Gymnastics is a strength and technique based sport that can be traced back to the early Greek Olympics. It is known for its captivating routines and feats of human strength and power. It has become more popular to watch in recent years as routines have become more difficult and complicated, with athletes being more and more creative in the skills they perform. Compared to other sports, gymnastics involves both a team and individual competition component, with athletes being scored on their performances on several different apparatuses. Each apparatus requires its own equipment, and athletes will also carry their own equipment with them. Athletes will also have required uniforms based on what context they are competing in. Below is a list of equipment needed for athletes to compete.
Gymnastic accessories are additional pieces of equipment that can be used to help with safety or performance. Accessories include apparel (i.e. training tops) and other miscellaneous items such as water bottles. While most gymnastics accessories are not absolutely necessary to partake in the sport and thus not required in the rulebooks that govern competitions, many gymnasts find them to be advantageous.
Balance beams can be seen at virtually every female gymnastics competition, regardless of the level. Generally made out of a leathery material, the balance beam is a small, thin surface that is supported by a stand on each side. Official Olympic rules call for measurements of about 4 feet in height, 16 feet in length and 4 inches in width. Beam events require gymnasts to perform a series of in-air and on-bean skills, such as leaps, turns, and tumbling, with points being deducted each time a gymnast fails to land stably atop the beam.
Gymnastics balls are similar in size to a bowling ball. They are made out of a rubber or synthetic material and weigh a little over half a pound. The balls are used for a specific sector of gymnastics known as rhythmic gymnastics, in which participants earn points by performing a series of skills while doing skills that include both throwing the ball or keeping the ball balanced on various parts of the body (i.e. hand, head and back).
Similar to the chalk used in many other sports, gymnastics chalk is applied to the hands to help with grip. Over the course of a competition, sweat and other factors can cause surfaces to become slippery. Failure to apply chalk to the hands every so often makes it extremely difficult for gymnasts to maintain a strong grip, which puts them at risk of falling to the floor during a maneuver. Most gymnastics chalk starts out as a soft, brick-shaped object that can be shaken and broken down to disperse it onto the hands. During both practice and competitions, chalk can be seen in bowl-like containers that athletes can use before a routine.
Gymnastics clubs are small, thin rods with rectangular heads attached to the very top. Most clubs are made out of wood, a material that is able to withstand common tricks such as swinging, throwing and catching. Moreover, they are extremely light (approximately 5 ounces) and extend anywhere from 15-20 inches from top to bottom. An alternative synthetic material has been explored in recent years to reduce some of the danger associated with dropped clubs striking the gymnast's body.
Flex floor systems are some of the most commonly used surfaces in gymnastics. The base of the floor is made out of springboards that allow gymnasts to make softer, bouncier landings during dismounts. A thick foam layer is then added to the top, followed by a thin sheet of carpet that absorbs most of the shock associated with a full-force landing. Not only are flex floor systems conducive to performing a variety of skills, they also help to ensure the safety of each gymnast by eliminating hard, painful landing surfaces.
High bars are fiberglass rods with a wood coating. By grabbing the bars and swinging their bodies back and forth, gymnasts are able to launch themselves into the air to perform a series of skills. Each maneuver is followed by a return to the bar with both hands (or one in certain skills), and the process repeats itself until the routine has ended. High bars are one of two types of gymnastics bars, and are used in men's gymnastics. They stand at 9 feet high.
Gymnastics hoops are wood or plastic rings with a hole measuring approximately 35 inches wide. Much like gymnastics clubs and balls, hoops are used as props, with participants throwing them into the air and making skillful catches. During a competition, judges tend to award the most points for high tosses capped off difficult catches as the hoop descends towards the floor (i.e. catching the hoop with one hand behind the back). Hoops can also be used as practice obstacles that gymnasts must maneuver themselves through and around.
Horizontal bars are the same as high bars; most often the term "horizontal bar" is used when referring to this men's apparatus during competitions. Horizontal bars can be made from metal, but these are used during practices and not for competition. They are slightly higher than the bars used in women's gymnastics, standing at 9 feet tall.
Gymnastics leotards are tight-fitting body garments that are made for both male and female competitors. They extend from the shoulders to the mid-thigh region and are generally made out of a breathable, sweat-wicking polyester fabric. Most leotards are sleeveless, although many female gymnasts prefer to have sleeves included to keep their arms insulated throughout the course of a long competition. Gymnastics leotards can range in price depending on material and quality. They can cost between $30 and $80 either online or at any major sporting goods outlet.
Gymnastics mats are square or rectangular accessories that can be placed on the floor to help cushion landings. They come in various different sizes, depending on the amount of area that needs to be covered. They also come in different thicknesses, with sting mats being thinner and used often during floor routines to cushion landings after a tumbling pass. Most mats will have a foam filling that is protected by a glossy rubber coating or a soft fabric.
Oftentimes a gymnast's floor routine will be accompanied by a musical arrangement, so that skills can be synchronized to patterns contained in the music. Ensembles are usually of the classical genre, as opposed to hip-hop or hard rock. For competitions that require supplemental music, the venue is generally equipped with stadium-style speakers. However, easily transportable speakers can also be purchased for use during practices or more casual situations.
Gymnastic pants are the lower body equivalent to leotards. They tend to be tighter garments made out of a spandex-like material to wick away sweat without inhibiting the gymnast's range of motion. Gymnastics pants are also extremely flexible and tear-resistant, which makes them ideal for skills and frequent usage. Since pants and leotards go hand in hand, they are often sold as a set rather than individually.
Parallel bars are pairs of wooden, oval-shaped poles that stand around 6.5 feet high. They are reserved exclusively for men's gymnastics events, held up by metal brackets that extend from a base attached to the floor. When performing on the parallel bars, male gymnasts perform swinging maneuvers and releases. Using two hands to balance the body in a vertical position atop the bars in a handstand is also a common skill.
The pommel horse is another piece of equipment used only by male gymnasts. Horse refers to the dual-legged structure (4 feet tall) that supports the pommel, which is a leather rectangle-shaped block that measures about 5 feet long and 14 inches wide. Included atop the pommel are two plastic rungs that gymnasts grab hold of while they perform a series of complex rotations that form a circle around the pommel horse. The pommel horse event is regarded as one of the toughest Olympic gymnastics events, as immense upper body strength is required to twist the body while keeping the legs high enough to not hit the pommel.
Gymnastics ribbons are similar in composition to normal ribbons in that they are made of a lightweight satin material. Attached to one end is a 20 inch plastic stick that is used to wave the ribbon in all different directions. Most gymnastics ribbons are extremely thin (2 inches wide) and measure 6.5 yards in length. Events that use this equipment are in rhythmic gymnastics, where each gymnast uses ribbons to maintain a constant swinging and spiraling motion as they perform skills on a floor apparatus.
Gymnastics rings are wooden circles that are suspended in the air using extremely strong nylon straps. The rings are positioned 8.5 feet from the ground, with the two rings about a foot and a half apart. For ring events, competitors earn points by showing their strength and control. Skills include holding themselves in certain positions while grasping the rings, such as handstands or crosses where the arms are extended outward and the body is straight up and down. Athletes might also do rotations with the rings in hand, showing swinging and grip strength. Experienced gymnasts are required to have a padded mat situated directly below the rings in the event of a fall, while most amateur gymnasts perform ring skills over a foam pit.
There are two different types of ropes a gymnast can use. The first is a rope used during rhythmic gymnastics, which is jumped over or spun in the air. Another type is climbing rope, which hangs from the ceiling and forces gymnasts to use their upper body and grip strength to make their way from the bottom to the peak. While rope events are not included as part of the Olympic gymnastic slate, ropes are great for adding a little extra flair to conventional tricks and improving one's conditioning.
Gymnastics shoes, otherwise known as beam shoes, mirror the design of a traditional slipper. The difference is that they are often made of leather and come fully equipped with bottoms that promote traction. Experienced gymnasts tend to view gymnastics shoes as a must-have, since the shoes prevent them from slipping and protect their feet against pounding caused by abrupt contact with each landing surface. Moreover, the insoles are well-cushioned to maximize comfort and make the feet less vulnerable to pain and bruising that can occur over long periods of time.
Gymnastics shorts are simply a derivative of gymnastics pants, as they are made of the same material and have the same functionality. When given the choice of pants or shorts, many gymnasts often opt to wear shorts for extra breathability and freedom, albeit at the cost of less protection against minor burns and scrapes.
Single bar trainers are best suited for beginner gymnasts that want to become more comfortable at performing bar maneuvers before engaging in a real competition. They are similar in design to high bars and horizontal bars. In order to ensure safety in bar events, it is important to first master the fundamentals. Single bar trainers are perfect for learning how to grip the bar and swing the body through the air at relatively high speeds.
Singlets serve the same purpose as leotards, although they are more efficient in that they cover both the upper and lower body. The biggest advantage to wearing a singlet is that only one garment is required. Thus, singlets are generally the most inexpensive way to dress for gymnastics. However, some gymnasts find them to be awkward and inhibiting, preferring to wear a top that is detached from the pants. There is no significant advantage offered by either garment with regards to performance, so choosing whether to wear a leotard or singlet comes down entirely to personal preference and comfort.
Gymnastics is a very demanding sport that involves lots of physical exertion. Therefore, it is crucial to keep snacks on hand and continually provide the body with fuel. Protein bars are a great way to replenish lost energy and avoid extreme fatigue during a competition or practice run, as they provide a solid blend of carbohydrates, protein, and essential fats. Other efficient and easily accessible snacks include bananas, peanut butter and assorted nuts. When eating snacks in the midst of physical activity, it is important to listen to your body's signals. Consuming too little food will prevent you from obtaining the boost needed to complete the activity, while ingesting too much food at one time will result in sluggishness and feelings of uneasiness.
Whereas longer socks are well-suited for sports like football and basketball, shorter ankle socks are best for gymnastics. They provide the foot support necessary for constant jumping and landings without all the extra material that could potentially be bothersome over the course of a long competition. While some companies make socks that have special grip and are specifically fitted for gymnastics slippers, regular ankle socks will do the job in most cases.
Many gymnastics competitions require the performer to be accompanied by a spotter. The spotter stands nearby to protect the gymnast in the event of a potential fall. This insurance policy applies most to beam or ring events, where the gymnast is performing well above the ground. Enter spotting blocks, which are foam-filled portable platforms that give spotters a comfortable, stable surface to stand atop as they monitor the performer's progress.
Streamers is the name given to ribbons that are used specifically for gymnastic events. In addition to being extremely lightweight and easy to wave around, streamers tend to be multicolored to help add an element of beauty to a performance. Due to their lack of weight and ease of implementation, most gymnasts enjoy the minimal strain imposed by streamers on any given performance.
Gymnastics trampolines are similar in structure to a regular trampoline one might find in their backyard. However, the springs are often adjusted to increase bounciness and give athletes more in-air time to perform tricks. Trampoline events in the Olympics include power tumbling, trampoline, synchronized trampoline, and double mini-trampoline. Trampolining is when athletes perform a series of skills and flips while maintaining consistent jumps on a trampoline. This can be done individually or synchronized with a partner on an adjacent trampoline.
Tumble tracks are long, bouncy tracks that are used to perform a series of rolling exercises and flips. Tumbling, a special subset of gymnastics, involves gymnasts performing acrobatic feats across an 82 foot track. Despite being extremely flexible surfaces, tumble tracks are not nearly as bouncy as trampolines, since the goal is to become slightly elevated rather than fully launched into the air. Tumble tracks can be purchased at retailers that specialize in the sale of gymnastics equipment, although they are more often owned by a team/organization and included with the venue due to their size and costliness.
Uneven bars refers to a piece of gymnastic equipment that includes both a high bar (8 feet high) and low bar (5.5 feet). They are used in women's gymnastics, requiring gymnasts to complete the difficult task of moving between the taller bar and the shorter bar in one swift motion. The two bars are exactly the same in terms of composition and length, with the only difference being their height.
The vault apparatus is both a performing surface and an event title in gymnastics (male and female). Following a running start, gymnasts leap atop the leather platform (47 inches long and 37 inches wide), with their hands as the first point of contact. Momentum is then used to propel them into a series of body twists and tucks that are scored based on alignment, landing form, and overall distance traveled. Currently, Simone Biles (USA) is the reigning olympic gold medalist for the female division in vault.
Vault springboards are rectangular planks that have a series of three metal springs attached to the underbelly. They are used to help gymnasts generate additional height on their jumps, albeit not to the extent that a trampoline does. Springboards are generally positioned just before the vault apparatus and require one bounce in addition to a running start in order for gymnasts to reach the desired height prior to making contact with the platform and performing their skills for the judges.
Sport bottles are the principal means of staying hydrated during gymnastics events. They are more efficient than other containers (i.e. plastic bottles), as water can be quickly dispensed from the nozzle simply by squeezing the base of the bottle. Ideal for group events, sport bottles allow each member of a gymnastics team to remain hydrated while preventing the spread of germs thanks to contactless delivery.