How To Improve Grip Strength & Choose Grip Aids
Today's article is inspired by a question I see a lot on social media.
"I just started pole dancing and I'm slipping a lot - what can I use to help?"
Then come the hoards of pole dancers recommending their favourite grip aids to help you out.
It’s not the average pole dancer that I worry about taking advice on dozens of grips to help with the problem of slipping and sliding
It's the beginners like the person in the quote, the newbies. Anyone in their first 6 months to 1 year of pole dancing.
For this stage of your pole journey the advice is not as helpful as it may first seem.
It's just too soon to be thinking about grip aids, not that you shouldn't be using grip aids at all.
Further along in your pole journey you may make that decision to try a few out and settle on a favourite aid to your pole sessions.
That’s why I’ve written this guide to grip, from grip aids to improving your grip naturally.
There's so much more you can be doing to help your grip problems than reaching for the best quick fix solution in a bottle.
Not that we don't all have our go to solutions for particularly slippery days!
What You Will Learn
- Why Grip Aids Are Not For Beginners
- How New Moves Affect Your Grip
- How Different Grip Aids Work
- The Best Cross Training Activity For Pole
- What To Use If You Are Especially Sweaty From Nerves
- My Favourite Grip Aids For A Selection Of Grip Slip Scenarios
- How To Improve Grip Without Grip Aids
- Reasons Why Your Grip Aid Is Failing You
Discover Why You Shouldn't Reach Straight For The Grip Aid
Whenever you learn a new move you are often nervous.
Those nerves that can stem from being the newbie in class in front of everyone or the prospect of learning a new spin or trick you haven’t tried before.
You won't be surprised to hear that these pressures can make you sweat more than usual.
This is no reason to reach straight for the grip aid though because it's completely normal.
You should dry your hands on a microfibre sweat absorbant towel and move on, because using tools like grip aids and grip gloves leaves you treating the symptom instead of the root of the problem.
The more you persevere with your new move the less daunting it will become. Your body will grow stronger with every class and with more control and strength comes less slip and slide through natural progression.
For this reason I tend to tell beginners not to rely on grip aid too much. Not because it can’t help or shouldn’t be used but because I know that your grip will improve naturally.
Why Do I Get Better Grip But Lose It Trying New Moves
So you decided to go it alone. You've gritted your teeth and battled on without grip aid.
Your spins are getting good, you're moving with more grace every time you try and sliding is becoming a thing of the past, for now.
Then all of a sudden, the sweaty palms are back!
“What’s that you want me to do? Something new?”
With uncertainty about a completely new move you’ll start to sweat it again. You might be using a new hold to grip the pole or perhaps some new muscle groups which aren’t as strong.
Combine that with the fear of falling over face first as your new spin sends you twirling towards the floor and we're living a sweaty nightmare again, right back where we started!
The body sweats when we are nervous or afraid, it's completely normal and there are a few ways you can prevent anxious sweating.
If this does happen though, it's a great idea to use a grip aid that will dry out your hands or even mask sweat entirely until you are more confident.
It's not so bad as your grip naturally improves to use a little grip aid if you're trying a new move while you get your head around the correct positioning.
Once you have things figured out you should practise without grip aid as much as possible.
How To Prevent Sweaty Palms
Sometimes we sweat so much when learning a new move that it becomes pretty tricky to master.
It’s possible to remove some of that moisture temporarily so that you can nail a move and then continue to work on perfecting things you are more comfortable with as it wears off.
If you desperately need to rid yourself of sweaty palms after persevering for a while, there are a few basic grip aids that dry your skin and don’t technically provide any extra ‘stickiness’.
You can use a simple climbers chalk, or liquid chalk which both contain drying agents.
There's also dry hands solution, a mask such as Dirty Girl Poletice or clinical antiperspirants designed to treat Hyperhidrosis.
If you do try these out at an early stage in your pole journey I would recommend using them sparingly in times of need and not to become reliant on them.
If you suffer from hyperhidrosis you may need to go one step further and invest in a pair of pro-tack grip gloves.
Don't worry about becoming dependent on these because if you have a doctors note to say you suffer from hyperhidrosis these gloves will still be allowed in competition.
You will have a problem spinning on a static pole wearing these though.
Grip Aid 101: Different Grip Aids & How To Use Them
I will be providing detailed reviews on the following grip aids soon but for now I’ll just note down the best conditions to use each one for you.
These are a few that I have tried and quite like for different environments.
This is great if you suffer from Hyperhidrosis, or are experiencing sweat caused by nerves.
Driclor is a clinical strength deodorant that will prevent sweating and Dirty Girl Poletice is a Silica based product that acts as a mask to prevent sweating.
To use them you wash your hands, shower and clean the area you intend to apply the product. Once applied they will mask sweat and prevent sweating in the areas you have applied them.
While this is great in hot climates for pole practise I did notice that blocking sweat in one area (which is designed to keep us cool after all) would increase sweating in other areas of the body.
Mighty Grip is a thermoplastic powder. To use it you add a little to your hands and rub your hands together.
As the powder heats up with your body it creates a tacky feeling. The key to this product is heat, so the hotter you are the better, although it doesn't tackle sweaty palms.
That can be a little problematic because obviously the hotter we get the more we sweat.
Mighty Grip have come up with a new special formula for pole dancers that activates at a lower temperature though. That makes it perfect for cold winter mornings too!
Dry hands is an alcohol and Silica based grip that is non tacky and non greasy. Rather than providing a sticky grip it repels sweat and water leaving your hands dry for the pole.
It does leave a residue on your hands and pole that needs to be cleaned off though!
At the moment Dry Hands is my go to grip aid. If my hands are sweaty I dry them off and add a few drops of Dry Hands. While it sometimes needs a little re-application it does build up on your hands so you need less as your pole session goes on.
It totally dries out my hands allowing me to pole in peace and I suffer from Dishydrosis - a rare form of eczema on the hands caused by Hyperhidrosis.
I actually don't mind the re-application so much because it only takes a couple of drops of product and doesn't leave me feeling sticky or greasy afterwards, just dry and ready to pole!
To use you should apply a few drops (not much!) to your hands and spread across your palms, but don't be tempted to rub it in or you might actually rub it off entirely.
This is my favourite grip aid 🙂
Stickum and other sticky grip aids are often Resin based and provide a gluey tacky layer to your hands to help you literally stick to the pole.
Resin based grip aids and other sprays that create a similar tack such as hairspray are banned in most competitions.
I've practically spent most of this post bad mouthing this stuff - but it isn't bad really. I've used it once or twice when I've been having particularly bad days for grip and had mixed results.
While I managed to pull off some strength moves that I would normally struggle with after using this stuff, it did feel a little like cheating.
That's not to say my muscles weren't working but you can definitely feel the difference in a secure grip, which is why you should be working on improving it naturally.
I also found that it is terrible in extremely sweaty conditions, it somehow felt more slippery than before putting any on at all.
Climbing chalk is possibly the cheapest and most basic grip you can find and while it is effective it does need re-application between uses which means it isn't great for competing.
If you're just practising for fitness in your studio though, it works great! Its active ingredient is Magnesium Carbonate which is a drying agent that is also found in Liquid Chalk.
It's used by many athletes world wide who need a more secure grip on their holds, from climbers and gymnasts to weight lifters.
Aside from the usual active ingredient Magnesium Carbonate, the liquid product adds alcohol into the mix which has quick drying and de-greasing qualities for even better grip.
Pro Tack Grip Gloves are a sure fire way to prevent sweaty hands coming between you and your pole.
If you don't feel comfortable wearing gloves in case your hand slips out you can also apply grip to your hands before you put them on to ensure they are secure.
In my experience as long as you measure your hand correctly and buy a tight fitting glove you should be just fine, I haven't experienced any slipping.
I prefer the pro tack gloves to the original tack but they both provide a sturdy grip on the pole.
The pro tack gives me that extra secure feeling, and as long as you have measured up your hand size correctly you should have no problems using these gloves, I even found them sturdy in my handspring.
You can also get pro-tack products to protect your wrists, inner thigh, upper arm, ankles and the back of your knees.
The knee pads are great for when you are working up a sweat with floorwork and want to transition smoothly between floor and pole.
I found them great in hot conditions where a lot of active floorwork would lead to quite the problem if you then wanted to do a simple leg hang.
So if you're feeling hot and are super sweaty behind the knees you can't go wrong with these knee pads.
Get a 10% online discount on all Mighty Grip products with CODE: LOVEPOLEKISSES at www.mightygrip.com
Do You Know About These Moisturising Solutions?
These little gems are not just amazing because they finally allow us to moisturise (hallelujah!) they're great if you're suffering from dry thighs, armpits, arms - you name it!
If it's too dry and smooth and causing you to slip off the pole, just apply a tiny bit of one of these moisturisers for instant stick.
To use them you just apply, wash hands of any product residue, wait 5 minutes and you're ready to go - as long as you're poling alone.
You must be wary, if you're sharing a pole and you use one of these less than an hour before pole class they can sometimes make the pole slippery for other users!
You can sometimes find this in other moisturisers too but it's important to make sure you find an oil free one. Dew Point itself comes in three different levels of tack from fairly light to ultra sticky!
I just love the Body Sorbet, I can now moisturise in peace and know that I won't go slipping and sliding from the pole as a result of caring for my skin. I have two scents in my arsenal at the moment; Strawberry and Virgin Mojito! Yum 😀
An example of a moisturiser I used to use before Dew Point & Body Sorbet grew in popularity was Essential Healing moisturiser by Vaseline Intensive Care which had a similar effect.
If you would like to try Dew Point for yourself feel free to claim your exclusive 10% reader discount by entering coupon code 'gylovesdew' at the checkout! http://dewpointpole.com/
Have You Made Sure Your Pole Is Clean?
Keeping the pole clean with rubbing alcohol before use is also another way to ensure you have maximum grip in your sessions. Just put the solution on a cloth, clean the pole down from top to bottom and dry with a microfibre cloth.
The last thing we need when we're trying to grip on to the pole is last sessions leftover residue or in the case of a group class some unthoughtful person's slippery moisturiser.
Why Your Warm Ups Are So Important
I'm sure you've heard it before but I'll say it again in case you forgot. A warm pole is a grippy pole, as is a warm body.
You should already be having a thorough warm up to get your body ready for your pole session, to keep you energised and motivated throughout your session and also to reduce the chance of muscle fatigue and injury!
If you haven't had the chance to do your warm ups on the pole then before you start you should do lots of spins with it set to static to get it nice and warm.
Another reason a warm up is good for you other than to prevent injury and increase stamina is that after a good sweaty warm up there's no better grip aid around! Just let the sweat dry on your skin for around 5 minutes and you'll be good to go, this is the free alternative to Body Sorbet and Dew Point.
So get yourself a great warm up routine that really makes you break a sweat and be ready to stick to that pole like glue!
Warning: Grip Aids You Should Try To Avoid!
Some grip aids that are Resin based or come in a spray form are banned in most competitions.
It's for that reason alone that I suggest avoiding them if you ever wish to train to compete, because it's very easy to become reliant on them.
It's not only the grip aids themselves that are regulated either, the method of application should be only to the body, as lots of competitions forbid applying any products to the pole itself.
It's so easy to become reliant on grip aids, and to be reliant on something as sticky as these guys is a hard habit to break.
How to Improve Grip Without Grip Aids
If your ultimate goal is to be totally grip aid free with an independent grip you are in luck. The more you train your grip and the more advanced you become, the easier it is to grip the pole and perform even with sweaty hands.
Your natural grip improves with a combination of grip strength, upper body and core strength.
You'll see improvements as you rely less on your hands to hold you and begin to incorporate more of your arms, shoulders, obliques and core to help out with the heavy lifting.
Rock climbing for example, is a fantastic cross training exercise for pole not just because of the amount of core strength it develops, but for grip as well.
Pro rock climbers measure their grip pressure and can often grip onto the tiniest of holds between two little fingers!
To help the process along there are a few things you can use to work on improving grip by targeting your hand strength specifically.
Grip strength comes from your forearms as well as your hands, and these tools will strengthen both your wrists and your forearms which will also help to prevent injury!
Some of the tools you can use are; A Powerball, Grip Strengthener and Hand Master Plus (or elastic band).
The Handmaster Plus is the only grip strengthener that allows you to work both the squeezing and opposing muscles in your hands using only one tool and The Powerball is a unique strengthener that works on finger strengthening, wrist and forearm exercise.
The Powerball is used by holding it in the palm of your hand and keeping the ball spinning by rotating your wrist, the faster the ball spins the more resistance you will feel.
It's often used to help with rehabilitation of broken bones, carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury.
For the purpose of this post I'm just going to show you how to use a simple grip strengthener and elasticated band to exercise your hands effectively.
The muscles in your hand are just like every other muscle in that we need to warm up, strengthen as we stretch and work evenly on both sides to prevent muscle imbalance and injury.
That's why I'm going to give you some quick exercises to warm up and a few to work in the opposite direction to the squeeze you will be training with your grip strengthener.
To warm up you should stand or sit with your arms straight out in front of you, open and close your hands spreading your fingers as wide as you can each time ten times in front of you, remember not to flop your arms!
Now lift your arms above your head pointing up to the ceiling and open and close your hands in the same way another ten times, next put them straight out either side of you and repeat the stretching motion of your fingers ten times again.
You should repeat this again starting with your hands back in front of you and go through the same cycle but this time only doing eight repetitions of the movement.
Once you have worked back around to the starting point again you'll go again but with six repetitions this time, and then four and finally two until you are finished.
Using your grip strengthener is super easy, depending on the strength you have gone for.
Ideally you want to buy a grip strengthener that you find challenging but that you can fully close for maximum range of movement to work all those muscles!
Here in Costa Rica I didn't have that luxury as we barely have online delivery so I had to make do with what I was given at our local supermarket...
As you can see these are hollow and made from a pretty cheap and nasty plastic that might cause me some discomfort while training, but they have a good level of resistance.
I made do because I have to for now but you should definitely go with a more comfy grip, there are lots to choose from on Amazon!
To use the strengthener you just need to hold it firmly in your hand, squeeze the two handles together, hold for around five or six seconds and then release as slowly as possible.
You can do as many repetitions as you can before you struggle but try not to push past that to avoid injuring your hand.
We'll cool down by stretching the fingers in the opposite direction.
You can do these exercises using either a hand master plus or an elastic band, heck I couldn't even find one of those in the house today so in these pictures I'm using a strong hair tie.
Choose a band with a good level of resistance that suits you.
You can either keep the band around the tips of your fingers holding them slightly curved to keep it in place or if you struggle with the band popping off a lot you can loop it once around your forefinger to complete the exercise.
You won't need to do that if you use the hand master because it comes with loop holes to put your fingers through 🙂
With your fingers in place in your chosen band or grip strengthener you're going to open them as wide as possible and close again. Repeat this stretch slowly ten times stretching as far as you can and then do five faster ones.
Repeat that routine twice on each hand after using your grip strengthener.
You only need to do this workout once a day to see an improvement and it's so simple that it can be done while you sit enjoying your favourite TV show in the evening!
Update! Do you have any spare pole extension pieces lying around at home?
If you do, you'll want to check out these awesome grip and forearm strength exercises using your pole extensions from Sarah Scott!
Try them out, they're harder than they look 😉
Ok, so to wrap up I just want to clarify, I do use grip aid and I'm not saying that you should be avoiding it completely.
Let's recap the main reasons your grip aid might not be working for you:
- You've been treating the symptoms of your problem instead of the root cause
- You are using the wrong grip aid for your circumstances
- You have become reliant on and built up a tolerance to your grip aid
- You suffer from an extreme form of Hyperhidrosis
- You haven't warmed up your body or the pole enough
- Your pole needs cleaning
- You haven't been actively training your grip strength
My personal circumstances (40 Degree Celsius heat mainly!) mean that I need a good sweat blocker and something to keep my palms from sweating, but I always actively work on grip strength as well.
Without improving your own grip strength you will likely find that your grip aids constantly fail you.
My go to grip aid time and time again and personal favourite at the moment is dry hands and before I tried dry hands I would use basic climbing chalk to absorb any excess moisture.
So while you can use a grip aid if you find it absolutely necessary, I'm a firm believer that you should do your very best to keep them at arms length if possible, at least as a beginner while you build up more grip, upper body and core strength 🙂
It's also important to remember that my favourites listed here are great for my personal situation.
If I go outside in the heat I'll need a sweat blocker like Dirty Girl Poletice, if I visit the UK I'll need to put some Body Sorbet on for moisture and grippier thighs.
The moral of the story is, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, you'll need to put grip aids to trial and error for yourself because there just isn't a one size fits all solution, it all depends on you and your personal preference.