Gymnastics is an artistic sport which requires grace, strength, and loads of practice to perfect. However, apart from personal dedication, the equipment that one uses is equally important for overall success. Of all the equipment available, grips are perhaps the most useful in furthering a gymnast’s performance.
Let us now look at the various factors to be considered while picking gymnastic grips of good quality to suit your needs.
Do You Need Grips?
If you are someone who is looking to compete in serious competitive tournaments and are considering a career in this field, you should definitely buy grips, so that you get used to the feeling and don’t have to relearn all your moves. Also, if you constantly get your skin ripped off, and this is interfering in the level of your performance, getting grips is a good idea. Finally, if you are moving onto advanced moves, which require you to swing or circle a lot, this equipment will give you a better grip and significantly improve your performance. Also, women’s grips are mainly designed for uneven bar events, while men’s gymnastic grips are used for various events such as rings, p-bars and, high bars. So your choice should reflect the type of event you will be training for.
Grips can be classified into two types: Palm grips and Dowel grips. Beginners mostly prefer palm grips, due to the protection that it offers from the friction between the hands and the bars, rings, pommels, etc., by covering the entire palm. Dowels are small cylindrical rods made of wood or metal, attached to the grips. Starting advanced moves will be easier for intermediates with dowel grips. Experts know every detail about the grips they would like to use, and are very particular about their equipment after they have performed in a few competitions.
Both palm and dowel grips come with either Velcro wrist straps or buckled straps, each with their pros and cons. Velcro straps provide more comfort and easy adjustments, which allow circulation to the hands. However, they tend to wear out rather easily. Buckle grips are best used by those individuals who prefer a firm grip. However, they are usually a little uncomfortable for new users. This problem can be solved with the use of wristbands to cushion the straps. Another factor is the thickness of the leather grip. Thinner leather wears out very fast, but also breaks in easily. Thick leather will last for a very long time, but usually take a long time to break in.
Going in for a reputed brand will give you a good choice of grips. However, one must check the following criteria to get the best buy:
- Quality, softness, and thickness of leather
- Quality of stitching
- Shape of cut leather
- Quality of Velcro and buckles
- Quality and thickness of leather should be the same on both hands
Some of the more prominent brands are:
- U.S. Gloves
All of these brands have a huge range to choose from, and come within the price range of US $30 – 60.
Choosing the correct size and style of grips is extremely important, because failure to do so can result in severe accidents and injuries. To find out the proper size, one should take a measurement from the base of the palm to the tip of the longest finger, and then match the measurement to the size guide for the grips. In case the measurement falls between two sizes in the guide, purchase the smaller option, because the leather grip will slowly stretch to the proper size and give a firm grip.
The first thing to do after making your purchase is to wear the grips and get the size and type checked from your coach. This is so that, if the grips are not suitable, you will be able to return or exchange them. Only make sure that you don’t dirty or damage the grips before going in for an exchange. Also, each brand has its own size guide, so a size 000 grip from one company can differ from that of another company. Apart from this, one also needs to check the size of the finger holes and wrist straps.
Breaking In the Grips
A gymnast should have at least two pairs of grips, in case one of them breaks or gets damaged. Normally, it takes a while before the grips fit and take the shape of the hands comfortably, along with taking the form of the bars as well. Casual usage and basic gymnastic maneuvers are used to stretch and relax the grips to get a good fit. This process is called breaking in. Both, the primary and backup pairs should undergo this process. This process also calls for adjusting the width of the finger holes. If the holes are too small, rub sandpaper to make them bigger. However, regular use by itself should stretch the holes into the proper size, just like the leather. If the holes are big, make use of foam to reduce their size.
To save your hands from injury and to maintain the quality of the grips, you will need a few more accessories:
- Chalk powder
- Athletic tape
- Blister pads
- Anti-sweat powder/spray
- Hand medications
- Grip brush
- Make sure you keep your grips and other supplies in gymnastic grip bags to keep them safe.
- Inspect the grips for signs of damage regularly, and replace them with backup sets whenever necessary.
- Use a grip brush to gently clear out excess chalk powder on the grips.
- Although grips get damaged due to exposure to water, one may make use of water treatments if it makes the grips comfortable, saving the gymnast from nasty injuries.
- Never use borrowed grips, as they cannot give you the right fit, and may cause you to get hurt.
- Discuss all the factors of your grips with your instructor. He/she can help you a lot in the types, purchase, sizing, breaking in, and usage of the grips.
Keeping all these tips in mind, you can choose the best grips for yourself. The most important aspect is to try out different models and shapes at the store, so as to find out which one suits you the best. Take your time and consider all the factors mentioned above, before making a final choice.