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Get a Grip! 5 Ways to Improve Hand Strength for Aerial Arts

Hello Dear Danglers! Lets you and I do this one together. Once upon a time, I had a vise-like grip that (I’m sure) rivaled the Terminator. I could dangle happily by my fingertips over a shark tank, covered in Crisco, while sneezing! Well, perhaps I exaggerate (and no one ever offered to pay me to do that anyway), but you get my point. However, four years of motherhood have meant less time for “hanging around” in my preferred manner, and I’ve noticed a disheartening decrease in my grip strength. What’s a dangler to do? Buckle down, and GET A GRIP.

Why Grip Strength is Important

Aside from the obvious benefit of keeping you safely glued to your apparatus or partner, grip has a number of hidden benefits. The muscles of the hand, wrists, and forearm are small and somewhat delicate. By creating a strong web of muscles, we reduce the risk of all sorts of injuries – overuse, structural, and hyper-extensive. Weak grip also leads to sacrifices in alignment in other areas of the body to compensate, most notably through the shoulders, chest, and upper back – no bueno! Add to that the fatigue and frustration of frequent “Popeye” forearms, and you can see why training your digits is a priority.


5 Strategies for Grippy Goodness


1 – Ban spray rosin from your training. Use powdered rosin as needed or preferred, but save the spray stuff for performance. Yes, I know you love your Glamour Glue, but please spare me the argument that you “need it for safety while you train” – I don’t allow it in my classes, and my students are better for it! Spray rosin practically cements you to the apparatus, and encourages a relaxed, noodle-y grip. It’s like crack! Don’t do it.


2 – Set aside part of each training session to work grip. I personally like to do this early! Work close to the ground in case you need to come down quickly, and use as little rosin as you need to complete the exercises safely:

  • silks & trap – birds nest in the air – hold a silk or rope in each hand, invert to a ball position, slide your shins up the ropes as you extend your legs towards the ceiling and arch your back (newer students can wrap their wrists once or twice to give additional support)
  • silks – dangle torture – maintaining a strong, aligned shoulder, hold a strand in each hand and simply hang with extended arms
  • rope, trap, & lyra – one-handed madness – keeping shoulders pulled firmly down, practice hanging by one hand (**DO NOT** allow the shoulders to lift or rotate – keep your feet on the ground if you need help maintaining proper positioning)


3 – Train your grip at home. There are oodles of exercises you can do outside the studio – here are my favorites!

  • mini-silk or towel over a pull-up bar
  • squeeze a stress ball or tennis ball (great to do on the walk to training or while you’re stretching to warm up your fingers)
  • crumple newspaper page by page with one hand
  • get yourself a DynaFlex! This is a nifty little gizmo that I like a lot. Not only does it work the muscles of the hand and forearm, but it can also help with PT of the shoulder and elbow.


4 – Warm up your fingers before training!


5 – Keep nails short and lose the jewelry. Long nails and rings impair grip, so you’ll just have to choose!


Happy dangling, and I’ll see you in the air!!! Love and pull-ups, Laura


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4 comments on “Get a Grip! 5 Ways to Improve Hand Strength for Aerial Arts”

  1. Monica Reply

    Ah, you I like! What a great and informative site! I just started silk and looking to improve.. mostly for strength right now (technique will have to come later). Even though I’m only three classes in – I am hooked!

    Will be reading all your posts!!


  2. cyndi rosenbaum Reply

    I find my hands are quite dry and if I dampen them water I can climb. I am just learning thst skill now. I was thinking of getting sure grip but now I’m not so sure.u

  3. jenny Reply

    Any advice for climbers elbow? I’m resting but want to come back with better technique. 🙁

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