Sunday, December 29, 2013

Should you get a (bottle of) grip?

Grip aid preferences are one of the most popular topics for polers (right after what brand pole to buy and before what material pole to buy). Other aerialists tend to be rosin or nothin', though whether they use rock rosin or spray is also a subject of discussion. Grip aids are interesting to trade notes about, because everyone has a preference. Some swear by Mighty Grip, others like Dew Point, some love iTac and some hate it. My favorite are the grip aid "cocktails" I hear people come up with: "I layer on Dew Point and then cover with iTac on my legs plus Dry Hands on my hands and shoulders, and Cramer's on the bottom of my feet if I'm going to attempt a Starfish!" It's like bros in the gym describing their supplement stacks. "Bro, I take casein protein before and 30 grams of whey after, and 4 times a day I take a stack of creatine, caffeine, and alpha-lipoic acid, bro."

But I know many aerialists who have sworn off rosin and suggest that you do, too. Relying on grip aid can create lazy fingers and prevent you from building up the strength you need to master your art. (See also How to stick to the pole.) So should you torture yourself to build up your grip, or should you even the playing field by using as much grip aid as everyone else?

As much as many people like to be dogmatic about this, there's no cut-and-dry answer. It depends on the individual. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What are your goals?
Are you training for a career in the circus? To win competitions? Consider stepping away from the bottle. You need to be secure in your poses in ANY conditions--hot or cold, dry or humid, fresh or exhausted.

Are you working out in your apartment for fun? Then why torture yourself? If you're going to have an enjoyable training session with grip or a frustrating one without it, you don't have a good reason to make yourself miserable. You're doing this because you love it, so you should enjoy yourself.

What are you doing?
If you're running your competition routine for the 40th time, now's a good time to go grip-naked. You've got the moves, now you need to intensify your training. It's like putting on ankle weights--you don't need them every day, but when it's competition training time you gotta give 110%. (Note: you do want to practice under performance circumstances as well, so it's also important to do some runs using exactly what grip aids you plan to use during performance.)

If you're trying out a scary new move and are afraid of falling on your head, grip away. Above all if you are actually above all: getting on a 20-foot pole for the first time? Use whatever you want! You don't want to look down, get nervous, start sweating, and slip to your death.

What is your skin chemistry like?
I agree that there are circumstances where using your skin alone are ideal, but I also hate when people get preachy and judgy about it. Why? Because they haven't walked a mile in your skin. An aerialist who has a cooperative skin chemistry scolding one who has to use rosin without understanding their skin chemistry is like a skinny person scolding a fat person for eating too much without understanding their metabolism. I don't sweat a whole lot. Lucky for me and my dainty femininity. I have friends who break out in sweatballs like Texas hail the second their heart rate goes up. It's not fair for me to tell them not to use grip aid. On the other hand, Pippi at 34 has really dry legs, but Pippi at 29 had no problem with knee holds in any weather. As a result, I am much more likely to use grip aids now because getting older sucks.

What is the weather like?
I live in Massachusetts and it's December and my apartment is cold. Maybe if poling were my full-time job, I would have the time/patience to warm up my pole in front of the space heater, warm up my body with vigorous calisthenics, get the pole all hot and bothered with some friction-inducing climbs and drops, and eventually I'd be able to pole comfortably. But I don't have time for that. (See Training when you don't have enough time.) I have to cook dinner and practice music and write this blog! I'd really rather just put on some rosin than slide out of every move for the first 20 minutes of my 30-minute practice session.

The summer is a different story. Poling in the summer is so exciting because everything is so easy! Until it's like 100 degrees and the air conditioner window unit isn't cutting it anymore. It's a delicate balance.

What's your budget?
Sport-specific grip aids tend to be $10+ per bottle, so if you go through it fast the cost adds up. If I'm honest, probably the reason I'm so stingy with using grip aids is more because I'm a cheap bastard than because I'm being a hardcore aerialist.

Of course, there are budget, DIY alternatives. I like to use Corn Husker's Lotion because I can get it at CVS for like $4. Some people use shaving cream or even hairspray (thanks for the tip Peita!). But the cheapest option is nothing.

Photo by me. Please disregard bottle of wine in the background.


  1. As a sweaty hands poler, I found that grip aids that decrease my sweaty hands changed poling for me! I agree that it is important to train without them to build your grip strength and so that you don't rely on products over your muscles, but again, every person can decided for themselves.

  2. I like that you mentioned the cold weather and poling. I couldn't tell if I was just getting lazier this winter or what, because it takes about half and hour to get the pole warmed up. I'm a camgirl that uses a pole, so I pole out of my house. That's what I've been doing, warming up the pole with a space heater and doing slides to heat it up...and I'm using dry hands--just to do a fireman spin : ) At least I'm not alone in this weather, it just takes a while.