What exactly is rosin? And why it can help (and hinder) your aerial!

February 2023

Aerial | Conditioning | All

What is rosin?

Some call it magic. Some call it witchcraft. Others treat it like Dumbo's feather and are powerless without it. But what exactly IS rosin? And is it the best form of grip enhancer out there?

Let's start with the facts. Rock rosin is crystallised tree sap that is used to make things sticky. One common form is extracted from Pine Trees and is known as Colophony. Violin players, cellists, and other musicians use it to coat their strings and allow the bow to grip the strings and make them vibrate more clearly. Ballerinas crush it onto their pointe shoes in order to create friction between the slippery satin and variations of leather that create the sole of the shoe and floor. And any reader of this blog will be aware, many aerialists use it to enhance their grip and make climbing and gripping that much easier. 

Relying on rosin

In its own way, rosin can be addictive. That added grip gives a lovely sense of security when in the air and is wonderfully reassuring. However it's probably not a great idea to become too dependent on it. My personal philosophy is that you should save grip aids for only when you absolutely need it, and to test yourself every now and again by training with no rosin.

Some people think it's cheating to use grip aids. That's a matter for personal opinion. However there's no denying that it's handy, especially when it comes to learning something new. It can ease the fear portion of your brain enough to let you concentrate on learning the move rather than panicking about possibly falling on your head. You just have to make sure that you are training your grip so that you aren't building overconfidence in your ability to do something. Nothing worse than being up in the air and realising you can't get yourself out of a pose because it requires more grip strength than you actually have.

On that note, if you're travelling around and trying different studios around the world, please do ask the studio owners if they're OK with your using rosin. It can vary from studio to studio, so it's always worth checking before getting stuck in! 

Chalk or rosin? Do they do the same thing?

Chalk's technical name is Magnesium Carbonate. It dries your hands. Chalk's purpose is not to make you stick better but to eliminate any moisture. If caked on sufficiently thick it also provides some help in reducing the wear and tear on your finger tips when climbing on sandstone. Rosin on the other hand, is sticky - and tends to make anything you touch sticky too!

It might sound obvious, but don't go mixing chalk and rosin. If you do, not only will you cover your silks in white streaks, but you’ll counteract the useful qualities of the rosin. Rosin actually works better with more moisture. That’s why it gets stickier as your workout goes on and your hands start to sweat. (You’ll also notice that you need less rosin in hot and humid environments than you will in the cold, dry winter months).

How to remove rosin.

Getting rosin off your hands after a training session can be hard work. Because rosin is broken down by oil, soap and water aren’t usually enough, unless your soap has moisturiser in it. One trick is to use a teaspoon of coconut oil or other cooking oil on your hands before using soap and water, and the rosin comes off easily. That said - don't use moisturiser on your hands before training. That won't end well!

Allergic reactions

Whilst the benefits of rosin in aerial are obvious, it's important to note that it can cause a range of allergic reactions. Rosin is a recognised cause of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), a type IV hypersensitivity reaction and is a common culprit of allergic reactions. A recent study found the prevalence rate of allergic reactions to be as high as 4.6%. That's 1 in 20 people. Typical symptoms include redness, swelling, itching and fluid-filled blisters. So it's definitely worth going easy on it when you start using it until you know you've no adverse reactions. 

Where to buy rosin

Where to buy rosin

Rosin isn't expensive, but it's worth paying that little bit extra for the good stuff and getting it from a known and trusted source. Tempting as it is, don't buy more than you need as it tends to try out after about 12 months of exposure to air. A little goes a long way - so just get what you need and try not to lose it!

One neat trick is to put some rosin crystals in a sock, and tie a knot in the sock opening to stop anything falling out. By rolling the sock in your palms before training, some fine dust will get onto your hands and will help your grip accordingly. You'll want to keep the sock in a ziplock plastic bag to stop it going everywhere and drying out. 

Firetoys: Pine rosin https://www.firetoys.co.uk/aerial-circus/aerial-rigs-and-rigging/grip-tapes-and-powders/firetoys-getta-grip-rosin-grip-for-aerial.html

In a handy shaker: USA brand Mueller https://www.firetoys.co.uk/aerial-circus/aerial-rigs-and-rigging/grip-tapes-and-powders/mueller-rosin-shaker-4-oz.html

Use code AERIALADDICT for a 10% discount. 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3kdC1Rg

Or Amazon: https://amzn.to/3xKAbdH

Spray rosin.

Grip it hand spray bottle: https://amzn.to/3kbwURz

Or if you come to Flying Fantastic, we sell bags of rosin in the studio for £5. Just ask at reception. 

For a more budget alternative and if the powder isn't doing it for you, you can also dissolve the rosin crystals in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to make a sticky spray! But beware, it's REALLY sticky and can end up everywhere! You've been warned!

NB This article contains some affiliate links, which might mean that we get some commission on the sale. But we only ever recommend products that we believe in.