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Why do gymnasts wear grips – Everything you need to know

Gymnasts Wear Grips to protect their hands when swinging on the gymnastics bars. Gripping onto the bars and swinging causes friction on your hands and can be painful or cause your skin to break and calluses to form. A grip will stop your skin from breaking and also provide better grip. An improved grip helps make practising gymnastics skills easier. Sometimes gymnasts also wear a tiger paw to support their wrists while performing gymnastics skills.

gymnastics grip

What is a gymnastics Grip?

If you don’t take part in gymnastics yourself you might have seen the white cloth-like grip on the hands of gymnasts as they compete on the gymnastics bars during the Olympic games and wondered why they are wearing it. What you are looking at is a gymnastics grip. A gymnastics grip is usually made of leather and will cover a large area of your palm and lower fingers. Sometimes the grip will have a wooden dowel rod inside which will allow gymnasts to hook onto the bar and grip more firmly when performing giants or rotating around the bar quickly. If you have ever used monkey bars or pull up bars you might have used gloves with grips on. Keep reading to find out some exciting reasons why gymnasts wear grips.

If you are a gymnast then you’ll most likely know what it feels like when calluses start to appear or your skin starts to break and gripping the kip bar produces a big “OUCH!!”. This is a sign that you need to quickly find a gymnastics grip and apply some rip balm. Gymnasts usually choose to wear a gymnastics grip for one of the following reasons but if you have any more ideas we would love to hear them.

Reducing friction – Wearing a gymnastics grip helps protect your hands.

During gymnastics practice when you are swinging on the bars, using a strap bar or straddling the pommel horse your hands and fingers have to grip tightly. The friction between your fingers and the fibreglass / wooden bars is forceful and for many people this can cause your skin to rip. You can try applying rip protection balm to your hands, but if the problem is particularly bad or you are waiting for old rips to heal then wearing a gymnastics grip can offer you some much needed protection. Consider wearing a grip to save yourself from having to dismount early and take a few days rest while your skin heals or slip off and injure your ankle.

In gymnastics circles a lot of people bring up the question of whether wearing a grip will stop your hand and skin from thickening and becoming stronger and more able to grip better naturally. There isn’t much evidence for or against this theory but we would use our common sense and experience to suggest that younger gymnasts try to practice without gymnastics grips until they start to perform the kip consistently and begin reaching for more advanced bar skills that require them to hold onto the bar for longer. The reduced friction can help massively with higher level skills.

Increased grip strength and better control

Using chalk is one of the most common ways gymnasts stop their hands from slipping on the bars. If you are using chalk and you still feel like your hands aren’t sticking on the bars and turning round comfortably then it might be worth wearing a grip. A gymnastics grip produces less friction than your hand and this means you can swing more easily and for longer whilst also feeling like you have better control.

Make sure you are gripping the bar properly before trying out a grip. If you have a bad technique for gripping onto the bar in the first place then solving this might stop you needing to wear a grip in the first place. When gymnasts attempt to perform a skill known as “Giants” which is 360 degree rotation around the horizontal bar then wearing a dowel grip which has a wooden bar inside can actually help the gymnast secure by clamping onto the bar making it easier to perform longer and more technical routines.

If you are going to use a gymnastics grip we would always recommend using a gymnastics sweatband on your wrist as well, because this will also help reduce sweat and stop your hands from slipping so you can improve your grip on the gymnastics bars and other apparatus.

At What level do gymnasts get grips?

Gymnasts can wear grips at any gymnastics level but coaches usually have a few recommendations:

  • If you are a young gymnast, wait as long as possible before using a grip. This will give your hands chance to grow and build up some strength and toughen up.
  • Once you have mastered the kip you can consider using a grip to increase the length of time you can hang onto the bar and perform more advanced skills leading up to giants.
  • Level 5 or 6 is often the point when coaches allow their gymnasts to wear grips.
  • If you are struggling with rips then this usually means it is a good time to wear grips and protect your hands.
  • When you first use a gymnastics grip it takes a little while to get used to the feeling and this can impact your skills. 

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