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Gymnastics 101: Equipment

Gymnastics 101: Equipment
Posted at 10:42 AM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2021-03-11 18:15:13-05

Gymnasts use a variety of devices for assistance on a certain apparatus. Below, we take you through the four most common ones you’ll see during the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Chalk

Gymnasts use chalk, also known as magnesium carbonate, on high bar, parallel bars, uneven bars, and rings to reduce friction. They also use chalk on vault, beam, floor exercise and pommel horse to aid with a better grip and sweat absorption. Some gymnasts choose to bring their own chalk since the texture can vary between soft and hard. 

The chalk concoction plays a large role in the sport. Some gymnasts choose to mix water with their chalk, while others use honey. U.S. gymnast Sam Mikulak said a gymnast’s chalk mixture can become “scientific … Where you have this perfect combination of having a dry, but not too chalky [mixture], balanced with like the slick of the honey, [so] that it's going to last for the entirety of your routine, and give you the best, most amazing grip.”

A gymnast adjusts her hand grips in preparation for an uneven bars routine.
Grips are used to help gymnasts have a firmer grasp on the bar when swinging and performing release moves.
Kansas City Star/Contributor

Grips

Gymnasts use grips during different routines to provide a firmer grasp when swinging and performing release moves. They are typically made of leather and are fastened at the wrist with velcro or buckles. 

Male gymnasts wear two different types of grips: high bar grips, which have placements for three fingers and a small dowel; and ring grips, which have placements for two and a larger dowel. The dowel is a rod near the fingers that helps get a better grip. 

Female gymnasts wear grips on the uneven bars, which have placements for the ring and middle fingers with a dowel underneath. 

Wrist Guards 

Bar routines put significant pressure on a gymnast’s wrists, requiring more protection. Gymnasts typically wear a wrist guard, such as neoprene or cloth wristbands, and have invented elaborate ways to protect their wrists using medical gloves, pre-wrap, or balloons. 

Some gymnasts opt for homemade grips or wear none at all.

Slippers

Some gymnasts choose to wear slippers or socks to prevent slipping during landings. Most often, you will see male gymnasts wearing slippers or socks on high bar, parallel bars, and rings. Some also choose to wear them on vault, while others prefer chalk. Women will sometimes choose to wear socks or slippers during floor or beam routines, since they can aid with grip and turns. 

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