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Tuf or Buff: How Spray Rosin Can Sabotage Your Training

I have such a love/hate relationship with spray rosin (aka Tuf Skin or Firm Grip). On the one hand, I love the awesome flypaper effect it creates when I’m performing doubles and my partner is being so inconsiderate as to actually sweat. On the other hand, I hate watching my students douse themselves in it in hopes of Velcro-ing their hands to the fabric. So, when is spray rosin a blessing, and when is it like the friend who brings over a pie when you’re dieting? Let’s discuss.


Spray rosin, mostly powdered rosin (pine tree sap) and alcohol, can be a God-send when:

  • You’re working with a partner and need a little extra grippy oomph
  • Smoke, fog, or haze will be used during your performance (this can sometimes leave a slick coating on your apparatus)
  • You’re pushing your limits of endurance in your piece, are working at altitude, or are performing multiple acts in a show and want to be conservative with your grip strength
  • It’s seriously hot or humid and you’re sweatin’ like a whore in church, causing you to slip and slide in alarming ways


When is it not a good bet? During your daily or weekly training. Two of the most beautiful aerialists I know don’t use ANY sticky stuff – not rosin, not Tuff Skin (shout out, F & J!). How is this possible, you gasp? They’ve trained their grip, pure and simple. If you coat your hands in aerial super glue, don’t be surprised when your grip is noodly. I have banned spray rosin in my class for this reason (but I KNOW some of you still use it…). The stronger your grip, the more confident you’ll be in the air, and confidence is beautiful!

So kids, the moral of the story is this: use as little Sticky Awesomeness as possible during your training – this will encourage a stronger grip. Use what you need to be safe, but actively train those fingers to hold tight. You’ll thank me one day when you can hang on to a trapeze with one finger. While sneezing uncontrollably. Over a shark tank. Booyah! Love and pull-ups, Laura


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21 comments on “Tuf or Buff: How Spray Rosin Can Sabotage Your Training”

  1. Aerialist in PDX Reply

    Yes! The 1st studio I ever went to didn’t offer it up to beginners (though they have it available). When I wanted some more classes and signed up at a 2nd studio, everyone was dousing their hands with it constantly! I still don’t like the way it feels unless i’m doing some brand new stuff that I’m a bit uncomfortable about.

    I love this blog! I just found it today and I’ve already learned so much. Thanks for sharing all of this great info!

  2. Pippi Parnasse Reply

    I like rosin and spray rosin, but I say use the “sugar the tea” rule. Don’t put sugar in your tea until you taste it first, to see how much, if any, you need. Don’t put rosin on your hands until you climb the silks first, for the same reason.

  3. Julie Reply

    I agree with Pippi: some days the silks are so slick I slide right back down. Other days I don’t need it at all.

    • Lewitwer Reply

      For super slick silks, rosin is soooooooo helpful! Definitely use what you need. I still feel that spray rosin should be saved for performance though – 14 years on fabrics and I’ve never needed it in rehearsal. 🙂

      • Julie Reply

        Two questions then: Does the slickness or otherwise of the silks depend on temperature & humidity? Because the climbing gym where our silks are hung is in an warehouse & whenever it isn’t extremely hot or cold the loading dock doors are open. And what about silk width? We have only one set of 96″ width, the others are 120.” I can’t hold on to the wider ones without dividing them into the two poles. The narrower ones are difficult & my hands get sore when I try to do much with the poles held together.

  4. Lewitwer Reply

    Hi Julie! Slickness is dependent on the fibers/type of fabric, cleanliness (the cleaner or newer the silks, the slicker), temperature, and humidity (the cooler & less humid the environment, the more slippery). In NYC, our weather runs the full gamut – our silks will be grippy one day, and slick as snot the next. 😉 Keeps us guessing!

  5. Lesley Reply

    Hi! I love your blog! I am new to aerial arts (started in January) and I have a question. I have naturally VERY sweaty hands and feet. Like, dripping off of my fingers/toes. I don’t want to be dependent on rosin, but I also feel like my grip can’t keep up with my sweating. Do you have any tips or remedies to help with sweaty hands and feet?

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Thanks Lesley! I have several students with a similar issue, so I asked them what they do. Here are their answers:

      “A quick coating of gel antipersperant over the hands before class, then a layer of rosin. Washes off after the session.”
      “Towel them off a lot and use powder rosin.”

      SO. There you have it. Use whatever rosin you need to stay secure and safe! My beef tends to be with using “Glamour Glue” (spray rosin) outside of performance. Hey – anyone out there have a good tip for Lesley? 🙂

  6. Michele Frances Reply

    As a physical therapist & aerialist I agree that training grip is essential, but on those endurance days some good old powder rosin is a good thing. I use spray rosin when I’m peforming (and sometimes when I’m training outdoors in colder weather). I do depend on powder rosin for those longer training days where I’m teaching for multiple hours as well. I have had more than a few student/patients who I diganosed with “golfer’s elbow”, aka medial epicondylitis (opposite of tennis elbow)- usually they are folks who are fairly new to aerial and are training as much as they can but are very weak therefore they end up overworking their forearm muscles too soon. A gal I know recently told me that at the training studio she attends they do not allow rosin of any kind and that “it’s good for conditioning”- I had have to beg to differ on that as someone who spends up to 4-6 hours training/teaching at a time on a regular basis I’d blow out my hands with out it (powder). So yes, I agree as this blog has so eloquently stated it has it’s place, but its best not to over use it. If youre a newbee and want to train your grip I suggest looking into rice bucket techniques and allow yourself a little powder rosin when learing your first tricks. My one arm hangs and single arm meat hooks have not suffered from it. 🙂

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Awesome insights, Michele!!! Do you have any resources for these rice bucket techniques you speak of? I’m intrigued! Also? I like rice. 😉

  7. Rebecca Reply

    I know this is an older blog post but speaking from my experience, I have to say that for rosin is essential to my training. It allowing me to build muscle. Without it, my hands wear out way before my arms and backs do making it impossible for me to fatigue my core/arms and back before my grip does. Once I started using grip, I could train longer, fatigue my muscles, and there by increasing strength.

    I get where too much of a good thing can be abused… but I would not want to participate in a studio that banned it.

  8. Melissa Reply

    So, for those of us that can’t sweat at all through our hands, what do you recommend? I have large man sized hands that will not break a sweat unless it’s over 80+ degrees and I’m in a hot long sleeve unitard and leg warmers, in the sun with my heart rate up. Then my hands might still not get moist. I can hold a steel apparatus one arm hang forever!!! but as soon as cotton rope or fabric or fabric like taping is involved I’m a cat sliding off the roof. I’ve been training/ performing 8 years and I regularly dremel and carve off my callouses to try to get to the pink fleshy skin underneath that might have moisture (think cracking feet vs soft ones) I actually need something moist, that stays on longer than spraying them with water that will keep my uber grip from sliding down, especially in winter and air conditioning. I know I am more suited to life in Costa Rica or Hawaii, duhhhhh, but in Hotlanta, what can I do? it’s not hot or humid enough. I also get repetitive stress injuries and pumped forearms from overgripping. I do some thai massage flushing after each hour/s of training and get restorative fascia massage at least once a week.
    Drinking lots of water, going to sweat lodges, always warming up, living in coconut, she and jojoba oil.. but terribly dryyyyy

    • Lewitwer Reply

      A light dusting of rosin, Melissa! If that doesn’t work, try a heavy dusting. 😉 If that doesn’t work, go ahead & use whatever DOES work, being mindful to use enough to keep you safe, but not enough to super-glue you to the fabric. 🙂

      • Julie Crompton Reply

        Hi Melissa, remember me? Catherine’s mom? That is, if you are the Melissa I met at Wall Crawlers. Have you tried powdered rosin rather than spray? Also, some of us with dry cracking skin have a genetic inability to metabolize zinc efficiently. Taking zinc supplements helps a lot if that is the case.

  9. Madam mango Reply

    Interesting article and comments. I learnt aerial without any grip assistance and I think that is the best way. I now only use powdered rosin and only when I really need to, so when I’m training moves that require a really strong grip, like one arm stuff or drops to hands, and as an extra reassurance when I’m performing. That way when you need the edge you can have it. If you coat yourself in rosin all the time, particularly the liquid stuff, then where can you get that extra edge from. I don’t tell my students about rosin until I really have to! I also find it makes my hands sore if I use it too much, and sore hands really do affect your grip strength. If you are struggling get some of those hand exercisers that build strength without having your whole body weight hanging there!

  10. ohwell Reply

    I never use rosin or chalk! And the Spray rosin, specifically, will ruin not only training and grip strength–it will ruin the apparatus, as well. Ever seen the rope so slippery from the nasty coat of spray rosin that came off people’s hands that it’s more like a “dance pole” than the rope? I’ve seen. If you share equipment please don’t use that stuff. And for those who say it’s to be used to train tricks that require great grip strength and for pure strength training drills: 1) I believe if you can’t do a trick without rosin, your grip strength alone simply has to be addressed, without any rosin, and you’re not ready to safely do the trick, rosin or not. 2) pure strength training drills like weighted pullups, etc can be performed eliminating grip strength issue alltogether, including wrapping the wrists in, as on aerial straps, or doing them on a bar or gymnastics rings instead of rope/silk (easier to grip)

  11. Lucy B. Mills Reply

    I turn 60 this year, have been doing aerials for 5 years now. I love, love love silks but also have arthritis. I am not sure how much damage I would do my fingers if I couldn’t use some rosin!

  12. Jennifer Reply

    Oh no. Have been training in aerials for 2 years and we use firm grip like crack. Others have said out silks are sticky (there are parts that are very gross). Any tips for weaning off it? I am concerned my hands are just naturally soft slippery (not sweaty at ALL, just smooth)

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Start transitioning to rock rosin (I like Easton brand) little by little. It won’t be as bad as you think! 😉

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