Wearing Gymnastics Grips?

Subject: rips

Dear Coach,

My daughter has been doing gymnastics for almost 3 years. She couldn’t get her kip.

She used her grips so she wouldn’t get rips or blisters. One day she tried to do her kip without the grips and did the kip very well. Now she won’t use the grips anymore.

The problem is, she is getting rips all the time now. Any solutions?????

Thank You,


It might help your daughter to know that most high level gymnasts wear grips, including World Uneven Bar Champion and All-Around Olympic Champion Nastia Liukin and World Championship Bar Silver medallist Chellsie Memmel. USA gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Chellsie Memmel were first and second on bars at the World Championships and they both wear grips. You might make more progress with her if you tell her the best gymnasts on bars use grips and would recommend to her to do the same.

There actually has been a little more controversy on whether gymnasts should wear grips or not, since for a while, the high profile Russian gymnastics team under new coaching did not wear them. But now with the return of their traditional coaches and to more international success, they are again wearing grips.

Some of the Romanians do not wear grips but it is because many gymnasts come from small clubs out in the country and cannot afford grips.  by the time they qualify to the National program as a junior or senior, they don’t want to change and relearn all the skills with grips.

A few other high profile International gymnasts do not wear grips, but most high level bar workers and all male gymnasts wear them. The chances of your daughter being an exception to that trend are small.

So she should get used to using them early in her career because that is the most time efficient way to do it. In essence, you have to relearn skills, to some degree, when you switch to grips and having to relearn fewer skills is much more time efficient. If she does it now, she has fewer skills to relearn (to readjust to doing with grips).

While your daughter may not need grips for doing simple skills like doing kips, she will most likely want grips for learning and practicing skills like front and back giants and other circling skills on the bars. Gymnasts with small hands can actually catch release moves better with the dowel grips to help them clamp on and hold on better.

Dowel grips are designed with a wooden dowel positioned on the grips to help gymnasts have a better hold on the bar during circling skills and catching release moves. Many gymnasts have small hands, in relation to the size of the bar, and the dowel grip helps them maintain their grip on the bar better.

As you mentioned, grips are useful for extending the amount of time you can work bars. If she wants to be able to learn high level skills, she will have to be able to work bars for long periods of time. She will either have to learn to work through the pain of rips or wear grips in order to be able to spend enough time practicing on bars to learn high level skills.

The few high level gymnasts who do not wear grips often have to go through a period of ripping before their hands callous enough to stop ripping. Every time they take a break from gymnastics for any significant period of time, they have to go through the ripping cycle again before their hands toughen back up. Gymnasts who do not train bars every day will likely not get out of the period of ripping, since the off time works against the toughening process.

Almost all gymnasts get calluses and rips on their hands from doing bars. Gymnasts who wear grips only tend to get them around the edges of their grips and on their wrists from the straps. Gymnasts who don’t wear grips get calluses all over their hands directly on the parts of the hands that need to hold onto the bar.

Callused hands or callused areas of the hand often rip bigger than non-callused areas. Rips often take off the whole callus when the hands rip. The callus comes off in one whole piece. Gymnasts who don’t wear grips can have this happen over their whole hand area, not just around where their grips are. So when they rip, gymnasts who don’t wear grips are likely to rip in more areas and have bigger rips in the sensitive areas of the hands that grips usually cover.

Summer, the off-season, is the ideal time to get used to wearing grips as opposed to switching to grips in the middle of the competition season. It can be difficult to make a change to grips in the middle of a season and try to compete when grips feel unfamiliar.

As gymnasts get older and grow, they tend to switch to wearing grips because their hands rip more when they are taller and weigh more. It is easier to learn to wear grips when you are younger and at a lower level of bar difficulty skills than to switch later. If your daughter thinks it is hard to get used to grips doing kips, she will really have trouble later switching to grips and getting used to them doing skills like giant pirouettes and release moves.

Your daughter has already done the really hard part – getting used to wearing grips. It is only a very small step more to learn kips with her grips on. It is easier to learn to wear grips doing simple skills than to have to change later. It is very likely a wiser choice to get used to grips now rather than later.

In the meantime, we use tea tree oil products to heal rips (usually in only about two to three days). Gymnasts can also put those tea tree oil products on their hands overnight to start to heal rips before they actually happen. If you don’t have access to tea tree oil products, Preparation H (yeah, we know) also works. But when using Preparation H overnight gymnasts might want to wear gloves because of the smell and it would not be good if a gymnast were to suck their thumb while wearing it at night – lol.

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