Gymnastics Safety Pits

Every serious gym needs pits. We know of no Elite gymnastics training program facility that does not have at least some pit set-up. We would not want to coach and teach in a facility that did not have pits for every event.

Pits Never Miss a Spot

No coach regardless of their spotting abilities can guarantee that 100% of the time. There are certain skills like full outs that no coach can consistently and safely spot. Conversely, pits do gymnasts no good if they do not land in them. The first rule of the pit is land in it.

Safe Landings

Gymnastics safety pits function as dismount landing areas an provide extra safety when learning new skills, in case of falls from the equipment. Pits are useful for vault, tumbling, beam dismounts, safe bar skill learning, bar release moves, bar dismounts, skills off the trampoline, ring dismounts and P-bar dismounts

Types of Pits

  • Loose foam pits – 6 to 8 foot deep pits filled with foam blocks.
  • Resi-pits – Vinyl covered 30″ to 36″ inch thick lattice foam mats.
  • Bungee tramp loose foam pits – A combination style pit with a Bungee trampoline about two feet off the pit bottom covered with 4′ -6′ of loose foam blocks.
  • Bungee tramp Resi-pits – A combination style pit with a Bungee trampoline about two feet off the pit bottom topped with a Resi-pit.

Special Equipment Pits

  • Bar trench pits – A narrow 3′ – 4′ wide pit under a bar that allows coaches to spot while standing on the floor while gymnasts swing giants into release moves partially below floor level.
  • In-ground trampoline pits – Pits dug to place trampolines down into the ground level with the floor.
  • In-ground trampoline for dismounts into foam pit – pits, usually loose foam, placed at the end of an in-ground tramp to dismount into with tumbling skills.
  • In-ground tumble tramp pits – Pits dug to place tumble tramps down into the ground level with the floor.

Pit Edge Pads

Every manufacturer of pits advertises 1-¼” foam for the edges of a pit. This is insufficient to safely pad against the concrete underneath if the gymnast should fall on the pit edge. Every manufacturer will, however, custom build the safe edge covering for your pit. Instead of 1-¼” foam, use 8 – 12″ thick crash mat type foam that is at least a foot wide all around the pit to extend the landing safety margin.

Landing Safety Margins

When different events share pits, there must be sufficient safety margins for each event or gymnasts must take turns doing skills into the pit. These safety margins should at least be the same as regulation mat size guidelines.

Fire Resistant Foam Only

All pit foam should be fire resistant.

The Deeper the Safer

Pits, for complete safety, should be 6 – 8 feet deep. Shallower pits will not provide as much safety margin.

Larger Foam Blocks are Safer

Larger 8″ x 8″ x 8″ foam blocks are safer than 6″ x 6″ x 6″ foam blocks because there is a larger amount of dead air space between the cubes, maximizing the ability of the free foam to absorb impact.

Pad the Sides and Bottom

All pit sides and the bottom of the pit should be fully padded with a minimum of 1- ¼” foam.

Latticework Foam Constructed Pits

Some pits are designed and constructed with latticework foam or crash mats in the bottom. Latticework pit bottoms must be covered with a mesh net to keep foam from falling into and filling the lattice construction which would provide less protection.

Above-Ground Pits

Pits can be built above-ground by raising the level of the equipment and any runways are built up on platforms the height of the pit depth, usually 4 – 6 feet. Obviously a shallow pit is not as safe as a deeper pit. These pits are only used in situations where in-ground pits cannot be dug.

Pit Progressions

In a superbly equipped gym, there would be a variety of pit types that would serve as an equipment learning progression. The progression for each apparatus would be:

  1. Bungee tramp loose foam pits
  2. Loose foam pit
  3. Bungee tramp Resi-pit
  4. Resi-pit
  5. Regulation mats on Resi-Pit

From there the equipment progression would proceed to standard matting set-ups like 12 inch thick crash mats, 8 inch thick crash mats and on to regulation competition matting.

Ankle Sprains Possible

It is possible for older and larger gymnasts to receive ankle sprains from landing deep into loose foam pits and twisting their ankle as it slips between unevenly situated foam.

Fluff Pits Regularly

Loose foam pits must be regularly fluffed up to prevent foam compression, which can severely decrease the safety provided by the air pockets in the foam. The pits may be fluffed manually or special hydraulic devices can be built to fluff pits automatically.

Watch the Dust

Foam blocks eventually deteriorate and create dust. From time to time most gyms empty out their entire pit, vacuum the bottom and clean out all the foam dust from the pit and on the foam blocks. Gymnast should be discouraged from picking apart the foam blocks as this aggravates the dust problem and requires expensive replacement of the foam sooner.

Safety Warnings

Warning – No pit of any kind can completely eliminate the possibility of a serious neck or back injury. Every effort must be taken to avoid landing on the head or neck, especially going forward. Careful gymnastic progression must be followed to avoid dangerous landings on the neck.

Warning – Landing in the pit in an arched position especially in a frontward position can hyperextend and injure the back.

Warning – Landing on your knees, especially in an arched position in the pit can cause hyperextension injuries to the back.

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