How to Develop Your Grip for Aerial Acrobatics, Parkour and Calesthenics

Any type of climbing or hanging requires both Endurance and Strength in your Grip. This article will explain several ways to increase grip strength and endurance to help with Aerial Acrobatics, Parkour and other Hanging Arts.


It is important to keep in mind you will experience some discomfort when you demand change from your body.  There is big difference between discomfort and injury. If you feel like your muscles are cramping or you are sore or maybe a little bit of ache in the joints and this pain level improves with time after 2-6 weeks of training consistently then that is okay.  If you feel the pain is worsening, becoming more intense, inflammation is getting worse, muscles are straining, tendonitis developing then it may be time to think of a different approach or time to take a break for a while, especially if you start to get these symptoms after several weeks of training it may be time for a de-load or rest week.

A reload or rest week should be something that will be necessary after about 4-8 weeks of consistent work in any given area.  In a nutshell your body will have made some amazing gains in strength and endurance but you will suddenly feel like you are plateauing or will feel very tired and lack the energy to keep training because you are very close to overtraining.  At this point it is time to take a week off from training and allow yourself to recover fully, sleep well, eat well, and hydrate like a Leviathan.  You can also do a de-load week where you cut back on training for gains and instead just do a 60-70% level of training.

Keep in mind if you never schedule a rest week you will eventually plateau. We can’t get better every single day training in this fashion. There are methods of training that do allow this but we are not discussing them in this article.

Always work the organic approach first and then using the isolation work to supplement it.

The Organic Approach

For any hanging art.

For Aerial you should always start with the organic approach first.  This means that using the apparatus you feel you need to train your grip on is the best thing to start with.  If it is Aerial Silks hang from the silks, If it is the Trapeze then hang from that.  The more time you put into hanging from the apparatus the better you will get at it.  But there is more to it then that at times and that is why we have more options.

Also keep in mind there is a difference in the way Horizontal Grip and Vertical Grip feel so you should train both.

Vertical Grip where the hands are facing inward or outward and the line of pull causes hands to grab in a vertical fashion think if hanging from a vertical poll or a pipe.  This stresses the hand differently then Horizontal Hanging.


Horizontal Grip where the pull goes straight down from under the fingers. This is the case with most pull up bars or hanging apparatuses.IMG_1175

For Parkour Specific Grip Development I highly recommend more time in trees, getting a membership to a bouldering gym, or doing buildering outside.

Tree Climbing

Tree climbing is highly beneficial and can help you with training many different types of grip variations that you may not be able to practice at a gym.  Variety is key to develop a well rounded athlete and artist.  Tree climbing is also extremely beneficial for mobility and flexibility since you will have reach, contort, and bend your body in many different ways to move within the tree.  I recommend attempting the 30 min tree climbing challenge where you stay in a tree and attempt to move for the whole 30 mins.

Bouldering and Buildering

Bouldering is free style climbing without being tied in.  The variety of hand holds in gyms will build strength and endurance. Most of the time there are routes marked with different difficulties at the gyms.  I personally just like to free climb in the gyms at first with no specific route in mind and after I get a feel for the strength and variety then I work on the routes.

Buildering is basically bouldering done on urban structures.  It is a fun way to build grip strength and endurance but it can be intrusive to businesses and property so climb with caution.

These are all fun ways to build strength and endurance in grip without having to do too much programing or direct work. You simply challenge your body with fun environments that are great for development of this capacity.

Training grip by itself.

A simple pull bar, gymnastics rings, or anything you can hang from is all you will need.  To train your grip grab the bar in either an over, under or neutral grip about shoulder width apart.  Let the weight of you body sink in between the shoulders keeping the head neutral.  Remain in hanging position for as long as possible until your hands fail to hold on to the bar.  Your forearms will get sore during and after this as they develop. A great goal to aim for is 5 mins of hanging work in one session or without coming down,  keep track of your time and get the work in.  Make sure to use a variety of grips to build the hands in different ways. You can also do this same exercise with a towel, or any other type of object you are having trouble developing grip strength for.

IMG_1175 IMG_1162

If you do not have enough grip strength to hang from the bar with all your weight simply keep your feet on the floor and slowly take the weight out of the legs and into the hands making sure to go slow enough so that you can stop where keeping grip is difficult but not impossible. Your grip will improve week to week but you need to give it time.

An added bonus.

Doing scapular pulls while hanging is very good for shoulder health and has an added benefit toward pull ups or any pulling movement.  While doing your passive hangs also work on scapular pulls. If you are also working toward pull ups then Scapular Pulls are a must for a great pull up. Bada bang bada boom added bonus.

Still too easy?..

Progress to one arm always do an extra set on the weaker arm.


Other Ways To Develop Grip (The Isolation Method)

The Rice Bucket

The rice bucket is an old secret of acrobats, martial artists and climbers.  You can use the resistance of the rice in a contained space to challenge the muscles in the hand and forearm and that will also benefit the elbow and shoulder and all the muscles along with it.

Get a five gallon construction bucket and fill it with 35 lbs of dry rice…make sure to get the lid to the bucket too or the rice will attract attract bugs and if it gets too much water in it you will have to replace it or it will go rancid or get mold (I’m warning you from first hand experience.)

Set a timer for 5 mins and put one hand inside the bucket.  You will dig down deep into the bucket, go left, go right, make wrist circles and back and forth motions with the hand. squeeze the rice twist the hand through it go in with a closed fist and then spread the fingers out.  Keep going for 5 minutes straight and then switch hands. Dry Rice does leave a sticky powder residue on your hands so make sure to wash them off after.  Unless you’re into that type of thing….

Farmers Walks, Barbell Holds and Weight Pinching

Farmers Walks

Pick up two heavy dumbbells and let your arms hang by your sides as you walk a certain distance and return back, if you don’t have a lot of room to walk just stand in one spot.  The point here is to have the dumbbells heavy enough that they are hard to hold on to put not impossible the aim is to build up to about 3-5 mins of holding the weight in the hands to build up your grip, keep track of the weight you use and try to go up in weight each session. you can do this 2 times per week if this is your only form of grip work or 1 time per week accompanied by other forms of grip work.

Barbell Holds

Barbell Holds are when you have a barbell loaded up with weight and on a squat rack just below your arm hanging length.  You unrack the barbell in a double over hand grip and hold it at your thighs with arms straight, lats, glutes and core engaged.  Maintain the position for as long as you can hold the weight in the hands. Once the bar begins to slip out of your hands rack the weight. Wait about 1-2 minutes and then do it again building up to 3-5 minutes of work.  You can do this  2 times per week if this is your only form of grip work or 1 time per week accompanied by other forms of grip work.

Weight Pinching

Weight pinching is when you use your thumb and fingers to pinch a weight plate and lift it off the ground so only the muscles of the hand are used to hold the weight from falling.  You can do this with weights from 10 lbs all the way up to big 45 lb plates.  Aim for 30 second holds or 1 min holds or more. Again try to build up to about 3-5 mins of work so your body can build adaptation better.

Stick, Rope, and a Weight

Get a strong stick you can grab with your whole hand. Get a length of rope about the distance between the floor and your shoulders.  Tie the rope to the middle of it in a way so when you turn the stick the rope does not slip around.  Add a weight to the other end of the rope that is either 5-20 lbs or even more if you want.  Grab the stick with a double overhand grip and the rope extended the weight should be hovering just above the floor. Take turns with each hand twisting the stick and winding the rope up bringing the weight to the stick. Do 6 to 10 sets with half the sets with the palms facing down and the other half palms facing up.  You can do this one as often as desired so long as you can recover fast enough to keep doing it again.  You can couple this exercise with any other one of the others as well.


Picture from Coach Levis Page 

Grip Trainers and Resistance Bands

Grip Trainers come in many different ways using them throughout the day as a fidget device when you are in transit or sitting down is the best way to use these devices. There are dozens of different designs here are a few below.

Spring Loaded OG Style Picture from Rouge Fitness


Power Ball Buy it on Amazon I call it the “Gyro Ball Thingy”


“Rubber Band Ball Thingy” get one at


Resistant Bands are in either Strips of Rubber or latex, Cords, or Molds.  They can be used as extra work after an exercise we discussed earlier doings sets of ten or more here is a video showing me using bands.

My favorite Brands are Altus and Theraband for these types of bands they have never let me down.





Below is a video showing some of my favorite forearm isolation exercises using a band.


My grip is okay but I have moist palms…


Need Sticky Dry Hands

Of Course if you have good grip but you are a sweaty palmed individual or you live in a cool dry climate that makes things slippery you can always acquire a few tools to help with keeping you up in the air a little longer. In some cases having slightly damp hands or feet can help you stick to an apparatus better but that all depends on how wet they are and how humid the climate is.

1.Firm Grip


Is a spray on Rosin that works better when your hands are warm, it’s easy to travel with but can leave a residue on your hands for a bit. There are countless other types of spray grips for different sports I found Firm Grip to be great for Aerial Acrobatics.

2.Good Ole Chalk


Climbing chalk works wonders if your hands are a little wet it will absorb the moisture. It is very messy though.  One great thing about chalk is you can wash it off very easily.

3.Liquid Chalk


In the case that you are in a place that does not allow chalk use liquid chalk since it isn’t messy and can be hidden easily in your pocket or bag…you can say it’s just hand sanitizer and you’re a germ freak…

4. Good Ole Rosin and Alcohol


You can get rosin and put a small small amount of rubbing alcohol on in inside your hands and it works similar to Spray Rosin but it can get messy and smelly.



Please let me know if you enjoyed this read

I have more on the way





Francesco Caban



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