Hoop Size Demystified

Hoops [This week Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn gets into the Hooposophy of hoop size and demystifies it for us.]

by Lara Eastburn

I estimate that I’ve received over 1000 emails and phone calls that focus on questions about hoop sizing. And now that there are more tubing options than ever, hoop size confusion is understandably a bigger issue than ever! How do I know when I’m ready for a smaller hoop? What size hoop should I start with? What about LED and fire hoops? How are hoops measured, anyway? Before we dig into the nitty gritty and roll around in the mud a bit, let’s start by strapping our boots on and taking some of the pressure off. Let’s be clear from the start: There is NO guiding rule for what size hoop will be best for you. While the hoop itself behaves according to the unvarying laws of physics, how that hoop interacts with your individual body, mind, and style is a special kind of alchemy. And your ideal hoop size will most likely change over time. If you continue to hoop regularly, it’s nearly an inevitability. But it ain’t rocket science. Don’t fret … let’s break down some of those variables for you.

Disclaimer: The suggestions in this article are based on nine years of experience making hoops, teaching hoopdance, and working my “hoop-fitting” magic across the U.S.. I hope they help, but in the end (as in all things!), only you can decide what’s best for you. Period.

Where To Start: The Basics
If you’ve got a handle on your beginning hoop size, go ahead and scroll down to the next section. If you’re a relatively new hooper or having trouble finding the right hoop size, then this part is for you! Here are some basics. The most prevalent type of hoop tubing is Polyethylene (Poly, for short). It’s mainly used for irrigation. There are two numbers you’ll need to determine your tubing size — outer tubing diameter and PSI. The most commonly used diameter tubing for hooping is ¾ inch. The PSI refers to how many pounds of water pressure per square inch the tubing could take for irrigation purposes. For our purposes, though, the PSI tells us how thick (and thus, how heavy) the tubing wall is. Thinner and/or smaller = lighter and faster. Thicker and/or larger = heavier and slower.

Let’s start with a baseline and then tweak things from there. Most, but not all, beginning hoopers will feel comfortable in a hoop made from ¾” 160psi tubing that is somewhere between 40 and 44 inches in diameter. So let’s begin this pretend “hoop-fitting” with a 42” hoop.

Now, where’s your head? Are you already a dancer of some kind, or is the very idea of moving with your hoop completely new and slightly intimidating? If you’re already familiar with creative movement (belly dancing, modern, ballroom, club … doesn’t matter), you’ll have an edge on the learning curve and you can start smaller. Go ahead and take 2-3 inches off your hoop. Are you already athletic and fit? Do the same. If shaking yo’ booty is going to be new for you, stick with the 42” going into the next section.

Now let’s factor in your body type. If you’re heavier than most, add 2 to 4 inches, depending. If you’re shorter than 5’4” and/or very slim, take 2-4 inches off your hoop size. You will also likely want to experiment with a smaller PSI. 125 or 100 PSI will accommodate smaller frames AND smaller hands (This will come in handy when lifting your hoop or attempting off-body manipulation).

Size Versus Tempo. Size, weight, and experience are not by any means the only things to take into account when determining your hoop size. So, how do you want to move in your hoop? If the idea of long, smooth sessions waist-groovin’ to Miles Davis suits you just fine, stick with the larger diameter hoops. If you want to trick out to the fastest, trippiest tunes you can find, go smaller. Personally, I refer to my hoops in terms of tempo. I’ve got my Coltrane and my James Brown, if you know what I mean. Hoop sizing can have just as much to do with your mood and style.

Last Note for Beginners. If you’re having very real trouble keeping your hoop up, it’s too small. Really. Just get or make a bigger one until you find your groove. If you can keep it going for 5-10 seconds at a time, you’re fine. Put on the music that without fail reaches up out of the ground, grabs a hold of your rear and shakes it whether you intend it to or not. And work it. Please trust me when I say that music matters. A lot. Lastly, whether you’re making your own hoops or purchasing them, keep in mind that you can always make a hoop smaller, but you can’t make it bigger.

I’ve already got the perfect hoop for me. What size is it?
Though hoops are sized by diameter, the ONLY accurate way to measure them is by circumference. You’ll need a soft (sewing) measuring tape. Measure from one side of the connection to the other, sliding the measuring tape across the outside of the tubing for the entire length of the hoop. Then use a circumference calculator like this one to get your diameter.

Am I Ready For a Smaller Hoop? Odds are that if you’re asking this question, you are ready. But here’s how to know for sure. When you’re in your hoop, it will feel sluggish. You may have the sense that you’d like it to go faster, or perhaps it’s feeling too-thick in your hand. If you think it’s time, you have three options: smaller (hoop diameter), lighter (tubing PSI), or both. Go with your intuition. If you like the speed, but are weary with the weight, go with lighter PSI. If you like how it feels on your body, but want to speed things up, then take it down 2 inches at a time. If you’re using a hoop that is smaller than 39” in diameter, you’re probably ready to move down in PSI, too.

If you’re feeling the urge to move down in size, but are still beginning, keep that bigger hoop around for learning new movements. It’ll also come in handy when you’re trying to hook your BFF. Whatever change you make to your hoop’s size or weight, you’ll need a good couple afternoons with it to adjust. It’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes or a new pillow. You’ll be teaching your body and your muscle memory a new rhythm. Have faith. If you’re ready for a smaller hoop, then you’re ready for the challenge and the change.

LED and Fire Hoops.
LED and Fire hoops are different animals from your standard fare. LED hoops will have less tape on them than day hoops, hence less weight. They also have internal electronic workings that may feel different to you at first. Since LED hoops are an investment for many hoopers, you’ll want to get the size that corresponds to the fastest, lightest hoop you enjoy. You want your LED hoop investment to bring you enjoyment as far along in your process as it can.

When you’re ready for fire, it’s important to remember that the hoop’s wicks will increase the working circumference of your hoop by 12-16 inches (6-8 inch wicks on all sides). This increases the weight of the hoop and affects what you can do with it. If you do a step through just fine in a 38” hoop, for example, you’ll have to lift your knee and hoop 6-8 inches higher with a fire hoop. I recommend getting a fire hoop that is at least 2 inches smaller in diameter than what you use normally. I’ll leave fire safety for another day or columnist, but suffice it to say that you will want to practice with your new fire hoop extensively while unlit to get used to its “wingspan” and weight.

What’s PolyPro?
If you’re in an area that has alot of hoopers, or you’ve been to a hooping festival recently, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of these fancy wonders. Rich Porter was the first to break it down for us with these polypro hoop-making instructions. They’re fast. They’re light. They’re incredible. If you’re hooping with ½: tubing that’s 38” in diameter or less and want to up your practice, it’s for you.

Last Words.
While writing this article, I’ve realized I could have made it a dissertation. I LOVE talking about sizing. And I KNOW how confusing it can be. So this week, I’m extending myself further than an informative article. I’ve opened a forum topic on the Hooposophy Group. “Sizing Help: All Questions Will Be Answered.” I’m at your beck and call. You may not be able to ever find the perfect jeans, but I’ll do my damnedest to help you find the perfect size hoop and help you feel good in it!

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Lara Eastburn Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Gorum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots: The Hooping Family Tree Project.

Comments

comments

19 Responses

  1. Rose says:

    You make some very good points, but the idea that there is somehow a beginner hoop size and that all of us are supposed to move to small hoops over time is a falsehood. Hooping brings me joy. People need to stop giving hoopers grief for using larger hoops like there is something wrong with them for doing so.

  2. Briana says:

    Thanks for the article Lara! I never knew what PSI actually stood for.

    For me, I’ve had the opposite problem in the hooping classes I’ve taken. I pick up tricks quickly and tend to be a “Speedy Gonzalez” (as my teacher aptly called me). I bought a medium-weight, large hoop, which I like for slower sessions and waist hooping. But it’s become cumbersome for my 5’8″, size 1 frame (not to mention pin-thin wrists! Oi!). I tried talking to my instructors about switching down to a smaller hoop – a nice 35 inch one that I had been hooping with in class. They looked at me quizzically, “Um…that’s a kids hoop. At least stick with a 39 inch.” But I feel very comfortable with the 35 inch, as well as the fact that many hoopers I see whose styles I like use 33-36 inch hoops.

    All that to say, there’s opinions on both sides of the aisle. Go with what’s comfortable for you, no matter what anyone says. :)

  3. Kelly Jean says:

    hi Lara and thanks for writing this article! I think it is the best I have seen on the subject.
    I must admit that I agree with Rose. I have been hooping for three years and teaching classes for two. One day I realized that I have been parroting off to my students what I have read everywhere else; that one day you will feel more comfortable with a smaller, lighter hoop…except that for ME; that day has never come.
    My students ask me what I use and I tell them 160 PSI, I just like it.
    So maybe it is not true for everybody, that they will want to move to lighter and faster hoops.
    i HAVE lighter hoops, of the LED and fire varieties, and dozens of others in various PSI and diameters, and I use them out at the Art Walks or the nightclubs, but when it is just me..hooping for fun in my yard or in the parking-lot at work: Give me 160 PSI in a 3/4 width,

  4. Troo Hoops says:

    This is a great article. We deal with the same questions about a million times a day. We found that no one wants to read anything, so we created a chart focusing on height and skill. We also designed the chart to look like a panty hose charts, easier to understand for those who hate to read online.

  5. lilgamoma says:

    This is great! People ask all the time. :)

  6. sugarskull7 says:

    So what you’re saying is…size DOES matter? :)

  7. mlmarston says:

    What size tubing would you recommend to make the small 15″-18″ arm hoops?

  8. Mad Moonrise says:

    I’m trying to make a mathematical formula that can measure the hoop size suitable for different bpm’s. Bpm means “beat per minute” and describes how fast the rythm goes. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I figured out one thng: I’m a neeeeerd :D

  9. Kim Patty says:

    Thanks Lara! Just in time for me as I am about to finally start making my own hoops for class. Love visiting this site for inspiration. It is ALWAYS useful!

  10. Shannon says:

    The only way I can keep it going for even a little bit, I have to have a HUGE, mammoth 1inch 160 psi hoop. I hope one day that I will get to go down to my 160 3/4 hoop that I bought before I tried a bigger one in a class.

  11. Shannon says:

    I can’t hoop without a gigantic hoop that is 1 inch 160 psi. :( I hope one day I can at least go down to 3/4.

    And you are right about music. I tried without today when I used my brandly made hoop. No dice. That can’t be right. Pop the mp3 player on, at least 5-7 seconds and I can turn a bit. Weeeeeeeeee

  12. Christina says:

    Thank you for this!! I’m going to add this as a link on my hoop blog, it’s so useful. I myself love my 39″ 100 psi hoop, it’s so springy and light, but after giving away my beginner hoop I started to miss having a heavier hoop with a slower “groove.” At one point I even made myself a 56″ pex hoop and it helped me learn leg hooping. Having a variety of sizes makes for some fun experimentation! Love the correlation to hoop size and tempo, I think I might use that with beginners. Thanks again for a great article!

  13. Jason says:

    as hoopers…arent we worried about the space inside the hoop….from inside wall to inside wall? if a hoop measures 40inch from inside wall to inside wall it doesnt matter what kind of tubing it is (1/2inch pex or 1 1/2 inch PE) the inside measurement is the same…but if the measurement is done on the outside of the hoop its different with each different kind of tubing you use.

  14. Thanks Lara…love this. Added it as a resource on my site!

  15. BHoops says:

    One of the many reasons you rock!! Every hooper needs a voice like you to guide them along. my fav line: “You may not be able to ever find the perfect jeans, but I’ll do my damnedest to help you find the perfect size hoop and help you feel good in it!”

  16. This article is missing an entire paragraph about the difference between Inside Diameter vs. Outside Diameter.

  17. Of the tubing or of the hoop?
    Hoops are generally measured by outer diameter. If you want the inner diameter, follow the measuring instructions above, but follow the inner circumference of the hoop.
    For tubing diameters (i.e. the thickness of the tube), HDPE is denoted by inner diameter while Polypro is usually indicated by its outer diameter. The thickness of the tubing wall will depend upon the PSI of the tubing. I can offer more help if your question is more specific.

  18. interactive3 says:

    Never hooped before but I saw a great hooper at a party yesterday and was inspired. Today I went to the hardware store and purchased a roll of 1″ 100psi tubing. I just finished making my first hoop (undecorated). I managed to get the inside diameter of the hoop at 42″. Thank you for the article. I had no idea where to start for sizing.

  19. Kay Forwood says:

    Great article Great advice. I did not think this article was bias at all. I understand that a larger hoop is easier to begin with, I have been hooping for years, and LOVE my large hoops but yes over time I wanted to go faster and my smaller hoop is much better for that ., and from what I read that’s all you were saying- keep shining- Thanks :)

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