The what, the witch, and the why.
When it comes to pole and aerial safety, grip aids (tack) can be one of your best training tools and also our biggest vice. With so many varieties of tack on the market, it is important to understand when and why you should use tack, which tack works for what, and which apparatus it can or should be used on.
It is important to note that your best grip is a clean hand. Always wash your hands just prior to the start of class, to remove any lotions or oils, and set yourself up for success.
So let's unlock the mysteries behind tack, shed some of the myths, and find a tack (if any) that is right for YOU!
What is tack?
Tack, also known as grip aid, is meant to help increase the "tension" or grip of your skin with our apparatus, by combatting sweat or dry skin.
Why do we need grip aids?
Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). This is the most common problem when searching for a grip product. This problem is very common with new students as their bodies are adapting to the increased friction between their hands and the apparatus. When you are a little nervous or excited, your hands also naturally sweat, compounding the problem. This is a safety issue as well as a self-confidence killer. If this is your problem, check out my grip aid suggestions below.
Lack of hydration. When your skin is too dry, you cannot create proper skin tension with your apparatus. This can be just as bad as being too sweaty. There are a variety of tack products specifically designed to assist with dry skin.
Lack of grip strength. Your hands have muscles. When you are a new student, those muscles have to get stronger, just like the rest of you. New students should ALWAYS limit the use of grip aids to allow for natural muscle growth and grip strength. Tack is like giving your body a crutch, and makes it take longer and longer for your hand grip to improve.
Safety and confidence. If you are too sweaty or dry to even ENJOY the class, or if you are nervous to execute a newer move, then grip aids can be a wonderful way for you to enhance your safety and confidence. Just be sure to notice that as you get stronger and more capable you should be able to use less and less grip aid.
Environment. Too much or not enough humidity, and even things like excess caffeine can disrupt your practice. Tack is a great way to still get good practice, despite environmental factors.
What is the best grip aid?
Your best grip aid is a clean hand. Always wash your hands just prior to the start of class, to remove any lotions or oils. Lotions get trapped in the pores of your hands and can begin to interfere with your grip as your body warms up.
My hands are clean and I am still having issues.
On the pole side, first, try the alcohol spray bottles and a towel to help enhance your grip. Our pole spray bottles have 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol in them. Alcohol removes oils, cools the skin, and helps shrink the pores. This makes it a great first choice for grip enhancement. Anywhere you are experiencing slip, including hands or legs, spray the towel and wipe off that spot.
On the aerial side, the spray bottles are filled with ionized salt water. It has very similar qualities to the pole alcohol bottles and has a dehydrating effect as well. Spray a towel and wipe your hands. Instant tack!
What if I am still experiencing issues?
Here are some of my favorite grip products on the market. I am NOT being paid for my suggestions. You might have suggestions of your own, and I would love to hear about them in the comments below.
There are 4 types of grip product bases:
Solution (Pole & Aerial | Hands & feet)
ex. Dry Hands, Girlie Grip, Grip Shield
Spray Rosin (Aerial ONLY | Hands ONLY)
ex Firm Grip & Grip-it
Chalk (Pole & Aerial | Hands only)
ex Liquid Grip & Tite Grip
Beeswax (Pole Only | Body Only)
ex iTac, Lupit Tack Pads
Reasons to use them:
Dry Hands, Girlie Grip, and Grip Shield are all solution-based products with ingredients designed to decrease hand (or foot) sweat and enhance grip. My personal favorite is Grip Shield, because it is made here in Texas to combat our specific climate, and it lasts a long time.
If you have SUPER SWEATY hands, try Tite Grip. It is an antiperspirant for your hands and body. However, it can take up to 30 minutes to begin actively blocking the sweat, so wash your hands and apply it before class for maximum results. You can also apply other grip aids (like Grip Shield) over it for even more grip enhancement throughout the class.
Liquid Grip is a rosin and chalk-based hand grip that is 100% biodegradable and prevents blisters. Great for Pole and Lyra.
Dry Body (pole specific):
iTac is a beeswax-based grip aid used to enhance your BODY tack, not your hands. Apply it to your knee pits, shins, hips, or shoulders. I absolutely love this grip aid for leg hangs and climbing, but fair warning! Never apply it to your inner thighs or under your arms. That skin is way too sensitive! It comes in regular and extra strength but just go with the extra strength. Always apply it to your body, NOT THE POLE.
Lupit Pole Pads have one side for the pole (black) and the other for the hands (pink), so it can be a great all-in-one grip aid for pole dancers who struggle with dry skin-related tack problems and also like to tack their pole without getting yelled at ;-) Always be sure to warm up really well, as beeswax-based pole tacks need your body heat to really activate!
Lack of Grip Strength or Dry Hands: (aerial specific)
Spray Rosin like Firm Grip, or Grip it. Do NOT spray the fabric or apparatus EVER! NO FIRM GRIP IN POLE CLASS!!! I have a lot to say about spray rosins like Firm Grip in pole sport. It is not intended for use on the pole, it is an aerial product ONLY. It is banned in most pole competitions because it leaves a LOT of residue on the pole which disrupts the following competitor's tack. If you don't start using it, you won't have to stop using it. It has a dangerous tendency to be an "all or nothing" tack, with a very sudden failure rate. No Firm Grip in pole class.
Safety & Confidence Any of these grip aids will enhance your safety and confidence, regardless of your wants or needs for using them. We can always get nervous trying something new, and grip aids can definitely help you feel more confident while working out your pathway.
Environment. You might find that your grip of choice is not the right grip for your environment or your body chemistry for that day. Ask a coach for some advice and don't be afraid to change it up in practice, but never in a competition!
It is important to remember that training and conditioning your hands, just like the rest of your body, is all part of the process. Be sure to assess your tack needs regularly, consider only using tack later in your practice, and establish a process to break the cycle of tacking out of habit.
Ultimately, your goal should be to perform moves without the need for any grip aids. Most importantly, we need to understand its benefits and drawbacks to ensure we continue to grow our practice safely and intelligently.