you want to learn how to hoop DANCE vs hoop, then you have to dance. No matter how many amazing tricks you can do it won’t look like dance unless you dance while doing it. I suggest watching some hoop dancing videos, and taking some belly dancing classes. Belly dancing is a great way to become a better hooper because not only does it focus on your entire body and how to control it, but it also is (mostly) a SOLO DANCE. This is very important because lots of dance styles require a partner, but not hooping, and not belly dancing. At first you might feel really silly but for the love of god just make a small dance routine and do it. Record yourself. Show your friends. IMPROVE. You will really shine when you go to a hoop jam and realize how many hoopers phase out when it comes to dancing.
Please feel free to contact me, leave comments, whatever you want! It would mean a lot to mean to hear how this guide helped, or didn’t help you. Any of you more skilled hoopers feel free to let me know if you think I should add or change something. Here are some resources I’ve found to be useful:
Hooping.org – Community forums, tutorials of the day, interviews, etc.
Hoop Trix – Kinda chaotic web design, but tons of tutorials based off of body parts and skill levels.
Hoop Mamas Store – My suggested newb hoop due to lots of grip tape. Comes in different sizes/weights and great color selections.
Babz Video Tutorials – Talented hooper that makes tutorials for all skill levels.
Reddit’s Hooping Community – Wonderful group of hoopers that are helpful and inspiring. My first choice when you need a question answered.
High Hoops – Great section of tricks, informative tutorials, and a glossary of hoop terms.