If you’ve ever watched competitive gymnasts train, or if you competed yourself as a gymnast, these small hand devices would not have gone unnoticed.

 

So what are they really?

 

Grips are a wide strip of leather, which cover a dowel and join to a wrist strap. They cover the palm of the hand and are worn by artistic female gymnasts on uneven bars and male gymnasts on high bar and rings.

 

There are two primary benefits of grips:

 

1. To enhance a gymnast’s grip on an apparatus

 

2. To provide hand protection

 

Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Squad Coach at Jets Diamond Creek, Katelin Mogford says while the hand device is great for enhancing bar-grip and reduces bar friction, it actually only provides minimal protection against nasty blisters and rips.

 

“People often think grips protect against blisters, but they don’t really. It mainly just gives you that extra bit of grip on the bar and allows you to do more repetitions of each skill.”

 

When is the right time to ‘make the switch’?

 

Grips are an optional device, but generally are used by most competitive gymnastics programs.

 

At Jets Diamond Creek, the general rule of thumb to switch from hands to grips is once competitive gymnasts can do giants on wooden bars on their own.

 

But deciding when to switch over is a bit of a balancing act.

 

Katelin explains that it is important to do skills with natural hands first, but not leave the change to grips too late in development either.

 

“When you use grips it changes completely how the bar feels. So we want our gymnasts really confident before getting grips, but at the same time we can’t leave it too late.”

 

“You don’t want them to be doing too many difficult skills and then swap them over because it does change the feeling of the bar.”

 

The right time to ‘make the switch’ is also dependent on the size of gymnasts’ hands.

 

If you have smaller hands, using grips and holding onto the bar is more difficult.

 

“The reason why we don’t say at a certain level is to do with the size of their hands as well if you have tiny hands the grips don’t fit around the bar anyway so then you’re not only trying to grip the bar that’s bigger than your hands, but there’s also leather between the bar and your hand.”

 

But believe it or not – there are gymnasts at Olympic level that don’t compete with grips, with some gymnasts from China opting to not wear the ‘handy’ device.

 

 

Most gymnasts though do tend to ‘get a grip’ and use the device on bars.